Are we approaching social currency?

With all of this Web 2.0 activity still building, I’ve been thinking about Cory Doctorow’s concept of whuffie or social currency (from his great short story Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom) quite a bit. The idea being that you can “pay” others with a mythical currency based on reputation, not gold. Those with high reputations (creators of cool stuff, humanitarians, or *shudder* American Idle) gather whuffie, which they can use to purchase stuff. Those with low reputations (eBay scammers, spammers, or *ideally* American Idle) have less whuffie, and have to struggle to gain reputation in order to move back up the whuffie ladder.

Just as web 2.0 has the power to democratize government, it has the potential to shift the base of our economy from one of scarcity (gold bullion is hard to come by) to one of plenty (reputation is not a zero sum game). Google PageRank is the closest thing I’ve seen to whuffie – it is calculated by an algorithm that takes into account links and their context, which is an approximation of reputation. It’s missing sign, in that it only adds reputation and has no concept of “rocks” vs. “sucks.” A “bad” link doesn’t detract from the reputation of a site (and by extension its owner).

So, I have to wonder. How feasible is Bitchun Society now (without the scifi rejuvenation and brain implant stuff)? Between PageRank, “Friends” on social software websites, etc… are we starting to approach an effective social currency?

8 thoughts on “Are we approaching social currency?”

  1. absolutely. but it only works if a bunch of us agree that’s what the economy is based on. there are still a pretty overwhelming majority who are convinced it’s all about money and consumerism…

  2. Let me know if you want to try it out on jaanix. It works for me and a small bunch of like minded people, might work in a bit bigger scale once we polish our algorithm a bit. And there a plans to make it wokr for everybody who cares even a bit.

  3. jaanix is using whuffie to rank web sites and video clips. It helps you find stuff you like through like-minded strangers. personalized digg or stumble upon, only based on trust metric / recommendation system (or whuffie – cory doesn’t mind me using bitchun society and whuffie names for this project, but most people do not appreciate it 🙂

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