You can't eat Whuffie (but it's getting harder to eat without it)

How to Monetize Whuffie

The last couple of times I’ve come across the border to apply for my TN1 Visa (NAFTA Visa between Canada and US), the border officers have Googled me. And, to my surprise, have actually told me that the results were good enough to back up the resume I handed them. One official actually said, “You should state on your resume that you are very Google-able!”

This isn’t new, really, and it has certainly been the practice for many savvy recruiters over the years. I worked for a spell at an HR organization in Canada and met many who ended up hiring the candidates with the most impressive online presence…especially when it came to more senior positions at organizations. The more results one has that points to professional accomplishments, the easier it was for them to determine if what was in the resume was accurate. It helped even more if those accomplishments were from websites and blogs other than the candidate.

I believe Google is probably the closest thing we have today to a Whuffie meter. Whuffie, for those who are new here is (and this is my definition):

The sum of the reputation, influence, bridging capital and bonding capital, access to ideas and talent, access to resources, potential access to further resources, saved up favors, accomplishments (resumes, awards, articles, etc.) and the Whuffie of those who you have relationships with.

The term, itself, was coined by Cory Doctorow in his amazing Sci-Fi book, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, as the currency of the future. The generalized definition gleaned from this book is:

Whuffie has replaced money, providing a motivation for people to do useful and creative things. A person’s Whuffie is a general measurement of his or her overall reputation, and Whuffie is lost and gained according to a person’s favorable or unfavorable actions. The question is, who determines which actions are favorable or unfavorable? In Down and Out, the answer is public opinion. Rudely pushing past someone on the sidewalk will definitely lose you points from them (and possibly bystanders who saw you), while composing a much-loved symphony will earn you Whuffie from everyone who enjoyed it.

So, you can gain Whuffie through being nice, networked or notable. This is not science fiction. It’s becoming more and more relevant today.

Competition is fierce in the world. There are billions of people working to get ahead. Hundreds compete for jobs. And that is just the individual. When it comes to starting a company that provides a service or a product, you will also be in a position of competition: customer attention. Without differentiating yourself somehow, the battle to make ends meet gets tougher.

This is where you figure out that you CAN eat Whuffie…just indirectly.

Google is powerful because companies and individuals alike know that if people find them online, they will have a better chance of getting the business or the job. And, if they find them in a positive light reflected through the eyes of other customers and contacts, they will have even a better chance than that. Online tools that help customers voice their satisfaction with your product will help boost your Google ratings and instill a sense of confidence in a potential customer making a decision. This is no different than pinging someone’s Whuffie, as Cory describes it in his book. When you get that new customer or you get that better job because of your positive online presence, the money to buy that food follows.

I’ve been thinking of this ever since Michelle Greer posted “No More Whuffie Please” on her blog. I totally see where she is coming from. She has added up a great deal of Whuffie in her social capital bank account, but hasn’t found a place to spend it yet. I certainly hope that Michelle doesn’t give up the amazing work she is doing to make a name for herself in the community, but raising Whuffie without spending it is also a mistake. I generally don’t work for people for free unless I see an opportunity to cash in my Whuffie at a later date. This isn’t mercenary, it is smart and it is definitely part of the reciprocity that ties community together. ‘Cause if valuable community members like Michelle aren’t able to pay the bills, we lose them and nobody wins.

So, Michelle, you are totally right. You can’t eat Whuffie, but it is getting harder to eat without it, so keep up the good work and look for opportunities to raise Whuffie where you can cash it in at a future date. Pick events to work on where potential clients or employers can see the good work you are doing. Let your expertise shine through the content you are producing. People will notice and then you can cash in that Whuffie and pay the bills.

:: Very cool…Dean (@thedudedean) Bairaktaris showed me his post where he pretty much directly cashed in his Whuffie for a new MacBook Air!

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Categories: gov2.0, social capital, Uncategorized

Author:Tara Hunt

Strategist. Researcher. Interdisciplinarian. Founder, Lime Foundry + Buyosphere. Author, The Whuffie Factor. Speaker. Mother. Karaoke lover.

