I've been a part of a number of 'experiments in money' over the course of time. The first one was as a member of a residential coop when I was 17. We had a group house where about 20 people lived. For a low rent we all contributed 'work-credits' intended to be the equivalent of about 4 hours of work a week. We bid on the jobs we wanted to do-- which ranged from picking up food for the group meals at wh***sale outlets outside the city to cooking meals, to washing the floors. Jobs that nobody wanted got a higher 'work-credit' value-- so that you could cut your work hours by doing something other people preferred not to do.
With the start of this 'money' mission I joined several other projects-- Riko's Evoke group on Kiva and Mark Mulkerin's Evoke Bank-- but I really wanted to explore other ideas outside of Evoke. None of the barter systems or alternate currencies I looked at really resonated with me-- until I came across this whimsical system inspired by one of Cory Doctorow's science fiction novels: The Whuffie Bank.
The idea here is expressed in the bank's motto: "In a world where reputation is wealth, only those who do good and well unto others are the richest." This seems to me to promise a return to one of the oldest principles of markets: to trade successfully with others you must be trustworthy. In the small groups in which people evolved, the kind of cynical 'looking out for number one' which our current system encourages must have been rare indeed, since losing your reputation for being trustworthy would have been a disaster for anyone in those mutually interdependent systems.
The Whuffie is rather limited for the time being-- it uses only Twitter to judge your reputation (based on the number of times your posts are retweeted and how much you spread other people's ideas by retweeting their posts). There are plans to add Facebook and other social media at some later point. What really appealed to me though, was that I could give some of my 'whuffies' to other people. It felt good to be able to finally reward, in this small way, The Utne Reader for being such an outstanding source of information over the years, or the excellent work of economist-blogger Mark Thoma, whose posts I've come to rely on heavily as a major source of independent economic thinking.
It's just a small step in creating the kind of world I hope to live in one day: one where people care more for their reputations than for money, and where their ambitions are engaged by making things ever better.