What do you mean I can't pay my rent with this?
October 6, 2006 8:18 PM   Subscribe

The Bitchun Society is now open for all of your Whuffie-market needs. Or cynical mocking, take your pick. Via (of course) BoingBoing. Can a brother get a ping? Confused?
posted by loquacious (58 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Oh, something to do with Cory. (yawn)
posted by twsf at 8:46 PM on October 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

posted by BeerFilter at 8:48 PM on October 6, 2006

Not to be confused with whuffles?
posted by knave at 8:51 PM on October 6, 2006

Doctorow keeps flogging this dead horse, well after he's done fucking the shit out of it.

It was a cool concept. It's nonfunctional. It's not going to get functional. It's boring. Cory, move on.
posted by Kickstart70 at 8:58 PM on October 6, 2006

I usually attempt to refrain from commenting/moderating, but to be clear: I don't think this is Cory's invention/implementation.

But "post scarcity economy" is a rather large if to suspend one's disbelief upon.

I'm currently reading the fantastically cheesy "Return to Dream Park... The Barsoom Project" by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes, which shares some textural simularities.
posted by loquacious at 9:08 PM on October 6, 2006

Eh, the horse was pretty old and weak before Cory found it, for that matter. Reputation-capital schemes have been a staple of post-scarcity and cypherpunk (and probably many other) utopian scenarios for as long as I can remember. For most of them, though, it's pretty clear what the reputation level is used for; for bitchun, I'm not sure. What harm does it do me to have a low whuffie level?
posted by hattifattener at 9:11 PM on October 6, 2006

The most fascinating thing (to me personally) about The Bitchun Society, Whuffie, & Down and Out is incrementally how much more I dislike Cory every time I hear any of the terms mentioned. I can't figure it out, it makes absolutely no sense, but it's a visceral reaction that I can't control. I used to think he was an interesting, eclectic guy, until that book. Then I tried reading a few pages of it, and now, like I said, it's like Alex in A Clockwork Orange after the conditioning. Even this post made me want to punch Doctorow in the nuts.
posted by jonson at 9:15 PM on October 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Please, I do not need to be reminded of that book...
posted by Kloryne at 9:16 PM on October 6, 2006

Let me add, I really wanted to like it. (Not what we're discussing, anyway.)
posted by Kloryne at 9:18 PM on October 6, 2006

I've got some whuffie for anyone who can explain why reputation-capital schemes are non-functional.
posted by airguitar at 9:27 PM on October 6, 2006

I find the visceral response(s) interesting, jonson. I don't know what it is, either, but I seem to have come to a sort of peace - but I think he gets a bad rap. I don't think I would have used as strong of words. Is it that he's even nerdier than the nerds? Too far into the fairy stories? Too boyishly exuberant? Wrongheaded? Is it arrogance?

I recently reread Down and Out, as well as Eastern Standard Tribe and A Place So Foreign. On a PDA no less. They're enjoyable. I'll read them again some time. Why do I feel like I'm at an AA meeting?
posted by loquacious at 9:29 PM on October 6, 2006

Beerfilter's got it right.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:35 PM on October 6, 2006

Cory is a friend of a friend of mine. I used to like him, found him interesting, and thought "nerd makes good" was an excellent description of his life to now.

But the freakin' ego this guy has.....it's just nonstop. If it's not about him, then he has some way of having a tangential connection to it, which he is happy to espouse on for volumes. I stopped reading BoingBoing because of the larger ego on there, Xeni Jardin, but I'd long before stopped caring about Doctorow's posts. There's only so many times I can hear about what AWESOME COOL RETRACTABLE CABLE IS IN MY GADGET BAG by him.

Whuffie might be a great concept. Yes, reputation-currencies have been around for a long time. But as long as Cory's attached to it (tangentially or not) it's going to suck, because there is a silent "Cory Doctorow's" before every mention of Whuffie.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:41 PM on October 6, 2006

I don't think Cory writes amazing stuff, but I do think it's usually pretty good. I know that his tone can be sort of irritating but I can usually find something to like in his work and that's really all I ask for, even the perpetual flogging on boingboing doesn't bother me that much as I usually find something I like there as well. However, I actually like down and out least of all, mostly because I don't understand the Disney love. Disney is the most banal of all the iconic American entertainments, I like benignly obsessed people though. I prefer Bruce Sterling's take on the reputation economy in that short story set in Japan with the "gangs" of people who help each other out, but never really meet.