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32 Comments on “You can't eat Whuffie (but it's getting harder to eat without it)”

  1. Jorge
    August 5, 2008 at 21:03 #

    Seems that every time a new theory comes out people embrace it or not. They have people for and against. With Whuffie I think this doesn’t apply. Whuffie is indeed transforming in a necessary thing to have this days, because as you say you can’t eat without it. Whuffie is complicated for many people because they just don’t see the usefulness of it, yet. Though every time our reputation is preceding us in all that we do and we need to cultivate it.

    Whuffie is most of all trust from other people that believe you do a great job, that you are a good professional in what you do, a great friend, etc. But all adds up to trusting that person so you can call her for a job, a startup , a internship or whatever they are doing.

    I think that being known by the community and being held as a capable collaborative person. About the working for free, almost every time you work for free you can cash your Whuffie back (you don’t know when you are going to need something), but you need to avoid certain people that won’t help you even if you helped them for free.

    I think so far this post has been a “talking to myself” to see if i got what Tara is saying. But in order to be able to cash Whuffie there is a need of making it with the right community, the right people and it will come. For example, let’s say Tara helps me with a starup (hopefully when i get one of my ideas running) later on i can give her a part in the company, a job or hire her as a consultant then she will be cashing Whuffie. But, of course i will have to need Tara’s skills in the company. So then she will creating Whuffie with me knowing (both of us) that she can cash it later on.

    This has been sort of long, but i’ve been in a Whuffie learning afternoon. Thanks Tara this post comes perfect to complete my little rapid course on Whuffie today.

  2. August 5, 2008 at 21:04 #

    I always find it interesting where a LinkedIn profile comes in (link #6 for you and Michelle) when a search is performed. Granted, it is not 100% guaranteed legitimate — but a reasonable start.

    This makes make you wonder how much Whuffie another Tara Hunt could have?

    And on that topic… poor John Smith?

  3. August 5, 2008 at 21:13 #

    @jay

    “This makes make you wonder how much Whuffie another Tara Hunt could have?”

    That’s a funny story, actually. I used to be beat out by a rather popular opera singer in Hawaii named Tara Hunt. She reigned higher than me and then interspersed between my stuff. That was about 5 years ago…slowly I beat her out. ;)

    Yeah…pity the person who shares their name with someone famous!

  4. August 5, 2008 at 21:54 #

    Hi Tara

    Awesome post. I can’t wait for your book. For a long time in my backpack page of business ideas has been a page collecting dust on doing something with the idea of Whuffie. I too was inspired by Cory’s book and agree wholeheartedly, it’s not sci fi – it’s already here and it’s facebook, twitter, linkedin, ebay, etc etc.

    There are so many places that are measuring our ‘reputation’, be it in commerce on ebay, or in business on linkedin, or in ability to just socialize (facebook), your ability as a developer (open source projects), reputation as a finance guru (various social stock sites), etc.

    The only difference is that in Cory’s world, whuffie is easily pingable in HUD’s (oh wait, we have iphone’s now :-)). Google is an indirect whuffie measurement tool but it still requires research. What we need is one place to go and get an easily digestible whuffie summary :-)

  5. ben
    August 5, 2008 at 22:51 #

    great post @Missrogue and likewise, can’t wait for the book – I have not read the Cory’s book but have been inspired to do so by this post. The idea of whuffie is very community minded and puts me in mind of communities that were small enough that everyone knew everyone – and reputation and place in society was measured by your acts – whuffie would seemingly be a product social networks and a much broader social group, but a community all the same.

  6. Billy Shipp
    August 5, 2008 at 23:02 #

    @Yan, I agree that we need a wuffie service. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. As people’s online identities become more and more significant as a measure of their reputations offline, tools for managing one’s online persona become more important. This is best managed via an open, neutral reputation management system. In addition, this service could serve as the central repository for checking a given individual’s wuffie score. Anyone want to build it?

  7. August 6, 2008 at 05:17 #

    I am still a fan of whuffie for sure. I have friends who have a hard time finding jobs, and the first thing I tell them is to volunteer their services for something that doesn’t pay but allows them to get their name out there.

    We as members of the community just have to be careful with it. My problem and the problem a lot of people have is that we can’t say no. I see a cause, I appreciate it, and I want to help. The hardest part is delegating the whuffie to someone else who actually needs it. I’m finding it to be a very liberating though.

