Penguicon switches to a Whuffie economy

Matt sez, "The science fiction and software event Penguicon is converting its volunteer rewards system into Whuffie, the reputation economy from Cory Doctorow's science fiction novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. The attendance badges and currency will use a barcode system to track individual work throughout multiple years. It is described in this post to the Penguicon blog."

Stupendous! I had a completely rockin' time a Penguicon a couple years back -- it's the perfect mix of geek passions. Plus, Whuffie's about as stable a currency as you're likely to find these days as half a petabuck of toxic debt gets de-leveraged. Link (Thanks, Matt!)


  1. Another Detroit event (held in Troy, a burb of Detroit). Whuffie is a very interesting concept, but I think too much information just becomes noise. The ribbons that people collect and wear are bad enough.

  2. Does anyone want to explain the cover out for Down and Out? And, Mr. Doctorow, why don’t you just drop into the event, or have one of the gang show up to do some BoingBoing TV? Xeni should come! GREAT idea Jeff! And if the con gets boring we can just go look at some classic urban decay, either in Detroit or Pontiac. Who can resist an offer like that?

  3. I am digging the whuffle concept. Also,I heard a rumor that the RiffTrax guys are going to be at Penguicon. That would be sweet.

  4. That would be Great. The Matrix bit that have on the above site is good for a quick laugh or two. And if anyone else out in BoingBoing land is going to be at Penguicon I’d like to say hi. I should buy a Boing Boing T-shirt to wear!

  5. Wuffie was my favorite part of that book (also, my favorite of your novels btw). But I was wondering, Cory, didn’t the main character in “Eastern Standard Tribe” makes a reference to Wuffie? Was that an inside joke or implication that EST is a sort of prequel to Down and Out?

    Who knows. Maybe this is the start of Wuffie entering the public consciousness. How would you feel about being listed along side of Asimov as a Sci-Fi writer who somewhat accurately predicted the technological norms of tomorrow?

  6. Somebody go over the whuffie concept for me, please? I just listened to down and out through the getting a leg up podcast, and I’m still not quite sure. Can you give all your whuffies to someone? Are the units whuffies or is it whuffie as like fish. Is there a moral code that computers run to objectively award whuffies based on definable actions? Why the word whuffie? Why not “morals” as the name of the unit? What does the Bitchun (is that right?) thing have to do with it? Am I supposed to have gotten all this stuff from the book or did I miss a forum somewhere that spells it all out?

  7. @#7: I think that wuffie would only be viable in a post-scarcity society.

    But it probably will work as a standard of value for measuring the relative worth of different goods and services and as a store of commodity value as any other medium of exchange in current usage.

  8. Sam, whuffie is a social value system. You get points from people and that show up as a number. Write a song that millions of people love and they might give you lots of whuffie. Do something wrong, or something that lots of people frown on, and you can get negitive points. You can access this information on a public data base–point your phone at someone and you’ll get their rating (or whatever interface you use). If someone sees you spit on an old lady and they can access your public id, they can give you some negitive whuffie. There are sites that can earn you points like whuffie. i09 does so, in a fashion. And Bitchun is vernacular for something really good. “Dude, the beach was like so totally bitchun today!”

  9. Hey Cory – why was this neato system of reputation currency given such a funny name?

    I’d really like to see this concept more broadly used:

    – Create a Whuffie stock market, where people can keep track of (and possibly invest in) individual’s whuffies. You could keep a cash vs. Whuffie exchange rate.

    – Have Whuffie apps on your computer/PDA/phone, tied to a central server. Whuffietrade! w8 per transaction, lowest in the industry. Start trading today, just give us a call!

    – See some business models (charities? Creative Commons community?) run on Whuffie.

  10. I have yet to see a quality system that closely resembles DOIMK Whuffie. (Although I like the trust metric they are implementing at penguicon)

    It fascinates me that shortly after Cory’s book penetrated (2003?) social capital became the center of web 2.0 with social interaction now being built into all web development, software, and even hardware.

    Those looking for more info might find some on my “Whuffie” blog dedicated to this and other topics. here

  11. So can you pass out negative whuffies to people cause you don’t like the look of their face? Cause they’re black or gay or a woman? How many can you give? One or more than one? Can you bet them? Trade them? Steal them? Perhaps there could be some kind of whuffie black market? What about people that think differently, say those who give negative whuffies for dyed hair and positive whuffies for self mutilation, could they? Whats the point of it all? If i was to go around discriminating against whuffie poor people, could I be punished by having my whuffies taken? Who gets them? Can I give myself whuffies?

    If you can buy whuffies with money does it retain it’s moralistic base?

  12. To make negative whuffie stick it obviously can’t be something the user tracks for themselves.

    I envision it being fuzzier than Cory seems to portray it. Instead of a specific number of whuffie, I think it’d be a summation of ratings of the person, by people you trust, or are in a web of trust that you build by looking at their other public ratings. In this case, your whuffie would depend who was asking, and who their friends are.

    For whuffie to be as accurate as currency you’d need individual tokens for each whuf. ‘so and so gives someone else 1 whuffie’. For someone to not just create social credit from sockpuppets, it would have to come from a limited supply. That would require a way to make sure people had only one ID. Or, whuffie wouldn’t be creatable and you’d only be able to give what you were given… But then you’ve got a whuffie recession, etc. Too much complexity.

    So I think of it like the friends/foes list on Slashdot, but more tunable and realtime.


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