I'm not sure that I buy the real world application of this, but like I said, I always like for people to be enthusiastic.

divine_wino's record post for most uses of "I"
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:44 PM on October 6, 2006

Part of the visceral reaction to the douchebag is that all of his fiction is about him too – he is always the main character.

What's bizarre about the way he makes his protagonists exaggerations of himself is that he amplifies the absolute worst parts of himself in them: They're super-paranoid, passive-aggressive, kneejerk, abusive, self-promoting asshats – somehow even more than he is in real life.

Even the other characters in the books he writes hate his ass. What a sad motherfucker.
posted by blasdelf at 10:01 PM on October 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Wow, reading this thread is what I imagine listening in on the people backstage at a fashion show would be like.
posted by GriffX at 11:07 PM on October 6, 2006 [2 favorites]

I read his first book on my PDA. Couldn't finish his second. Whuffie as he describes it is insanely anti-freedom: lose your reputation, lose your livelihood and possessions. I wish his bok were a cautionary tale, but fear it's turgid cheerleading similar in tone if opposite in ideology, to Ayn Rand.
posted by orthogonality at 11:24 PM on October 6, 2006

You favorite author sucks.
posted by chemicalpilate at 11:29 PM on October 6, 2006

posted by chemicalpilate at 11:30 PM on October 6, 2006

i haven't read that one but i read eastern standard tribe and another. i thought they were pretty good and original, too. cory seems like a nice guy and i liked his books, i'm not sure why you guys are so mean. did he dump your mom or something, or kick your dog, or what? remember back when metafilter wasn't mean?
posted by luriete at 11:48 PM on October 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

posted by blasdelf at 11:51 PM on October 6, 2006

Don't you get it, luriete? Metafilter is all about personal attacks, but wuffie is not a person and Bitchun Society is not a person, so that only leaves Cory.

Sic 'im!
posted by spazzm at 11:55 PM on October 6, 2006

God, I hope Cory gets hit by a bus. Soon.
posted by keswick at 12:03 AM on October 7, 2006

For the record,
I think Cory's books are entertaining, well written and occasionally thought-provoking.
Also, it's nice of him to let everybody read them for free.
posted by spazzm at 12:10 AM on October 7, 2006

That's the spirit, keswick! For bonus points, try making some comments about his ancestry or sexual preferences!
posted by spazzm at 12:58 AM on October 7, 2006

I don't have an opinion one way or the other about Cory, never having read any of his books. But 'Whuffie' is an awful, awful name for anything and makes me hate the idea without bothering for a second to try to understand it.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:34 AM on October 7, 2006

Cory apparently collected enough Whuffie as "blogger" to trade up to "novelist." He pioneered the idea of letting people read the book for free through his website -- that idea is precisely what got his stories published. They are decent tales, but not strong enough to stand on their own merits, methinks. Like most artists who catch the American public's favor, he wins because he did Something Clever.
posted by solipse at 4:18 AM on October 7, 2006

He pioneered the idea of letting people read the book for free through his website

Bollocks. What about the Baen Free Library?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 4:34 AM on October 7, 2006

The other thing that makes his books suck, in addition to the swollen Doctorow ego that rampages through them, is the fact that their plots are essentially propaganda for whatever position he is taking in the latest "hot debate" -- thus, we have Cory Doctorow's novels and short stories in which the plot revolves around the evils of DRM.

It's nicely-packaged fan-fiction for the EFF.
posted by jayder at 7:03 AM on October 7, 2006

Good god you people are off the chain. I've read a couple of the books and they were pleasant diversions. Seriously though, this thread, FFS
posted by bonaldi at 7:05 AM on October 7, 2006

'Whuffie' is an awful, awful name for anything

Ditto for 'Bitchun'.
posted by yeti at 7:08 AM on October 7, 2006

Hey, at least Doctorow is ridin' high atop a veritable tsunami of Whuffie: he's a Visiting Research Chair in Public Diplomacy at USC!

The Doctorow "whuffie" phenomenon reflects a universal principle: for egotistical, self-promoting people, whatever works for them in particular, is naturally advocated as a path of success for people in general. These people set forth their philosophy of life and success, and you find out that their definition of success is "becoming more like me." Doctorow, who's built a reputation as a kind of freelance publicist of a certain ideal of Internet freedom, clearly has concluded that "reputation on the web" is at the heart of everything, so he advocates a system in which this becomes central.

