Today I am speaking with Marcus Rein from Edge & Node, one of the Core Dev teams actively involved in building The Graph. Marcus recently joined Edge & Node in the Developer Success and Relations role, a topic we extensively explore during this interview. Many of you may already be familiar with Marcus, as he has been an active and prominent figure in The Graph community for quite some time, consistently creating valuable content for the ecosystem.
As you will soon discover, Marcus brings a unique approach and perspective to his work. His background in physical health and fitness, coupled with a deep sense of humanity, greatly influences the way he approaches his role and connects with others in the community. Throughout the interview, Marcus shares insights from his early career as a Doctor of Physical Therapy, self-teaching coding during nights and weekends, transitioning to web3 at Soulbound Labs, and eventually taking on his current position at Edge & Node.
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Marcus Rein (00:51):
That’s completely incredible to start with, but if that data is disorganized and we need to then read that data and we do it in a way that is centralized, we’ve taken the love that we have for blockchain technology and just knee capped it.
Welcome to the GRTiQ Podcast. Today I am speaking with Marcus Rain with Edge & Node, one of the core dev teams building The Graph. Marcus recently joined the Edge & Node team in the developer success and relations role, which we talk a lot about during this interview. Many of you will already be familiar with Marcus. He’s been active in The Graph community attending hackathons and different events for quite a while, and he’s also producing a lot of highly visible content you may have come across for the ecosystem. As you’re about to hear, Marcus has a unique approach and perspective, his impressive background in physical health and fitness, coupled with his deep sense of humanity, informed the way he approaches his work and connecting with others within the community. During this interview, Marcus talks about his early career as a Doctor of Physical Therapy, teaching him himself to code during nights and weekends, going to work in web3 at Soulbound Labs, and eventually moving to his current role at Edge & Node. As always, we started the discussion talking about Marcus’s educational background.
Marcus Rein (02:41):
Sure, and thanks for having me on, Nick. I really appreciate this. I started thinking I was going to be an attorney many years ago in undergrad, and that eventually shifted over to having more interest in biomechanics and physiology, and I actually pursued that and I became a Doctor of Physical Therapy and I practiced for eight years, literally almost to the day before actually moving into this arena in blockchain and working in crypto. So it’s been quite a varied background to say the least.
Well, every once in a while when I talk to guests about their educational background, I come across what I call a GRTiQ first, and this is times when a guest has a background that I haven’t come up against quite yet in two ways. Your background is a first. Foremost, you studied physical therapy. I haven’t had a guest do that before. In addition to that, you competed in soccer at a very high level. So do you think those two things are related?
Marcus Rein (03:35):
Yes, absolute direct connection A to B where I initially found physicality to be really grounding and rooting for me as an individual, especially as a kid when I didn’t know up from down left from right, I figured out that I’m somewhat coordinated and I’m able to… People were liking me because I was able to kick a ball in a certain direction. Eventually that of course led to injury and I found myself becoming just interested with injury and interested with biomechanics, how could this happen? Why would this happen and why would this happen to me? Why would this happen to others? And the combination of the injuries, competitive nature that sport brought, and then also just biomechanics. And I enjoyed figuring out how things worked, really led me on the path to becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy.
So talk to us about your soccer career, as I was saying there, you competed at pretty high level. What were you doing and what did you play?
Marcus Rein (04:31):
Yeah, I suppose it was pretty high level. At a young age, I was 13 years old, I started to be scouted by different coaches and I didn’t really know, like I said, up from down left and right. I was just, hey, getting scouted. And eventually I found myself on the US Men’s National Soccer Team where I was traveling the world at 13, 14, 15, just enjoying being a goalkeeper. I was a goalkeeper at that age and at my highest level, I was always playing in goal. And that was an incredible time, an incredible time in my life to play for the US Men’s Youth National Soccer Team. And then also I played division one soccer both at Wake Forest and University of Central Florida. So yeah, it was an incredible time in my life.
Do you still follow the sport?
Marcus Rein (05:15):
I do at a distance. I mean, I enjoyed playing the sport. I enjoyed specifically Goalkeeping a lot because it involved a lot of incredibly detailed actions that if done appropriately at the right time in the right sequence. I mean, it was just, you made the save and I really tried my very best to break it down technically and found success with that. So watching it, you can’t really get that same experience. You just watch it and you could have that passion. I loved, and I still do love playing it when I’m able, but of course if there’s a good game on, I’ll watch.
I think for a lot of non-US listeners of the podcast, this might be a little bit of a surprise or maybe they know this, but soccer in the US is on an explosion, and I can’t really pinpoint when or why this happened, but I would be curious to get your perspective, somebody that was involved in this for a long time, have you seen the explosion? Did it happen during your time and what do you make of it?
Marcus Rein (06:13):
Oh man. I mean, I could talk about this for an hour. Yes. How do I summarize this? There has been different chapters of the explosion in US soccer. I mean, going back 20 years when MLS was just kind of getting its gears started when we had Pele come over, there was just different moments of this sport is becoming much more solid in this country, and then it’ll go away and then come back and go away and come back. And now with the amount of attention it’s getting, especially in recent weeks with Messi and his former club mates from Barcelona all coming in on free transfer, I mean, that is such a huge thing for the league, not to mention the amount of teams new and old, the amount of money in the league. It was really finding its tread in the states in a way that I just haven’t seen. Back when I was playing, I was able to see really a much improved quality of play, but now it’s getting the absolute shine of a internationally respected league that just wasn’t there 20 years ago, 15 years ago, even 10 years ago.
