by Jason Kincaid on September 15, 2009

It’s a sad fact of life that many of the most insightful and helpful people on the web (and in real life, for that matter) aren’t financially rewarded for their efforts — they may well be satisfied with the good they’ve done, but that doesn’t help to pay the rent. The Whuffie Bank, a new non-profit organization that’s launching today at TechCrunch50, wants to fix this by launching a new currency that rewards people for their positive contributions on the web.

The startup is hoping to promote change in the web by rewarding users with a positive impact on the web with this karma-like digital currency. The service will monitor your activity across various websites, including things like comments, posts, and more. When you complete positive actions, you gain Whuffies, and you lose them when you do something that the organization deems to be detrimental. The company hopes that as we use the web more and more in our day-to-day life this positivity will extend beyond the web.

To get started you enter your username on Twitter (Facebook support will be coming). The site displays how many Whuffies you have, along with a graph of your progress over time. The site ranks its users by Whuffies, in the hopes of helping surface the top users in different fields.

The algorithm takes into account ‘public endorsements’, or the number of times a user’s tweets are retweeted, or a Facebook post is Liked. It also takes into account who is making the endorsement, and the content in the messages that are being posted. You can make offers to other users using Whuffies as payment (for example, I could ask someone to help me draw a logo, offering 100 Whuffies as payment).

The company says it was inspired by the Creative Common nonprofit model. The name comes from Cory Doctorow’s book Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.

Q&A with panelists Dick Costolo, Reid Hoffman, Sean Parker, Mike Schroepfer, Chamillionaire, and Robert Scoble:
RH: The problem with this kind of currency is you need banking system… There are people on the web whose political views mean nothing to me. This will be very difficult, but as a concept I think it’s cool.
DC: I was thinking about Reid’s comment and the interesting thing about virtual currencies is that even when they’re not scarce, you can make people think they’re scarce. In Zynga, chips cost a certain amount of money. It’s a challenge to incite scarcity, but you can do it. We’ve seen things like this before.
Chamillionaire: I want to hear in one line, what do I get? Seems like a lot of work..
A: We try to have ways to detect people who are trying to exploit the system. This project isn’t sustained on accumulation of work or capital. In order to be wealthy, you have to be respected by other people that are important.
Calacanis: Mike, doesn’t Facebook have a social currency going on that’s unspoken?
MS: I think the devil is in the details. It depends on context. I could say they have lots of likes and comments. It means they post interesting things, but what does that mean.
A: Purpose of making this non-profit. Guaranteed that it would make this independent of any social platform out there, ensures transparency.


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