I thought this excerpt from the above-linked U.S.C. press release about Doctorow's "visiting chair" was interesting:

Born in Toronto, Canada, on July 17, 1971 to Trotskyist schoolteachers, Doctorow was exposed to both science-fiction and computers at an early age by his father and has spent most of my life behind a keyboard.

(Why is it that Doctorow always mentions the fact that his parents were "Trotskyist schoolteachers"? It has never occurred to me to mention the political orientation of my parents, when providing a CV or resume. Why does he think anyone would care?)
posted by jayder at 7:31 AM on October 7, 2006 [2 favorites]

My favorite thing about Doctorow is that time he wrote about how DRM prevented him and his cow-orker from anagraming the subway stop names at Disney world.
posted by Falconetti at 7:40 AM on October 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Whuffie. First time I've heard of it (yes, I've been living in a hole for the last 20 years) but that word just bugs the hell out of me. It's warm'n'fuzzy yet smirky and meaningless - it sounds like a corporate mascot for some cleaning product, like that stupid teddy bear who shills fabric softener.

Anyway, the concept of *grates teeth, spits it out* Whuffie was done by Iain M Banks in The Algebraist, undoubtedly a whole lot better. For starters, he called it "kudos". And it wasn't a human society that ran on it, but an incredibly long-lived species known as the Dwellers. With a life span in the billions of years, the only thing that remained interesting and compelling was the opinion of fellow Dwellers. Of course, us "Quick" species don't have time to cultivate that sort of perspective, so we run around madly accumulating money and possessions before we die. Banks makes a fairly good case for his Dwellers, but he's pretty clear that kudos/Whuffie *grrr* wouldn't work for humans.
posted by Quietgal at 8:23 AM on October 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

it's really too bad that Cory seems to have pretty much torpedoed the entire concept of a reputation economy by choosing such an absolutely godawful name, which I refuse to use even for purposes of discussion. Bruce Sterling did an interesting treatment of reputation economies in Distraction (along with a amusing extrapolation of the disintegration of American political life.)

And really, if you look, you can see different sorts of reputation economies all over the place. Google's whole ranking scheme (inbound links amounting to "reputation votes") for example. So the concept has merit, but this implementation is doomed for obvious "visceral" reasons...
posted by dinsdale at 9:01 AM on October 7, 2006

Just in the past couple months I've started seeing a ton of anti-Doctorowism. And I like it.

(Cue rant:) He's the kind of guy who's always buoyantly rah-rah about anything the in-crowd is into -- the in-crowd in this case being SF-dwelling, Wired-magazine-reading and -writing, neo-post-cyber-blah-blah-philosophizing, Burning Man-attending airhead optimists with a penchant for black-framed glasses and bulky shoes. He also cozies up to other sci-fi writers -- but only the trendy ones and the oldsters who have come to be regarded as prescient. If his hobbyhorses somehow fell from coolness -- if the EFF closed its doors tomorrow -- he'd find a way to do a 180 ASAP. (End of rant, basically)

But I'm not just being wantonly negativistic here. His type isn't just annoying, it's dangerous. Here's this intelligent, well-informed guy who's determined to stand with the group no matter what. When they get swept up in some ill-advised fad, he'll be there to push it just a little bit further. And when someone speaks up to criticize that fad, he'll lead the chorus that shouts that person down.

Actually I just thought of a great metaphor! You know that South Park where they talked about how people in San Francisco love the smell of their own farts? Doctorow is always sniffing his butt, then sniffing the prevailing wind and changing his diet accordingly.

Oh, and he stole the name Craphound from Sean Tejeratchi, who edited a terrific clip-art zine of that name in the early-to-mid 90s. So now if you want to Google for people talking about Craphound, you get all this Cory Doctorow stuff instead!
posted by Tuffy at 9:38 AM on October 7, 2006 [2 favorites]

Plenty people in this thread have secret crushes on Cory Doctorow and ain't nothing you can tell me otherwise. I ain't seen so much pigtail dipping in the inkwell since the fourth grade.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:58 AM on October 7, 2006

Plenty people in this thread have secret crushes on Cory Doctorow and ain't nothing you can tell me otherwise. I ain't seen so much pigtail dipping in the inkwell since the fourth grade.

