I'm Working On My "Whuffie". How About You?
Written by David R Jennings   
Monday, 23 March 2009

In Cory Doctorow's 2003 novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (available for free) he foretold of a future currency. A currency not based on cash, but on what cash is really all about, respect and influence. Doctorow called this new currency "whuffie".

The more I consider whuffie the more I like the whole idea. I have come to believe it is a legitimate goal we should all be attempting to achieve. People who work for whuffie are trying to influence those around them in a meaningful way. They are hopefully trying to contribute to, and not take away from, society. We currently live in an economic system where whuffie won't pay the rent, but a trend toward a whuffie based economy is visible all around us.

There are many examples of real-word whuffie. Perhaps it is blue collar whuffie like Habitat for Humanity, white collar whuffie like open-source software, or maybe just one of the many no-collar social media whuffies like Twitter? The way to achieve what you need in life, now or in the past, has always been to gain enough influence which you can exchange for real-world currency. Of course history is full of tyrants who gained their influence by intimidation, war and murder. But in a world where whuffie is currency, anyone who doesn't practice the golden rule will begin to lose their influence and will eventually end up "down-and-out".

In the last few years, with the rise of social networking, we have begun to see the creation of a new type of real-world whuffie that has a tremendous social and financial impact. A top-of-mind example is the increasing influence of bloggers and social networking on old-world media. As their whuffie has grown, the whuffie of newspapers and old-school mass media has faded. Of course many social networks earn real-world dollars, but a large majority are only working for whuffie and receive no financial reimbursement for their efforts. They legitimately compete with, and often out perform, newspapers and old-world media. Competing not for subscribers and advertising dollars but for the respect and influence of the community. The whuffie of this new order has begun to have a powerful effect, just ask the former employees of the Rocky Mountain News.

I think Doctorow is on to something and we should all begin to consider the impact whuffie is going to have in our day-to-day lives.

So... how much whuffie do you have?

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