Build Your Social Capital With The Whuffie Bank

Ever since I read Tara Hunt's thought-provoking book, The Whuffie Factor, I have had the concept of "social capital" on the brain.

Let me explain.

Tara discovered the word "Whuffie" in Cory Doctorow's science fiction novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Doctorow created a world in which the economy was not based on supply and demand, but on actions and good will.

If you did something nice for others, if you created something others valued, if you solved problems for others or if you helped someone else - you got more Whuffie.

If you were not nice, if you engaged in deceptive business practices, if you caused harm, or if you failed to deliver what you promised - you lost Whuffie.

Whuffie, in other words, was a way to measure your social capital.

Whuffie and social capital are not just pie-in-the-sky concepts, they are alive and well on social media. In the world of social media, people who help others, act generously and are just nice gain social capital.

Bloggers help other bloggers, even those who might be perceived as competitors. Twitter users "retweet" each others' messages, Facebook users "friend" each other, etc.

But how can we measure social capital?

My good friend Allen Mireles recently sent me a link telling me about a non-profit organization called The Whuffie Bank, that is an exciting application of Hunt's ideas.

The Whuffie Bank from The Whuffie Bank on Vimeo.

TechCrunch has rated the Whuffie Bank as one of the 50 most innovative startups. It gives Twitter and Facebook users a score based upon a number of factors, such as how often your Twitter messages are "retweeted" or endorsed by others.

As the Whuffie Bank's FAQ explains:
"Your whuffie score is essentially based on how relevant your messages are to the people you're connected with."

But not all such endorsements are treated alike. A retweet by someone who has a higher Whuffie score gives you a higher boost in social capital.

Another factor is that when messages containing links are retweeted, The Whuffie Bank perceives these retweets as a reflection of the value of the linked content. But when a message without a link is retweeted, the bank perceives this as reflective of the actual message.

Right now the Whuffie Bank only measures Twitter activity, but plans to support Facebook, Digg and FriendFeed soon.

Once you have built up social capital, you can donate Whuffie to others.
"You can either access his account on The Whuffie Bank and click on the "Give Whuffie" button, or do it directly from the social network you use. On Twitter, by either tweeting "WHF # @username" or retweeting a specific message, you will increase the whuffie of the person you mention."

I particularly like this idea because it might take our attention off of the number of followers or friends a social networker has. I liken it to the number of Twitter groups a user has been nominated to. Both numbers represent endorsements and demonstrate how much value others place on your content and activities.

The Whuffie Bank is a fascinating experiment that I will be watching closely.

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COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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July 19, 2010 at 11:53 PM nisha said...

Very interesting topic will bookmark your site to check if you write more about in the future.

July 20, 2010 at 6:50 AM Charles Brown said...

Thank you very much. I'll look forward to hearing from you again.