Why is it that criticisms of Cory Doctorow always seem to flush out the folks who explain away such criticisms as "you're just jealous," "you secretly have a crush on him," etc.?

Is it really so hard to believe that we dislike him based on the merits of his writings and ideas, and that the intensity of our dislike is correlated to the assiduousness with which he courts attention for himself?
posted by jayder at 10:17 AM on October 7, 2006

no, no, no, jaydar.... Divine_Wino is on to something. I think MetaFilter is secretly in love with President Bush.
posted by keswick at 10:19 AM on October 7, 2006

I didn't know that this was a common explanation for the level of vituperation, I just think it's funny that people take such a personal level of offense to the guy, I can think of a thousand more loathsome people that don't get the same treatment - "dangerous", "douchebag". The guy is a big ego with a popular blog and a glib cyberpunk-lite writing style. I was just taking the piss with my comment but I do think there is some kind of resentment aimed at the reach of his influence on the web. I agree with most of the criticisms to one degree or another, it's just how they are expressed that always makes me chuckle in that "oh another hater" has been "flushed out" kinda way.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:33 AM on October 7, 2006

Oh and gimme a kiss Keswick, you sexy little fuck.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:50 AM on October 7, 2006

Yikes. I hope I never get an idea that I think is interesting, put it in a book, and give that book away for free and have a lot of people read it.
posted by kevspace at 10:54 AM on October 7, 2006

The problem is this: if he didn't irritate people by self-publicising so flagrantly, how would people know to dislike him? He'd just be another one of us with a blog that no-one reads. It's the nature of fame. Although I would suggest that Doctorow is famous in about the smallest possible way. Which is probably fine by him. (i.e. he gets all the cosplay ass a geek could ever need.)

Just my two Whuffles.
posted by bokeh at 11:46 AM on October 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

My god, the level of snark here is incredible! I can't help but think this thread is, consciously or not, more about Cory Doctorow's contributing for a competing popular website more than anything about the unfortunately-named Wuffie, the more-unfortunately-named project, or Doctorow himself.

I've never read any of his books, so maybe there's something I'm missing. But as a wannabe writer myself, I can say that an author putting something in his novel does not necessarily mean that he approves of it. And although I read a lot of Boing Boing, I had really heard of Wuffie only recently, so this is NOT something he rants on and on about.

A lot of people here have been complaining about the things he posts on Boing Boing. Well Boing Boing is a blog. Blogs are about what the people who run them like and want to say. Boing Boing became popular, evidently, because people seem to like to read about those things. If the people who post to it become unacceptably full of themselves then it'll naturally fall in popularity -- there is not the sense that you can coast on past glory on the internet. (And for the most part I have no idea where you guys are getting the idea that they have become insufferable. Cory talks a lot about the EFF and rights issues, but that's because it's what Cory is interested in. Everyone thinks the things they're interested in are the most important in the world, and what else are they going to blog about anyway?)

Unlike Metafilter, Boing Boing is only four people contributing to it, so it's unlikely to ever approach anything like MeFi's breadth. It also updates frequently enough that they have room or time there for the kind of rhetorical self-negation that marks a good MetaFilter post -- but then, they also tend not to have things like Pepsi Blue posts, self-links, or endless duplicates and complaining about duplicates.
posted by JHarris at 3:44 PM on October 7, 2006

(They have NO room for the rhetorical self-negation, I meant. Argh.)
posted by JHarris at 3:49 PM on October 7, 2006

(And I guess they do have self-links. But they don't need that kind of organized culture against them. Bleah, I should edit more before I post.)
posted by JHarris at 3:50 PM on October 7, 2006

Whuffie. First time I've heard of it (yes, I've been living in a hole for the last 20 years)

Could be worse: you could've never heard of Cory Doctorow before this thread. Not that I'm admitting anything...
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:26 PM on October 7, 2006

I just returned Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town to the library. In my humble opinion it works better as an amusing book to tell people about having read than to actually read. OTOH, 0wnz0red was pretty neat in a wish fulfillment kind of way..