Well, at the time of this recording, of course the Women’s World Cup is also happening, and that happens to be a staple within my own home, we’re watching it very closely. And so I want to turn our attention now to your career in physical therapy. As you mentioned, you did eight years in that field, and that’s a lot of time. I think the question I want to ask is, what’s the number one thing you learned about self-care, taking care of one’s body or physicality after doing eight years of physical therapy and working with patients?
Marcus Rein (07:50):
The one thing I learned is that you can’t do it alone. As I get older, as my patients get older, as anyone who’s listening gets older, self-care, sure on its face value, just going on a walk is nice and getting a massage maybe is nice, and going to the gym is nice, but if you’re able to find a group of people or one other person and have someone be there with you, even if it’s a professional, even if it’s someone who you’re hiring, self-care becomes much more able to be sustained. Because if you do self-care for three days or even three months, that’s great, but it has to be instantiated for many years to really have the best opportunity for success. So what I’d recommend to anyone listening is if you’re alone in your self-care journey, and I mean just by fitness or just eating well, that’s great. I’m very impressed by that. But where the most tread actually occurs, where the most purchase actually occurs is where you have a community around you, be it one person or five people, it really makes a huge difference.
You work in an industry where most people are in front of their computer all day coding. I’m sure you do your own amount of that. Does that spike concerns in that physical therapy brain of yours where you’re saying, “This is an unhealthy way to work and spend one’s day”?
Marcus Rein (09:13):
Absolutely. I mean, this sedentary lifestyle is a lifestyle. I’ve had such a transition in my life where I was face-to-face with patients for years where I would be demonstrating movements. I would be on the ground, I’d be on pull-up bars, I’d be different barbells, kettlebells, whatever you name it. And now I’m working a sedentary career. I am appreciative of this career. However, it does have just innate this is the way it is. So I have had to learn that finding time throughout the day and actually pushing into that time is more challenging. One, my mind is so deep into such deep focus that this job does require. So the best thing that I’ve found is literally time blocking. This is the time that I’m going to take care of myself, and I have to do that. I’m lucky enough to have a wife who also goes to the gym and she takes care of herself well. So we are able to collaborate on that kind of lifestyle that I’m learning every single day on how to improve myself.
So let’s go back to your story, and if we can time travel a little bit here. So as you mentioned, you had a great successful career as a young person in soccer. You went to college with the idea of becoming a lawyer and then turned your attention to biomechanics and studied physical therapy, became a Doctor of Physical Therapy, worked in that field for eight years, and at some point, I must imagine you became aware of crypto web3, blockchain. Do you remember when that was and can you take us to what your original impressions were or what you were thinking of it at the time?
Marcus Rein (10:42):
I mean, at the time I first heard of crypto and blockchain, I didn’t know what to think of it. I thought, “Oh, interesting new technology.” I was seeing the hype. I was seeing everything that was really what we know back in 2016, 2017, 2018, I was seeing all this happening. I was really heads down into my career, into my Doctor of Physical Therapy practice, and I was seeing patients in school, I think right at 2016. I was just getting out and just really finding my own life in that way. So I didn’t have much of a time to really dive into crypto. However, what always grabbed me from the very beginning was this is a different type of internet. And I remember hearing that where we’re starting a different type of internet and what does that mean? Funny enough, here I am working on The Graph, working on building a different type of internet and providing that data. And that to me has always just stayed with me deeply that we are all building a different type of internet.
Well, let’s explore then how that happened. So you became aware of it. You didn’t think much of it. Eventually though you go from those initial impressions to working in the industry. How did that come about?
Marcus Rein (11:51):
It really came about as a matter of fate. I can’t put it to any other way where it chose me in a way. Back in 2020, 2019, I was seeing in the news the pandemic was coming. I was working at a practice in Virginia. My wife was in grad school, and at that time, that was our life. We were in this little apartment in Virginia and having a good time with it. Pandemic hits, I can’t go into clinic, and immediately I’m thinking, “Is this pandemic going to last for a year, six months, 10 years,” no idea. And I’m fearful for how are we going to have money coming in? How are we going to have a life? How are we going to do this? I’m going to teach myself to code. I just woke up one morning and I said, “I’m going to teach myself software.”
I wasn’t in clinic at the time, so I would spend 8, 10, 12 hours a day learning Python, and I became addicted. I loved it. And I enjoyed the tinkering that I really also enjoyed in learning biomechanics and pathophysiology and physical therapy, just learning the tinkering and how quickly I could create a feedback loop right in front of me and create that just achievement within myself that I created was just insanely addicting. And it was the best thing that I could have ever done in terms of just learning what I can do with my mind and creatively express it in a way that was logical and fulfilling, and it was just a light bulb moment for me. So after about six, seven months, I’m slowly coming back into clinic and I’m saying, “All right. I’m going to go into this job. I’m going to go into software. This is what I’m going to do.”