    BTW Tara, since my declaration that I can’t afford to do any more free work, I’m now going to be retained as a marketer for NameCheap, WebHostingBuzz, Sun and Ski and Stormhoek. I get to promote companies I like that genuinely want to offer a good service to people for a living. So now I’m not just turning down whuffie work while I get situated, I’m turning down paid work. If all goes according to plan, 2008 will be my highest paid year ever.

    As much as I love making money so I can ski, go shopping, and travel, I wouldn’t have been anywhere without building my name first. WHUFFIE WORKS. Just don’t forget to delegate it if it is at the expense of yourself.

  8. Scott Blair
    August 6, 2008 at 05:58 #

    I think you have a great definition for Whuffie…

    “The sum of the reputation, influence, bridging capital and bonding capital, access to ideas and talent, access to resources, potential access to further resources, saved up favors, accomplishments (resumes, awards, articles, etc.) and the Whuffie of those who you have relationships with.”

    In context, this is essentially very similar to the Google PageRank adapted to social media entrepreneurs. Like it or not it’s here and to succeed in the 2.0 progression we’ll have to adapt, embrace and work it to our advantage.

    Even as a hiring manager I use spokeo.com to help gauge an applicants internet activity. Even though it’s not a definitive gauge, it does help in understanding your applicant. Sometimes the interview just isn’t enough.

  9. August 6, 2008 at 06:56 #

    Great post.

    I feel that some people are getting a false sense of expert entitlement just because they’re linked nine ways to Sunday. Especially in emerging media. In my opinion, you need to perform and put in your years of learning with sleeves rolled high – educating yourself through successes and mistakes and analyzing how people communicate.

    Sure, it’s important to be out there in order to be seen. But the whole idea of social networking is the give, not the take. So “whoofie” is essentially social networking on higher level. But at the very base it’s just what we do every day.

  10. August 6, 2008 at 09:28 #

    Right, and let’s not forget about the Whuffie Index :) Still gotta build it!

    Tara, I suggest that you host a public video chat (Ustream) where people can ask you questions about Whuffie, you, social media, etc. and you answer them right there. 37Signals did this yesterday (http://www.37signals.com/live/) and I think more people could gain a little more Whuffie if they did this. Or at least, maybe this is where you cash-in some whuffie while building some more. Just a thought. Great post.

    Cheers,

    Jeff(io)

  11. August 6, 2008 at 09:43 #

    From your OH a couple of weeks ago it looks like some people are finally learning to cash in their whuffie for actual dollars.

    One added point about the value of whuffie that I think you touch upon is that it expires. And while the memory of the good deed exists, the compelling desire to return the favor does not. If you add up enough of this, you become an angry martyr who feels that their life is in the servitude of others and not a shared balance.

    I’m looking forward to more positive discussion about how one can be community minded and work towards positive change while still providing for themselves.

  12. Jorge
    August 6, 2008 at 10:03 #

    @missrogue sames happens with my name. Right Google doesn’t know me if put my name Jorge Jaime. They show up a magician and some guys with my name. I’m on the quest of beating them!

    That’s only done by building Whuffie.

  13. August 6, 2008 at 12:39 #

    Hey Tara,

    When I used to google my name, this online weightloss page I joined showed up first. I was horrified!! :)

    I’m on the road to building whuffie – looking forward to your book.

  14. August 6, 2008 at 15:54 #

    Tara,

    How do you calculate your whuffie potential at any given time? I mean, is it something you can actually put a price on in order pay the bills?

    We’ve created a sponsorship system to help you monetize your blog. While technically it wasn’t intended to be used for whuffie, why not?

    If a reader/colleague recognizes you for doing a great job why can’t you collect it on the spot instead of banking it for later?

    Intriguing concept to say the least. It’s sort of like being able to cash in all your Karma points in life.

    -greg

  15. Thomas
    August 7, 2008 at 19:23 #

    I wonder if in the coming years parents will begin choosing names for their children based upon Google-ability? It would certainly keep my reputation sorted out if my name were “4Kcq86NG Beckett” instead of Thomas Beckett. My Google rankings would be easier track if I were not swamped among references to a long-dead English prelate. At least there’s ClaimID.

    I’m not sure if you’re asking the right question here, either. Strictly speaking, you can’t “monetize” Whuffie because Whuffie substitutes for money. If you try to measure Whuffie in terms of financial returns you will never understand its true value.