Just never ask me to pick him out in a police lineup that also contains Drew Carey.
posted by Sparx at 4:35 PM on October 7, 2006

Corpse, everything I know about Cory Doctorow I learned on Metafilter. In sum, it's cool to hate on Cory Doctorow.
posted by Quietgal at 7:09 PM on October 7, 2006

This sort of reaction isn't really that unusual -- it's how people who spend a lot of time on the Internet tend to react to people who claim to be part of their leaders or elite, and benefit from people believing those claims. It's a combination of "Who does he think he is?", annoyance at outsiders believing his claims, and a feeling that compared to them, who just go about their lives on the 'net, he's a bit of a poser and pretender.

For another example of what to me is pretty much exactly the same thing, see Eric Raymond.
posted by mendel at 7:59 PM on October 7, 2006

The most fascinating thing (to me personally) about The Bitchun Society, Whuffie, & Down and Out is incrementally how much more I dislike Cory every time I hear any of the terms mentioned.

Yeah, totally. For me, at least, it's a reaction to the idea that he would take an entirely obvious concept, give it an incredibly stupid name that stupid people will then refer to ("hey, this is just like teh whuffie!"), and then claim some kind of credit for the whole thing.

I tried to read "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" once. I think I abandoned it before the end of Chapter 1.
posted by reklaw at 2:29 AM on October 8, 2006

Um, he's spelling it wrong.
posted by divrsional at 5:15 AM on October 8, 2006

blasdelf: You're right! I went to look at Someone Comes to Town, and he spends the whole first page of the novel describing himself!

pro-doctorites: Yeah, I'm the first to admit my hatred of him contains much jealousy. He's like a year younger than me and his CV is bursting with high-status gigs. (Of course, he probably keeps a database of every speech, essay and 5-minute phone call so he can continually update his Wikipedia page with the best stuff.)

I think hyper-productive high achievers like him sacrifice creativity and interiority. But they're also free of the constant second-guessing and self-doubt that keep creative, inward-looking types from getting much done or getting recognized when they do. If you are such a person, I think it's natural to feel hostile toward someone who has succeeded through their ability to hustle other people's ideas.
posted by Tuffy at 9:13 AM on October 8, 2006

Speaking of Whuffie: Tuffy, after following your link to Someone Comes to Town, I take back everything I ever said that was bad about Cory Doctorow, because I learned he is saving the developing world with his literary masterpieces. To wit:

... I’ve applied a new, and very cool kind of Creative Commons license to this book: the Creative Commons Developing Nations License. What that means is that if you live in a country that’s not on the World Bank’s list of High-Income Countries, you get to do practically anything you want with this book.

While residents of the rich world are limited to making noncommercial copies of this book, residents of the developing world can do much more. Want to make a commercial edition of this book? Be my guest. A film? Sure thing. A translation into the local language? But of course.

The sole restriction is that you may not export your work with my book beyond the developing world. Your Ukrainian film, Guyanese print edition, or Ghanian translation can be freely exported within the developing world, but can’t be sent back to the rich world, where my paying customers are.

It’s an honor to have the opportunity to help people who are living under circumstances that make mine seem like the lap of luxury. I’m especially hopeful that this will, in some small way, help developing nations bootstrap themselves into a better economic situation.

With this plan, Cory Doctorow single-handedly puts to shame the collective efforts of Bono, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie to alleviate the misery of third-world nations. His novel about a crusade to provide free wireless internet in North America is sure to be a big hit in Africa.
posted by jayder at 11:20 AM on October 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


I didn't think it was possible for me to hate Cory more, but that just took it a whole new level. Thanks!
posted by keswick at 11:44 AM on October 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

The saddest part about this thread is the complete lack of discussion of the project. There's actually some cool ideas behind the algorithm used in the software project. It's immune to most simple attempts to artificially raise one's ranking for example. For another, all rankings are completely subjective, such that it's only meaningful to say that a person has a whuffie score from some particular person's point of view.

This is the second time I've seen a mefi thread turn into a spontaneous and nearly unanimous hate-on for something only tangental to the original post.
posted by Rictic at 2:58 PM on October 8, 2006

Ok - so one thing I didn't understand about someone comes to town, someone leaves town is where does all the free bandwidth come from - there's some handwavium about being on the cusp of two telcos, but I never quite got it. Can anyone, Cory Hater or no, explain?
posted by Sparx at 11:59 PM on October 8, 2006

Clearly, what the world needs is fewer people writing blogs and books for others to read for free, and more people writing bitter, snarky comments on MF.
posted by spazzm at 1:34 PM on October 10, 2006

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