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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