...is in reference to the number of people in your network that will bring you soup when you are sick. The question I asked the audience was, "How many of you have been single and so sick you couldn't get out of bed?" A bunch of hands went up. Then I asked, "And how many of you have been in that situation without anyone offering to bring you soup?" Heads nodded. Yep. Many of us have been there. It sucks. I've had that moment and realized that, even though I have tons of friends, I had no really close friends that would voluntarily bring over a bowl of soup when they knew I was sick. And even worse, this soup metaphor seemed to extend into all parts of my life. Who really has my back?
There is a misconception that there is some sort of delineation between your close-knit friends and those who are in your business network. I believe this is the result of extending the concept of bonded and bridged social ties that was first distinguished by Robert Putnum and more recently extended and discussed in business concepts by people like Ronald Burt. Though I see value in both building close (bonded) ties with people while extending the reach of your network and expanding your loose (bridged) ties, I am perplexed by the notion of dismissing the power of those connections closest to you.
You see...as I've experienced online communities, the same people who would bring me soup voluntarily when I've been sick have also been instrumental in moving my career forward. These are the people who will go to bat for me no matter what. I need these people ESPECIALLY during times like these: an economic downturn. As the number of people who would bring me soup when I am sick grows, so does my career, business and ability to accomplish really great things. Of course, all my close bonds have to start somewhere. They come to me through the looser ties and slowly grow more bonded. However, if I only concentrated on branching out and failed to build and grow deep, strong connections, I wouldn't get very far at all.
Therefore, the soup metric is the number of people in your social network that you know would bring you soup if they knew you were sick and/or get your back in any other real friend way - to help you feel better OR help your career. Of course I should add that the soup metric has to be reciprocal to work: the soup offer has to work both ways.
This number is the only metric I, personally, give a damn about. It's the core of whuffie IMO.
---------------- p.s. I should also note and give a big hat tip to Alistair Croll here, someone who quickly moved from my extended network (introduced by Sean Power whom I met through Austin Hill whom I met through a chance blog encounter because of Jeff Howe) to the soup circle in a very short amount of time. We had a conversation while planting a vineyard together where he expressed his viewpoint on the importance of business relationships being close ties. Without his astute observations on this, there would be no soup metric. :)