  16. Kathy Sierra
    August 8, 2008 at 09:55 #

    This cash-it-in-for-money notion was not the way I interpreted whuffie, but perhaps only Cory knows what he really meant. And not that the word can’t be extended and applied in new ways… but this direct application makes me cringe a little.

    I had a section in my slides 3 years ago titled “whuffie”, so I must not have cringed that hard, but I always saw whuffie as something you help your *users* have more of rather than something you actively try to craft (and ultimately cash) yourself. I need to think about this some more.

    As an introvert, I also feel obligated to argue against the notion that whuffie is intimately and implicitly connected to social *networking*. The guy who writes the symphony was able to accrue whuffie based on the value of his work to others, not for how well he was able to network/connect/promote himself personally. I’m also concerned about the idea of a Googleability arms-race for people with the same name. There’s a fabulous fiddle player named Kathy Sierra, whose only reason for having less visibility in Google is because her specific talent/profession is not tech-heavy or scandal-infused. Trying to “beat” someone out of their name rank in Google returns seems very un-whuffie like to me. That makes it sound zero-sum…

    I’m conflicted, I guess. I am finding it hard to specifically disagree with anything you’ve said here, but it makes me very uncomfortable in ways that direct exchange of work/service for money does not.

  17. August 8, 2008 at 10:08 #

    Hey Kathy! I definitely didn’t mean to make it sound like people should cash in their Whuffie for money. Not at all. But Whuffie does work tangentially with the economy to drive money…and, well, the woman who inspired this post was having a tough time making ends meet while trying to help others (her community, non-profits, etc.) kick ass. It just wasn’t sustainable without her trying to get a job or a client…and it’s much easier to do that when you’ve proven yourself and shown to be a good community member.

    And I don’t know about the google race thing. I really only see how google has been able to pick up the fact that my whuffie has grown over the years. 5 years ago, an opera singer in Hawaii beat me out and I hardly had a presence in the google rankings. But the more work I did and the more I contributed, the higher my google ranking became. What you are talking about is SEO/SEM, which I detest and think is no better than spam. It’s a false sense of kudos.

    T

  18. Kathy Sierra
    August 8, 2008 at 10:41 #

    What you’re saying makes sense, Tara… that’s why I don’t yet understand why it makes me uncomfortable. What I meant about the Googleability arms race was the wording of your comment: “she beat me out” and later “I beat her out”. Again, not that I don’t use those same phrases myself. I used to brag when my old blog finally “beat out” a London escort service for the word “passionate”. But somehow it feels creepier when it is someone’s real name. And isn’t it STILL in some ways a form of SEO? Even if unintentional? For example, why should someone who does volunteer work in real life have a lower rank than someone who does their “contributing” online? I agree that Google “values” online work far more than offline, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good whuffie meter.

    I also partly disagree with your statement: “So, you can gain Whuffie through being nice, networked or notable.” One can be notable for being nothing beyond an a**hole, and one can gain social capital simply by being a really good friend to a small group of people. The idea of trying to monetize whuffie horrifies me.

    Potential reasons to do unpaid work–or other community contributions–are for practice, experience, and the genuine desire to help others. Exposure is a potentially awesome side effect. If someone sincerely wants to be a “good community member”, they’ll help others with no regard for direct gain, and only as much as they can reasonably and happily do in the context of the rest of their life (including managing paid jobs, family, etc.) I DO agree that people need to quit asking others to do unpaid work “for the exposure”. That “for the exposure” argument hurts a LOT of things (like books).

    Anyway, this is a wonderful discussion/topic Tara. You tackle things in ways I’m not brave enough to do.

  19. August 8, 2008 at 10:47 #

    Kath,

    I hear what you are saying…and I, too, took the more altruistic angle previous to reading Matt Ridley’s “Origins of Virtue”. Then I started thinking about incentives.

    I think about it this way. The ‘Green Movement’ today has become chic and pop culture. Many life-long environmentalists find this awful and irritating…that people are making money off of saving the earth! But I think about it this way: it’s better than making money off of raping the earth. And, even if it is trendy now, it’s a good trend and people are more aware of the issues…even if they are only contributing through consumption.