So I say, “What can I do with Python? I’m going to do machine learning. I’m going to dive into learning machine learning.” So I did that. I was talking with a PhD out of Brazil, and I was just starting to learn on my own and take courses before and after clinic when I was slowly starting to go back in. And then eventually that time I said, I’m going to create a startup. I’m going to do this all on my own. And I was still working as a clinician at the time. And at that time I got a phone call from my brother who was working in the crypto space at the time. So that was an interesting conversation, to say the least. But that really launched me into this direction in crypto where I was highly interested in data and analytics and understanding how data is shaped and then combining that with crypto.
Marcus, I love it when a guest of the podcast talks about how they started exploring crypto through coding, taking online courses and some of the things that you shared there. My question always is though, if you got intrigued by coding, you started to learn Python, why not just find a job in web2? There’s got to be thousands of opportunities for people to go to work in web2. Where was the conviction to apply that education to building or starting to build in web3?
Marcus Rein (15:44):
It’s a great question. Being interested in Python and analytics and trying to figure out machine learning, I, like I said, wanted to do a startup on my own, and I just wanted something to be my own. I wanted to do something that I could do. I was really trying to push for this startup idea and was lucky enough to talk with my brother, who he was in the crypto industry at that time, and I was like, “What’s going on here?” And then I found out that the crypto industry making its own internet, making a new internet, and there’s also a huge amount of discussion about identity and having your own sovereign ability to hold your own data and own it. And then it just grabbed me completely after a few conversations with my brother.
So that was really the moment when after talking with him and really appreciating his words of wisdom where… He’s not a type of guy to say, “You shouldn’t do that.” He’s very much, “Go ahead, give it a try, give it a try.” And for him to say, “You shouldn’t do your own startup as your first venture into the technology world, you should potentially try something different,” that became much more clear when he said there was an opportunity working at Soulbound Labs where I’d be able to be involved in this type of push and creating a new internet and also just having more ownership of data. And I just was absolutely hooked at that point, and that was an easy decision for me to not pursue a lot of applications into web2 positions and really push into web3.
Well, you’re mentioning of course, Jordan Rein brother, who is one of the founders of Soulbound Labs, which is now Spyglass Labs, and I’ve talked to members of that team before and I’m sure a lot of listeners will be familiar with Soulbound Labs. Before we talk about that transition and what you did there, I want to ask if it felt like at the time you were taking on huge career risk. I mean, were you thinking this is the future and I’m actually at the forefront of something that could be big, or did you feel like you were rolling the dice a little bit? I mean, you already were in your career for eight years and outside of the pandemic, it sounds like you were probably pretty happy and on a pretty solid track.
Marcus Rein (17:53):
I didn’t feel like it was a risk. I didn’t feel like this was something I shouldn’t be doing. I felt like this is me, this is me. This is very much what I should be doing. It checked off all the boxes of a purpose-driven career, a purpose-driven day that has fueled me for decades. And I just am absolutely so thankful that this community has been so welcoming of this where I never have really thought, “Man, this is too much. This is just… I can’t handle this.” No, this has always been what’s around the next corner? How can I push, how can I assist? How can I help this amazing community grow more and more? And not just of course in The Graph ecosystem, but as crypto as a whole, where I feel like there is growing pains and I’m absolutely here for those growing pains. It’s just been a great fit for me and I really, really appreciate what the values that I am actually able to relate to and contribute to and be a part of are just there and just absolutely something that I am very thankful for.
Do you apply the things that you learned as a goalie playing soccer or in your career as a physical therapist to the work you’re doing in coding at this time? I mean, are you [inaudible 00:19:12] correlations such that you’re learning coding easier?
Marcus Rein (19:16):
That is a great question, and absolutely. I understand the effort that it really takes to be of service to a greater goal in that the goal is agreed to by the people around you and finding the abilities of everyone and leveraging those abilities to have the best outcome and being able to improvise, being able to adapt, being able to push-pull, being able to find the moment and then actually achieve those goals as a whole. I mean, that is sport, that is business, that is… Honestly, you could put any label on it, but anytime you have people collaboratively coming together and trying to achieve a bigger goal, man, that is the good stuff. So crypto, I mean, just look at solidity, look at the code. It is a bunch of publicly accessible or depending on how you code it, not fully publicly accessible, but as publicly accessible as the code allows levers.
There’s just a bunch of access points where you’re able to go in and code along with other people and build with other people, and you can fork, and you actually have smart contracts that have this interactivity that’s just baked into crypto that blows my mind every single day. That just doesn’t exist with a lot of other languages out there. It’s meant to be siloed. And when you look at blockchain technology, it’s meant to not be siloed. It’s baked into the code, and that just blows my mind. So if I can bring together the collaboration that I’ve learned, the really intense collaboration that I learned through sport, and then also the tinkering aspect of my heart that I can really dive in and really understand the code, and it just feels like a very, very fascinating, addicting place for me to be where it’s just, it is the right place for me where I can have values and bring people together and then actually have that incode and have that be decentralized just still blows my mind to this day.
What’s your advice to listeners that might be you, Marcus Rein, back when you were contemplating making the move and you were starting to figure out if you wanted to learn Python. There’s listeners that are probably in the same spot as you were at that time. What’s your advice to them about how to get started and the best ways to get involved in the industry?
