Whuffie was invented by Cory Doctorow in his 2003 science-fiction novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (available for free download here). From the book:
Whuffie recaptured the true essence of money: in the old days, if you were broke but respected, you wouldn't starve; contrariwise, if you were rich and hated, no sum could buy you security and peace. By measuring the thing that money really represented — your personal capital with your friends and neighbors — you more accurately gauged your success
According to the Bitchun Society, named for another Doctorow invention:
Whuffie is a high five, it's that look of appreciation you give for a job well done, it's a thumbs up. It's your personal capital with your friends and neighbors. It's whuffie! People who give out and receive whuffie are in the Bitchun Society.
The image at top left is the Bitchun Society's symbol for whuffie.
It's just a made-up word we used interchangeably with "Brownie Points" in high-school. Some people have suggested that it might have come from the Arsenio Hall show's "woof woof woof" noises.
The concept of whuffie has gained currency, so to speak, with the rise of online communities such as Facebook and Twitter. The financial crisis has also made whuffie a viable alternative to other forms of compensation: "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," Doctorow has written.
Marketing consultant Tara Hunt's new book The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business (publication date: April 21, 2009) takes the semi-whimsical concept of whuffie and applies it to the serious business of business. In "Making Whuffie," a slide presentation Hunt gave at SXSW last weekend, she defined whuffie as comprising "reputation, connections (both strong and weak), reciprocity, influence, access to resources, public accomplishments, levels of trust, etc." An influencer, Hunt wrote, is someone who is "whuffie rich." Hunt is currently speaking at conferences around the country about "whuffie-rich design."