    So, we can try to incentivize good behavior through making people see that being good community members for the sake of being good community members is good enough, but we are going to miss out on incentivizing the people who need it the most. My thinking is that if we say being good community members not only is good in itself, but it will help you be more successful in the long run and pay the rent…those that we most need to convert to contributing, positive, giving members of the community will be more incentivized to do so.

    I know. It’s an uncomfortable thought altogether. But Ridley’s work really effected me.

  20. Kathy Sierra
    August 8, 2008 at 11:05 #

    I think I agree with your last comment, and it’s a look into the topic I hadn’t been considering. [Minor point: I wouldn't characterize my view as "altruistic". Practical or authentic maybe, but not altruistic.] I’ll go back and think some more on this… thanks!

  21. August 8, 2008 at 11:17 #

    I came here from following Kathy Sierra’s tweet. Interesting post, but like Kathy, I’m conflicted. I’d certainly be reluctant to generalize about whuffie, or try to pin it down as something that’s exchangeable in a direct sense.

    It sounds a bit like Tara is describing it as clout, which makes sense at many levels. But clout takes you into a pretty gray area …unless it means someone has attained a position of power & authority, with an income to match. Clout as mere bragging rights and reputation can be so fleeting, and a few years away from one’s field can wipe out clout pretty quickly insofar as no one will hire you if it’s a specialized field (say, academia).

    By Tara’s definition, I’d have to conclude that I have no whuffie or clout. I’ve worked for free for the past 10 years (why?, because I could “afford” to and because a regular job [aside from my field in academia] couldn’t “contain” my interests). Yes, I’d prefer a job/ an income (beyond the very little I earn as a local monthly magazine columnist), since it could confer some “respectability” and common garden variety prestige on what I do (it’s really difficult answering the “what do you do?” question at social gatherings; sometimes I just use the lame “I work from home” line, since I can’t exactly say, “I think,” even though that’s what I am…).

    I have credentials (a PhD from Harvard, in art & architectural history), and am the author of a book as well as contributor to another, and have published essays and given talks at juried conferences; I’ve been blogging since April 2003 and get 325-375 visits daily and well over 10 times that many hits, although since no one except for one or two friends ever comments, I can’t even begin to imagine who is actually visiting my blog/ reading it; bots, presumably); my name is unusual, so I don’t have the problem of “fighting” someone else for google ranking; and all in all, I have no idea how to translate any of what I do — 99% for free — into cash.

    I volunteer in my community; I used to volunteer on distributed / distance education issues for the distance ed. school my kids were using; my son and daughter are years ahead of “regular” school (does that count for “whuffie”? whose? mine, for homeschooling, or theirs for being so smart?); I now volunteer on civic/ urban issues; I’ve been asked by a number of people in my local community if I would run for public office (don’t really want to).

    But there is practically no overlap between my local community involvement and my online presence/ blogging. The people I know in “real life” community don’t know my blogging, and vice versa.

    There’s no transference of whuffie from one domain to the other. (Perhaps that would require some institutional conduit?) The print publication I write for allows me to create a bridge insofar as I blog about the articles published there, which in turn are all about my local community/ urban development.

    But long and short of it, from my perspective: I have no idea how whuffie works as a tangible (aside from clout, and then you may as well just call it clout), and if anyone figures out how to make whuffie work as a tangible (i.e., $$), lemme know. You might actually solve the “starving artist” problem if you do…! :-)

    As for google being a whuffie meter: my google returns used to be in 60-thousands. Now they’re in the 20-thousands. Why? Because I stopped participating in certain echo chambers, which in turn meant that those people don’t link to me anymore. Isn’t that droll? If upping your whuffie factor means getting more google results and if that means participating in an echo chamber, then there’s something skewed about that metric, methinks…

  22. August 8, 2008 at 11:33 #

    I actually felt weird about the whole situation so I posted this yesterday but just sort of sat on it.
    http://seesmic.com/videos/mhQy0i4p7e

    Do the right thing. Always, regardless of whuffie or money or whatever. When I do something, it is because I am compelled. I don’t think of money or whuffie or anything. When I blog, it helps me sleep. When I volunteer, it makes me feel sane. The companies I am promoting are ones I like. I try to do things I’m passionate about that are beautiful in my eyes. No one could see it and I’d still do it.