Marcus Rein (21:33):
I would say you have to know your value add, and then you have to be able to find the ways to leverage your value add to the community in a way that people can understand what you provide, and then they can essentially bring you in and say, “This person can provide this. This person can provide that.” You have to be able to define yourself and put yourself out there. And what I did and what I still did to this day is I am a daily learner and I am in front of people saying, “I don’t know.” Do that, do that a lot and just say, “I’m here to learn and I’m here to help. I’m here to learn and I’m here to help.” And then leave a trail behind you. Whatever you do, don’t just do it halfway. You need to be able to actually have a trail behind you with things that you’ve done.
So if you are able to do that, which I was lucky, I was able to wake up early before clinic and stay up late after clinic. I just pushed and my spouse was understanding of my drive and I was able just to make these breadcrumbs behind me of things that I was able to produce and be of assistance. So anyone wanting to get into this industry, just get out there, make yourself public, show what you can do and just be curious, curious, curious about yourself, and then you could actually have a good understanding of your value add to the community and then where they can potentially place you.
So you’re talking to your brother about getting started, you’ve learned Python, you’ve been at it for about seven months, and he says, “Don’t launch your own thing. Come work here at Soulbound Labs.” And as I said, I interviewed Connor Dunham, one of the founding members of Soulbound Labs, which is rebranded now as Spyglass Labs, if any listener wants to learn more about that team and what they’re working on. But talk to us a little bit about what you went to work on there and some of the focus and initiatives you were putting your time into.
Marcus Rein (23:24):
Sure. Back at that time, I mean, my gosh, that was an incredible time. My brother was starting up this startup and said, “It’s going to be a crypto company. We don’t know where it’s going to go. It’s very exciting. Would you be able to help out?” And I said, “Sure. I want to do crypto after what you’ve told me. How can I help with coding?” And he goes, “Well, you know Python. We’re doing blockchain technology.” And I was like, “Okay, I’m already, by the way, still working a full-time job as a clinician. How can I still help? How can I wake up early? How can I stay up late? How can I do that?” He said, “Well, at this time you would be very well versed at dev relations or Developer Relations.” And I’d never heard of those two words in my life. It was very much like, “Okay, well I’d like to code, but DevRel I’ll do it.”
And so I found that it really was an incredible fit because I’d already been educating highly detailed information directly to people for years. I’d been communicating directly with people for years. I’ve been really involved with physical therapy and doing workshops and presentations for years, and now I get to talk about code and I get to learn about actually what the Soulbound Labs team is doing, and I get to do that every single day before and after clinic. This is a dream. So it was an amazing fit. And as a side note, when I would actually try to code with some of the developers on the team, I of course was having to learn another language and learn how to do a little bit of front end and backend.
I was just, anytime I could, I was trying to learn, I realized how good they were and I was so humbled that I said, “Okay, well just teach me kind of what you’re doing. I will try to communicate to the world what you guys are doing,” because I’m just in awe of their skill and I’m at Edge & Node and also with all the core dev teams and then also at all the hackathons, I’m consistently that same emotion comes out where I’m just in awe of these people around me and the fact that I get to just learn from them and educate. I joke around and I kind of say, “I’m here to make my development team around me look good.” That’s true. And I felt like I did that as best as I possibly could at Soulbound Labs.
What did you learn about the industry at this time? So you jumped in, you’re now getting a lay of the land, you’re understanding how things work at a very technical level. What did you learn about the industry?
Marcus Rein (25:44):
I learned that it isn’t growing paint, and it is doing so because it is a new internet. This is new, this is novel. No one’s done this before and we don’t know everything that’s going on. And that is the exciting thing. We’re doing it and we’re doing it the best that we can with the knowledge that we have. I found that that was true at Soulbound Labs. I know that’s true as an industry as a whole, and I am here for it. I’m here to just do the best that I can and as a group that we can every single time that I get out there and in this space. And I think that’s the best part about this industry, I’ll be honest, in that we are doing the best we can to do something novel, to do something that means something to us and we’re not entirely sure as opposed to something that is much more 50, 70, 100-year-old company out there. It’s just very exciting, and that’s what I learned really in my first few months at Soulbound Labs.
And is this when you first became aware of The Graph?
Marcus Rein (26:45):
Yeah. I mean the entire stack at Soulbound Labs is now Spyglass Labs. They’re still building on The Graph, currently Substreams and also subgraphs. So it was just becoming aware of data availability at a industrial scale through a incredible number of Indexers that are permissionlessly providing this data access. That was just something that blew my mind where I was like, “Wait a minute, anyone can actually organize this data and anyone can actually go ahead and publish a subgraph and anyone can go ahead and define the data and have it be available for anyone else.” And that just, it’s such a cool, cool idea. And to actually see it work, not just an idea at work, that’s really what I was very excited about at Soulbound Labs, just talking about that data availability and then actually having that represented in our front end very quickly.
What’s interesting about your story, Marcus, is you start off at Soulbound Labs and you’re learning about The Graph as a grantee on a team that’s building on The Graph, using The Graph, and doing some very cool things with subgraphs. And so, how did that perspective working as a grantee in the ecosystem, meeting different community members and learning more and more how it works, how did that impact your perception of the protocol as well as your interest or conviction for it?
