#Whuffie, News and Blogs

Last week, I received a copy of Tara Hunt’s new book The Whuffie Factor. By traditional marketing standards, it is everything I detest. It has an annoyingly cute and trendy title. It is about a subject I think I already know a lot about.

Too make things worse, the first paragraph inside the fly cover starts off “The book that catches the crest of Web 2.0 and shows how any business can harness its power …” If I were browsing books at a bookstore, that would probably be enough for me to put the book right back on the shelf, assuming I would have taken it off the shelf in the first place.

However, Tara Hunt sent a message out on Twitter asking for people to review the book, and because Tara has incredible whuffie and knows how to use it, I agreed to review the book and I’m glad I did.

So, let’s start off by talking about what ‘whuffie’ is. Tara writes,

The term “whuffie” was coined by Cory Doctorow, creator of the popular blog Boing Boing, to describe social capital in his futuristic science fiction novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Tara goes into detail about how social capital really works online with great examples of companies that have used whuffie effectively, as well as examples of when companies have blown it, severely damaging the whuffie.

She does a great job of explaining all of this in a way that I imagine technological troglodytes could understand and as I read through the book, I thought of all kinds of people that I think should read the book.

One good example is many of the people in the newspaper industry. There are many reasons that the newspaper industry having difficulty. However, the lack of a proper understanding of whuffie and the news industry is a compounding factor. It used to be that the local newspaper was an integral part of the local community. Everyone knew the reporters and the newspaper boys. You could talk to them and they would listen. They had a certain amount of whuffie. Yet as large companies came in trying to maximize ROI and depersonalize everyone involved with the newspapers, newspapers lost whuffie, and with that, are hemorrhaging badly.

Meanwhile, online bloggers engage in discussions and build whuffie. This helps the journalistic bloggers, but it also helps many other bloggers as well. One site that I find very interesting is EntreCard. This is a site that allows bloggers to drop cards on one another as a means of saying, “Hi, I visited your site and I like it.” It is a great way of building whuffie.

On the other hand, the folks running EntreCard appear to do everything in their power to destroy their own whuffie. This results in fairly frequent firestorms where the bloggers with the most whuffie leave, sometimes setting up their own whuffie exchange sites.

You will note that I still have EntreCard on my site, because in spite of the anti-whuffie actions of the folks running EntreCard, it is still useful for me in expanding my own whuffie. However, I now support Adgitize and CMF Ads which is where a lot of EntreCard refugees have fled.

Now, another EntreCarder, Greg Mathews, is considering setting up his own Whuffie Exchange site. So far, he is doing things right. He’s announced what he is planning to do and sought feedback and buy-in from potential users even before he brings up his new site.

So, I hope that some of my friends who are trying to salvage newspaper companies reads Tara’s book. I hope some of the folks working on sites like EntreCard also read the book, and I’m sure that over the coming days, I’ll think of more and more people that really should read Tara’s book.