    At least, that’s what makes me happy. Maybe these are not mutually exclusive concepts, but a purely utilitarian approach to life (for money, fame, whuffie etc.) seems to deprive us of the joy of simply making something beautiful.

  23. Mario Santoyo
    August 8, 2008 at 12:12 #

    What an interesting discussion here. I agree with Michelle, I believe issues (blurry lines of comfort) aroused here, appeared because we have turned something which is usually valued in a moral sense (for the sake of doing it, because it just feels right, it is what I believe needs to be done, etc.) into something valued in the utility obtained by doing it (if I do this I would obtain X in the future).

    Michelle’s blog somehow touches this in the sense that she clearly states she decided to help someone in hope she will find another gig, and later she clarifies she loves Austin and that is why she keeps posting, photographing, etc about with frequency. From my point of view the work she was doing in the first place was no whuffie point gainer but a utilitarian method to obtain something in the near future, whether her passion for Austin and the ways she do because of it is.

    IMHO Linkedin, Facebook, and other social networks were not thought based on whuffie or any other moral value (is whuffie? I’ve gotta read the book) but on utility, utility for the users and for the owners. There are other venues which might have whuffie at is core (BARCamp is one that comes to mind, HeroCamp is another without doubt).

    Life is but a mere balance between moral and utility (no one leaves on spirit only -pun intended-), everyone must be brave enough in order to differentiated the moral from the utility of every action one takes and take them sincerely as for what they are (moral or utilitarian).

    Regards,

    Mario

  24. August 8, 2008 at 12:40 #

    Thanks @KathySierra for pointing this out.

    I’ve been looking around for something like a Whuffie (boring desc: currency quantifiable measurement) and have come across a number of different mappings of currency to clout/reputation for individuals.

    One common element that I found is that a number of people believe that there exists some quantifiable method out there; we just have not found a universal one as yet.

    The biggest problem has been to describe how things are measured. In one paper by Claire Gubbins and Daniel Andriessen, Defining Social Capital http://is.gd/1khS, suggests a ladder/hierarchy of metaphors that build on each other:
    – Starting with Contacts (end-points),
    – Links to contacts,
    – Paths across links,
    – Networks of paths,
    – Channels of networks each for a purpose,
    – Resources describing content per channel
    – Capital applying a value to a resource

    While they describe these metaphors quite well, they don’t offer any specific mapping (beyond the obvious) or math functions between the levels.

    Beyond just what one set of numbers adds up to what is if there is such a “universal” scale of measurement, or if we need exchange rates between one person and another (ie. the value is relative, for every person)

    I know this sounds quite analytical above, and I’m changing my mind of this sort of analytical measurement is so important, but I’m just sharing some of what I found.

    I’d be thrilled to see what you have coming up in the Whuffie factor.

    -rawn

  25. Mario Santoyo
    August 8, 2008 at 12:50 #

    Ups! A clarification is needed, on my previous post I intended to specify that when I talked about utility or a utilitarian quality of an action I was framing it on economical and money terms.

    Since utilitarianism, as it is, is “a general term for any view that holds that actions and practices should be evaluated on the basis of the aggregate social benefits and the aggregate social costs associated with the actions or practices. In any given situation, the proper or ‘right’ action or practice is the one that will produce the greatest net benefits (or lowest net costs) for society as a whole” (Velazquez), without this clarification I was merely biting my tail on the reasoning and being ambiguous all around.

  26. August 8, 2008 at 18:55 #

    A PS to follow up (and warning: further ambiguity and tail-biting here, too!):

    Maybe “whuffie” can’t be a quantifiable thing, but a sort of symbol-making engine. As an engine, it’s never static, and instead churns out meanings or symbols.

    I’m thinking of this in relation to Jack Shafer’s recent Slate article, “What’s really killing newspapers: They’re no longer the best providers of social currency.” (http://www.slate.com/id/2196485)

    His definitions of social currency, gleaned from a number of sources (including a study by the Associated Press, “A New Model of News”) sound a lot like whuffie, down to the idea that you accrue it, and that it’s meaningless unless you spend it. Newspapers, he argues, used to be read to accrue social currency, which you then spent or traded elsewhere (around the water cooler, with your neighbors, at the coffee shop, etc.). The whole business was (is) symbolic.