Marcus Rein (28:05):
Yeah, good question. At the time, this was always very much close to my heart and that I love my brother. I’m super appreciative of everything that he is as a person, as an individual. And then it started from there where I get to work with my brother, this is such a lucky thing. And then I get to now meet this community that are all building for this new internet and to actually provide the data and oh my gosh, we’re getting a grant from people that are seeing our work. This is almost too much to comprehend. And then from there, okay, let’s go to graph day and then actually meet everyone in person. So it was just layer upon layer upon layer of just appreciative energy that I was feeling for everyone that is just putting so much effort into this, you as well hosting these podcasts.
I was listening to these podcasts early morning, late nights. It was just this wave upon wave of appreciation I was feeling where people were not only here just because it was interesting, but they were literally putting their money where their mouth was, where they’re saying, “Hey, you guys are doing something different. We really believe in you. Go keep doing that.” And that really was super affirmational for the entire team and just keep on building, keep on having this vision, shine bright. And that was very helpful for me to feel… Once again, it was just another thing that was impressive about this community as a whole.
Marcus, I’m always incredibly humbled when a guest says that this podcast had some impact on their journey, and I really appreciate you mentioning that. I want to now turn our attention to the part of your story where you move from Soulbound Labs to go to work at Edge & Node. What’s the backstory there?
Marcus Rein (29:46):
Well, a lot of stories in the Edge & Node community begin and end with Kyle Rojas, and this is not different. I was actually at Graft Day and I was representing Soulbound Labs, and I just happened to just meet Kyle Rojas and I knew of him, but I didn’t know it was him. And I was like, “Hey, man, you work with Edge & Node, could I interview for SoulSpeak?” Which was a podcast I was doing at the time. And at that point we started talking and just time went forward and we would just keep in contact. The market unfortunately, took a downturn and Soulbound Labs said, “Hey…” My brother, I appreciated him for his honesty. He said, “We just can’t keep the whole team together right now, but we’ll keep you in mind and we’ll get you back in when the time is right.” So the whole essentially Soulbound Labs team had to take a pause. And I remember reaching out to Kyle and saying, “Hey, we’re taking a pause at Soulbound Labs. I miss the crypto space. I miss this so much.”
It was only really a few weeks that we really took that pause and he said, “Hey, there’s a Developer Relations position opening up at Edge & Node. You should apply.” And I remember my stomach just sank all the way into my shoes. I said, “No way am I applying for that. I’m humbled you would even think of me.” I just was shocked that he would even bring that up. And he said, “I hear what you’re saying, Marcus, you should apply.” And then I said, again, “Are you sure?” And he goes, “You should apply.” So at that point, hats off to Kyle for really encouraging me and saying, “Go for it,” and I did. And after interviews and just having the time to share my story and what I am willing to do, I was lucky enough to be accepted within Edge & Node team. I feel very lucky for that.
Well, I think when the story of The Graph is told, obviously the founders and some of the OGs will have their part, but Kyle Rojas has been a force, and his interview here on the GRTiQ Podcast remains a very popular download, and I encourage listeners to check that out. So talk to us about what you’re doing and what it means to be in charge of developer success in relations.
Marcus Rein (31:55):
So when I first came onto the team, like I said, I was doing a lot of education about what Soulbound Labs, now Spyglass Labs, what they were building, and now I had to learn a completely new stack and I had to say, “All right, well, I’m going to learn this entire new stack as best as I possibly can, but I need to create a trail behind me of everything that I’ve learned.” And I went through the interview process saying, “I’m going to learn everything to the best of my capacity and create a trail that other developers who are just entering this ecosystem can also hop onto.” This is something that I learned after practicing as a physical therapist for years, that once you become an expert in the field, you forget what it’s like to be a beginner. You forget what it’s like to ask the beginner questions.
You can’t ask beginner questions anymore. Your brain has changed. So I looked at my entry into this position as I am an advantage to this company because there’s so many highly experienced professionals here, the basic questions I can ask, and then I could share those basic questions in a palatable piece of content, either it be audio, video, repos, workshops, whatever. So that’s what I’m doing, and I’m doing that real time with you in this podcast as well, where every day I’m trying to learn new things and then turn around and say, “If I’ve learned it and it’s new to me, I guarantee it’s new to someone else because we are building a new internet.” So if I can create high quality, informative content directed at a various level of developers, be it beginner and immediate advanced, whatever, if I can communicate well, that is Developer Relations.
And that’s also, there’s community involved. There’s reaching out and understanding developers what they wish for. It’s just trying my very best to communicate, connect, and just give them the best opportunity for success. And that also leads into my other role developer success, where I am actually seeing on the front lines when developers are having issues with their code and responding to them in chats, in actually referring them up the chain into our development squad that are really just waiting and just sitting back and saying, “Hey, we’re ready to affix this issue and having those comms be as clean as possible.” So it’s a twofold what I’m doing. I’m doing a lot of educational material, a lot of workshops, a lot of in-person events, and also I’m doing my very best to solve any code issues should pop up with any type of subgraphs or anything on the backend.
Marcus, for listeners that don’t fully understand the relationship between The Graph protocol, Edge & Node, and then Edge & Node’s got a guy like you where you’re doing DevRel and developer success type activities, how would you contextualize that for somebody that’s confused by it all?
