The Whuffie Game

I'm not a particularly interesting person in my own right. I'm very good at collecting stories and facts and turning them into compelling non-fiction stories. This leads people to believe that I might, in fact, be interesting.At the Emerging Technology conference, I've been watching my own interactions and those of people I meet. I'm relatively well known in this crowd and I have a speaker badge. At the risk of being one of those people who says, "There are two kinds of people: people who categorize people, and those who don't," I'm seeing a lot of emergent Whuffie-based behavior. (What's Whuffie? It's a catchall term for your relative reputation based on many factors that Cory Doctorow used in his recent novel, and which derives from an even older source he was involved with.) The more well-known the person you're near, the more likely you are to be deemed interesting. I now know a number of relatively to extremely well-known people. I'm not very opportunistic. I like people who engage on ideas, and many of the folks here who are well known are the kind of folks who talk and are interactive. Well-known people tend to avoid interacting beyond a superficial level. I've met many people I've wanted to meet for a while, and had great conversations with some of them. Others, even though we've corresponded or I'm on their radar, they had a sort of learned avoidance behavior in crowds that I was either sucked into, or I gave out signals that triggered that behavior. I may be too effusive, complementary, or cognizant of someone's written or spoken works. The last conversation that ends is the one conducted by someone who has a constitutional inability to stop talking. They always win unless you're rude or Tim O'Reilly. This might offend some people I've talked to, but I've had a number of excellent, long conversations, some of them over an hour, and I'll leave my colleagues guessing which ones of them I'm referring to. Let me explain my Tim O'Reilly crack: it's not a crack, it's rather a compliment. Tim has a natural, quiet ability to extricate himself from a conversation when that conversation is done. He's not offensive about it; it's very subtle. But it allows him to maximize conversation efficiency. He's well known enough that the degree of deference paid to him combined with this natural ability allows him to leverage this conversational/social advantage. Man, am I tired.