    That’s what makes me think that social currency and whuffie are like engines that produce meaning — sort of like capital. Sitting on a pile of money is useless — the only way money can be useful is if you let it circulate (it “works” for you), and it’s the same for social currency/ whuffie. (Some people are better than others at making their currency work for them, too.)

    But since neither social currency nor whuffie are *actually* money, they’re simply highly symbolic (i.e., just like money).

    If that’s the case, then we can maybe start to argue about what the systems are within which whuffie or currency circulates. And I think this is where everyone gets their back up in one way or another, since we’ve all had experiences with good and bad systems, with pecking orders and hierarchies and so on. Whuffie is promiscuous and isn’t by definition going to stay “true” to merit. Just like money, it could care less whether you spend or earn it at the whorehouse (metaphorically speaking) or working altruistically for a cause.

    As a symbol-making engine, whuffie isn’t the system itself, but it operates in systems (good and bad). It’s not a thing (like a title or a status, or even the thing you buy), and like money, it’s most fun (useful, too) when it’s made and spent continuously.

    It’s symbolic, so even if we never get to eat it, we’ll surely be talking about it forever. …Just like money.

    Sorry about the long PS, but currency of any sort is very thought-provoking.

  27. August 9, 2008 at 01:49 #

    Great article, Tara!
    And here is the Next Big Whuffie for you:

    I am glad YOU are on the “Most Influential Female Bloggers” lists at http://northxeast.com/general/nxe%E2%80%99s-fifty-most-influential-female-bloggers
    http://blog.go2web20.net/2008/07/women-in-technology-50-female-bloggers.html
    http://readwriteweb.com/archives/blogher_who_are_your_favorite.php etc.

    Please join my newest “The Best Female Bloggers” project
    TOP-WOMEN.MINI-NEWS.COM

    The idea behind it is Absolutely Unique:
    Starting the *Ads-FREE Web* Revolution!!!

    Tip:
    Ads-Free publishing can bring you more “WHUFFIE”, – read money! – than any advertising!
    If you are the FIRST!

    Please also note this is NOT about linking to your RSS feed: You need to apply for your space on Mini-News.com personally. It’s FREE! However, there is a “25 people only” limit..

    The space is allocated on the “First-applied First-granted” basis! And YOU are among the FIRST people to whom I’m telling about it!!!

  28. August 9, 2008 at 08:22 #

    I’m interested in people’s motivations here.

    As far as I can see, whuffie actually boils down to just two things: knowledge/expertise + reputation/visibility.

    Or learning stuff plus sharing it with people.

    Seeking “whuffie” for its own sake can look like just being motivated by money, or by wanting to look important. Seems best to focus on the learning and the sharing, and not to be embarrassed about self-marketing in an age of mass communication.

    And it may be harder to eat without whuffie in general, but that doesn’t mean every single person needs it in order to eat- Gen Y is so into generalising everything! We’re all different and some of us do fine without fitting in :)

  29. August 26, 2008 at 04:39 #

    What a fantastic discussion.

    I believe that whuffie CAN bring you financial gain, but the people that have high whuffie levels aren’t focussed on that goal. People who have good whuffie are looking to contribute to the community and to make it a better place for everyone.

    In turn, they are recognised as a good community member which in itself can act as marketing and lead more people to you. I think the important factor to consider when deciding whether to accept a project is whether you actually believe in it, whether you want to do it and what impact you could have. If you have all of those things, you’ll give it your all and people will appreciate you more for it. Someone who only ever contributes to projects they think will give them the most visibility won’t be sustainable…

    Just my little thought bubbles anyway :)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. New word for old fashioned values at TheCustomer - August 9, 2008

    [...] I *do* like Tara Hunt’s take on “helping out for free” – and since she’s making a thing of it, there’s a good chance that culture will shift a notch or two in that direction. You can’t eat Whuffie (but it’s getting harder to eat without it) | ::HorsePigCow:: marketing un… [...]

  3. High Fiver, Finger Pointer | Andrew Hyde - Humble Yet Bold - August 9, 2008

    [...] friends often blog about companies they love, problems they want to solve (or help), and opinions from their experiences.  Which leads me to [...]

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