Marcus Rein (34:39):
So yeah, I can understand how that would be confusing for someone just entering the space. I work at Edge & Node and that is a core development team that is working on building The Graph, and there’s other core development teams that are all working on building The Graph. And The Graph itself is meant to be a permissionless protocol that will run for many, many, many years after I, and we are long gone and because of that and it’s permissionless quality that is just code and operating well, then really no one works for The Graph. We are all working on building The Graph. So Edge & Node, I’m working on building The Graph with all my teammates at Edge & Node and we collaborate with core devs.
What have you learned about the dev community that’s building on The Graph since you’ve taken on this role? You’ve had a frontline approach, you’ve met a lot of them, you’re seeing what they’re working on, what can you tell us about them?
Marcus Rein (35:29):
I can tell you that I look forward to seeing them so much every single time I’m able to see them in person. Every single person I’ve met has been an incredible person, first and foremost. I am impressed. Every single person I’ve met as their story shines so bright as I’m able to just have a drink with them or get some food with them. Every conversation I’ve had, I’ve been just, “Wow, this is an impressive person. Wow, this is an impressive person.” Not just their technical capacity, of course, that’s secondary. But then of course when you get into their technical path capacity, they’re beasts, so… Just getting to know them as people and getting to know their skillset, be it through code or be it through management or through, you name it, in terms of projects. I mean, I can’t even put words to it right now. Just the ability of this team and the core devs around it are some of the most impressive people I’ve met in my life. And that is I’m very, very thankful that I get to be around them every day.
Well, how about The Graph itself then? So in this role, you’ve clearly learned a lot about the dev community, but what have you learned about The Graph that you didn’t already know by virtue of what you’re doing at Edge & Node?
Marcus Rein (37:15):
I’m learning so much about the incentivization of the entirety of crypto, where it comes to data and what that does, almost like kind of a moth to a light where data is on tap at The Graph. And so, when we get people who are developing using subgraphs, now using Substreams, when we get people coming into this ecosystem, they’re typically very curious people, and I get along very well with curious people. So I’m able to immediately hop into, “Oh man, what kind of data are you looking for? What’s interesting to you?”
And then they come to me and they tell me the exact specifications and all these interesting things they’re doing with it. And once again, my mind is blown. I’m like, “I would’ve never have known that or thought to have done that,” but I’m just entranced. I’m just, “Oh my gosh, teach me more. Keep talking.” And so when people are building on The Graph, I very quickly meet people that I am interested in continuing the conversation with and then fascinated with how they’re using the data in a way that interests them, which then in part interests me. Just really cool people who are all around this ecosystem in the ecosystem all the time.
People that are following The Graph and active in the community will know that there was a recent announcement related to Substreams and Substreams-powered, and you just talked a little bit about that there. Without getting too technical, but maybe just for an overview for non-technical members of the audience listening today, how important are Substreams and Substreams-powered subgraphs in your mind to the future of The Graph and the developer experience?
Marcus Rein (38:52):
I think they provide a fascinating and powerful use case for development teams out there looking to access more granular data at speed of which is just unheard of. It’s up to a hundred X faster and you’re getting much more ordinal, much more base level data from the blockchain as opposed to events and calls and just block data. So events calls, that’s all fascinating, great data, very, very powerful data. But when you’re needing a little bit more granularity and a little bit more speed, Substreams are very impressive.
Well, I encourage listeners that want to learn more about Substreams and Substreams-powered subgraphs to go back and listen to a special release the GRTiQ Podcast did with Alex Bourget of the StreamingFast team. I want to ask you a question about what else has got you excited about The Graph? You’re clearly working on a lot of cool things. You’re meeting a lot of members in the dev community. What’s got you excited about the future of The Graph?
Marcus Rein (39:51):
What excites me about The Graph, I could talk a lot about all the things, but let’s just go ahead off the top of my head. File data sources. I’m working on a workshop that really goes into understanding file data sources, so stay tuned for that repo and video and workshop coming out soon where you’re able to get off chain data and actually pipe that into your subgraph. And right now IPFS is supported and [inaudible 00:40:16] is going to be next, and there’s a few really incredible features that the core devs have been working on. Also, of course, we have all the different transfer toolings that are coming out, which I’m very excited about, that makes the entire UX of anyone who is participating in The Graph ecosystem with the GRT utility token making it much easier to bring your GRT over to arbitrary one.
And it’s just a really a one click 20 minute thing read, just click a button, wait 20 minutes and your funds are over. That’s just really, really amazing that you don’t have to go through any complex bridging. Let’s see, what else? Also, I mean, my gosh, we’ve got some workshops that we have a new Developer Relations professional here, Kevin Jones, and he’s building with Scaffold-ETH. And if any builders out there have not tried that, it’s incredible. So please try out Scaffold-ETH and there is a branch on the Scaffold-ETH two repo that involves subgraphs also. So you could essentially have an entire really nice and tidy container that has your entire subgraph running and has also the front end and backend. It’s fantastic for just really getting your ideas out there quickly. So I’m just amazed by the scaffold-ETH and graph integration. I can keep on going. This is all off the top of my head right now, but I mean, my gosh, we’ve got a lot of stuff going on.
How do you navigate this pace of innovation and all these different releases and projects going on within The Graph ecosystem?
Marcus Rein (41:38):
I just listen and I do my best to learn. I mean, my ears can only hear what they can hear, my eyes can only see what they can see. I just trust that they will hear and I will see what needs to be ahead of me and the time that it was going to be in front of me. And then I just provide my attention to that information. There’s no way that I can possibly think to outsmart or outmaneuver the amount of information or out planet. I do my very best to block off time of my day and stay focused in that deep time. And then what comes will come.
Let’s talk a little bit about the work you’re doing with Builders Dow, and of course there’s a new initiative with builders office hours in The Graph discord. What can you tell us about what you’re doing there? In association with that, you’ve launched another podcast where you’re talking to builders, is that right?
Marcus Rein (42:24):
That’s correct. You asked me before, what are the things that are going on? Those are two other huge things that are going on. So yes, Builders Dow, I am very impressed with all the developers that are building in this ecosystem. What if they got together and they collaborated on building subgraphs for dapps out there for protocols, for different teams out there that want a subgraph built by people that really know subgraphs and do it in a way that Builders Dow can collaborate and actually have a bounty and actually work together in an incentivized mechanism? That is so cool to me. And then also, I’ve recently launched a podcast called Devs on The Graph where I’ve seen a lot of podcasts and listened to a lot of podcasts out there and yours as well.
And I appreciate all of them. And I wanted to provide a little bit of a different twist on it where at the end of every podcast there would be an actual video workshop where development teams who are building on The Graph can actually show the code that they are using and just really show how awesome they are. And I’m very, very bullish on devs as a whole because I’m just impressed by the entire ecosystem. So I just wanted to give them a chance to shine, show what they’re doing and just have them feel like their work matters because it really does.
Well, I’ll put links in the show notes to everything you just mentioned there, and I encourage listeners that are interested to learn more to go into the show notes and you’ll find everything you need to find there. Marcus, I just want to ask you a few more final questions before I ask you the GRTiQ 10. The first one is, what are some of the key trends you’re watching or paying attention to as we think about developers getting more active in building in web3?
Marcus Rein (44:03):
It always comes down to me as the value proposition where I think the value proposition of web3 has to be the absolute center of what we do. And then from there, what comes from the value proposition, the rooted values of decentralization, the rooted values of ownership of data. I’m of course impressed with everyone building here, but then I’m also, I can be critical too. And the things that I would like to see more of are more of a robust identity layer that are really proliferating and a strong buffer to the extractive web2 practices that we have just come to know and accept as norm.
So what do I want for developers coming into this space? I think having a good idea of who you are and a good idea of the world that you want, and then also understanding that if we build like we did in these last five years, we’re not going to move forward. We have to find a new way to build. And my take on it is that I think we need a robust identity layer to actually do something different than web2 can possibly dream of. And then from there, we can have all these different secondary tertiary effects that come from true ownership of data that just doesn’t exist in web2.
So when you talk about the need for an identity layer, and that’s something you’re watching for, you need to see more developers building in web3. For listeners who don’t understand what you mean, what do you mean?
Marcus Rein (45:36):
So yeah. There’s different ways that you can come about an identity layer, but essentially it’s an way that you can truly have ownership of your data, and that means identifiers, that means something like as simple as a credit card, as simple as maybe an ID, or it could be something that you’ve achieved. When you’re in blockchain space, you’re potentially writing all that information on chain. And unfortunately that is not a great place to start when you’re beginning your journey into identity, when you immediately say this is a public ledger for publicly potentially identifiable information that is involved with my persona.
And so, you’re always going to be getting people who are just thinking, “Well, that’s giving me the ick. I don’t want to put anything involved on the blockchain about my identity on the chain.” So from there, you’re kind of with a cold start issue where you want to get people on chain, but then they don’t want to really dive in all the way. And so you’re getting this kind of in-between where you get the true degens out there who are happily diving in and then the normies out there who’re like, “This is not comfortable, this is… I don’t get it.” So to have a really robust identity layer involves a way of abstracting a little layer in between the blockchain and all the different protocols out there.
You could see these in terms of like a Bitcoin passport is doing something like that where you’re able to actually have some type of identity coming through where you’re able to store those and they use that for civil defense. There’s others like Polygon ID that is using DID, there’s Disco.xyz. There’s all these different identity options out there that I am just in love with just because is taking all this information that we potentially could be putting on chain and saying, “Wait a minute, let’s actually store it in a different way. And then from there you can decide how you interact with the chain in a safer way.” And that to me is a huge part in having real normies hop on board and building in a different way than we have in these last five years. I really think this identity layer needs to kick into full gear.
Marcus, you’re clearly a very positive guy and you’re having a really great impact on the dev community within The Graph ecosystem. But if I pushed you a little bit to explore maybe some of the challenges or some of the criticisms that might be levied against web3, the industry or the lack of devs or lack of dapps in the space, how would you respond to people with those types of arguments?
Marcus Rein (48:08):
I have a few criticisms overall as an industry. I feel that there is a lot of people who I see all the time on crypto Twitter that are saying, “Hey, it’s all infrastructure projects out there.” And I have to say, absolutely this is a infrastructure push. As an entire industry, we are based on a new internet. So until we have a UX that can directly compete with web2 quality, it is going to be still focused very much on the absolute baseline of the infrastructure. And then I also would wish that we would push for different value adds that are really less monetizable in a way that really represent identity more.
The DeFi, I feel like is fantastic. I think that’s a fantastic use case, and I think we’ve shown what we can do with DeFi. But also non-financial use cases are really what’s going to make ourselves differentiate ourselves from web2 as a whole, where we have more non-financial use cases that involve identity and personality and ownership. That’s really what we could sink our teeth into that I still feel like we have not. So my biggest criticism of this space is saying, “Hey, we’re a little bit hesitant to go into a non-financial use case. What does that mean?” Well, I think that’s going to be the actual tide that rises all boats, if you will. So that’s my 2 cents on this.
When you talk about value proposition, do you have a sense for how important The Graph is to the devs that are using it to build in web3?
Marcus Rein (49:39):
So for the devs who are considering building on The Graph or who are building on The Graph and the importance of understanding the use case of The Graph, I just flip that on its head and then I say, “Well, what is the use case for blockchain?” Because if we’re here in this space and we are so adamant at our ability to write information to a decentralized ledger where we are able to have protection of that data and have that done in a way that we all know and love, that’s completely incredible to start with.
But if that data is disorganized and we need to then read that data and we do it in a way that is centralized, we’ve taken the love that we have for blockchain technology and just knee capped it. And that’s to me saying, okay, I understand maybe for certain use cases, having a centralized indexing service is absolutely the right call depending on the situation. But I want to aim for a future that has the same trust that we have in the blockchain writability, I want that same trust in the readability. And that really is done with The Graph. And that’s why I think The Graph is so critical for the long-term and short-term viability of blockchain data.
Well, Marcus, now we’ve reached a point in the podcast where we may ask you the GRTiQ 10, these are 10 questions I ask each guest of the podcast every week. They become somewhat of a listener favorite as guests answer 10 questions for ways listeners can learn something new, try something different, or achieve more in their own lives. So are you ready for the GRTiQ 10?
Marcus Rein (51:22):
I am ready.
What book or article had the most impact on your life?
Marcus Rein (51:38):
So this is a incredible paper that goes into detail about identity in the crypto space. I recommend anyone who’s interested in identity and reputation, I recommend everyone read Averting Cambridge Analytica in the Metaverse: Identity, Privacy, Interoperability, and Agency in Emerging Digital Worlds by Anastasia. She is incredible. Get out there, read that and understand how important identity and reputation is in this space.
Is there a movie or a TV show that you would recommend everyone should watch?
Marcus Rein (52:09):
Recently, I’ve been getting into The Last of Us, and it’s fantastic. So please dive into Last of Us.
And how about this, if you could only listen to one music album for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?
Marcus Rein (52:22):
Radiohead and Rainbows.
And what’s the best advice someone’s ever given to you?
Marcus Rein (52:26):
Yeah. So this is getting a little philosophical, but when everything is said and done, it’s already been done. I love that one.
What’s one thing you’ve learned in your life that you don’t think most other people have learned or know quite yet?
Marcus Rein (52:40):
I would have to say the fear of not doing something is rarely worth listening to. You should just go out there and do it. You should be uncomfortable. You should just own that discomfort because 99.99 out of 100%, you’re going to be fine and you’re going to be better for it that you are very uncomfortable.
What’s the best life hack you’ve discovered for yourself?
Marcus Rein (53:04):
Fitness, it has to be. Fitness is the best drug on earth, and it will always be. Take care of your body.
Based on your own life observations and experiences, what’s the one habit or characteristic that you think best explains how people find success in life?
Marcus Rein (53:19):
Having clear definitions for them of what success is. I think success is very much a personal journey, and the more it’s someone else’s journey, the less success you’ll find.
And then the final three questions, Marcus, are complete the sentence type questions. The first one is, the thing that most excites me about web3 is…
Marcus Rein (53:38):
Ownership and identity.
And how about this, if you’re on Twitter, then you should be following…
Marcus Rein (53:42):
And lastly, I’m happiest when…
Marcus Rein (53:46):
I’m with my wife and I’m able to deeply connect with her and I’m also able to be with my dog and I’m able to think and feel deep thoughts.
Marcus Rein, thank you so much for coming on the GRTiQ Podcast. I really appreciate the opportunity to shine a light on your story and all the great work you’re doing at Edge & Node. If listeners want to learn more about you and follow the work and the things that you’re working on, what’s the best way to stay in touch?
Marcus Rein (54:21):
So yeah, if you wanted to follow me, I would start with Twitter. I’m Marcus_Rein, and I’m also starting up a podcast Devs on The Graph, we also have The Graph Builders newsletter that I’m releasing every single month. There’s also tutorial videos and workshops that I’m putting out there regularly, and those are going to be on The Graph protocol, YouTube, and then also the House of web3. I’m putting up workshops there regularly. I’m just trying to be as present as I can to really show how amazing The Graph protocol is. So that’s just me in a nutshell, and if you want to follow me, I’d be very thankful.
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DISCLOSURE: GRTIQ is not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any other way connected with The Graph, or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates. This material has been prepared for information purposes only, and it is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, tax, legal, financial, or investment advice. The content for this material is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The Graph token holders should do their own research regarding individual Indexers and the risks, including objectives, charges, and expenses, associated with the purchase of GRT or the delegation of GRT.