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I know something you don't

Rumours

Almost everybody loves to be the first to know something... or rather the first to reveal it to others. Whether it's a clever hack, a little-known easter egg, or a juicy bit of insider gossip. And nowhere is this more obvious than with passionate fans.

Last week I was talking to a store clerk with Pink Floyd playing in the background. Somehow we got to talking about the whole Dark Side of the Moon/Wizard of Oz sync thing, when he quite proudly (and a little conspiratorially) revealed the lesser known Echoes/2001 synchronization. For this guy bagging my carrots, it was a minor "I Rule!" moment.

He knew something interesting that I didn't. More importantly, it was something that promoted his Pink Floyd/rock fan status. He got whuffie for being the One Who Knew. (Don't know what "whuffie" is? Good. Because that means I get whuffie for being "hip" enough to know it before you. ; ) [I'm kidding --> note the winkie.]

In my t-shirt post I said:

Where there is passion, there are t-shirts.

Let me update that a little:

Where there is passion, there are t-shirts with sayings or symbols only a true insider understands.

I know guys who wear t-shirts with obscure references as a kind of "test" to see who belongs in their social circle. One male friend of mine said that if a woman ever recognized what his home-made t-shirt says, he'll know he's found the woman of his dreams. (It's some very subtle suggestion of an old Monty Python sketch). He's still single...

Look at your product, service, business, cause. When we reverse-engineer passion, we virtually always find secrets, legends, trivia, etc. that only insiders know. We virtually always find a custom and continually evolving lexicon that helps separate the newbies from the serious.

If you don't have anything like that... get started. Ideally, your passionate users/fans will take over creating and propogating some of this. But since we're reverse-engineering passion here, to try to jumpstart things--make sure you have memes worth spreading! If you're the owner, founder, designer, lead singer, whatever... surely there's something interesting in your background. If you're the marketer, find something.

If you're sure there's honestly nothing the least bit interesting, scandalous, clever, or funny, make something! (But please don't make s*** up! Not today, when truth isn't as highly-valued as one might hope). In other words, have something worth discovering. Worth hunting for. Something a guy (or gal) could get whuffie for being the first to reveal at a cocktail party or user group.

Obviously not all insider knowledge is equal. A sex scandal involving the previous CTO probably isn't worth as much long-term value as the story about the user who -- through your product -- saved the lives of seven baby dolphins. If you don't have legends in your business, try to find some. Try to help encourage them. Your users are your best source of fascinating, memorable, amazing stories, but you'll never know unless you have a clear strategy for finding and capturing those stories.

Are you asking for user stories? Are you propogating stories? Are you embedding "secrets" that only the hard-core will discover? Easter eggs that everyone knows don't count for nearly as much as the stuff that's higher up the hard-core passionate users scale.

And if you don't know about the whole Scoble/cheerleader/Tom Cruise thing, then you're obviously not one of the true A-list insiders.
; )

Posted by Kathy on July 6, 2005 | Permalink

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Creating Passionate Users talks about how great it makes us feel to be the first to know something . . . to have insider knowledge to share in conversations with our friends, our co-workers, even our grocery store clerk. There's something to be said a... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 9, 2005 3:08:30 PM

Comments

Sadly, I think your whuffie score goes down for giving the wrong whuffie link. I think you wanted this one:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whuffie

:-)

PS: I have a ThinkGeek t-shirt along the lines of the shirts you've described. It reads: "There are 10 kinds of people in the world. Those who understand binary, and those who don't." :)

Posted by: Dave Wood | Jul 6, 2005 10:26:44 PM

I'm such a loser! I fixed the link. Hey Dave, can I up my whuffie by saying that I now know what the flop-turn-river means? : )
And for the last time Dave, stop reading the blog until your next two chapters are done.

Posted by: Kathy Sierra | Jul 6, 2005 10:38:30 PM

I read something like this recently- Identity Signals theory. ( http://smg.media.mit.edu/classes/IdentitySignals05/ )

"What makes a signal reliable? The simple answer is that a reliable signal is one that is beneficial to produce truthfully, yet prohibitively costly to produce falsely. Understanding the types of signals and systems that satisfy this condition is the basis of signaling theory."

Posted by: Lion Kimbro | Jul 7, 2005 12:52:58 AM

call me insightful. get an "insider" T...

Posted by: james governor | Jul 7, 2005 8:26:45 AM

Chris "The Long Tail" Anderson talks about "niche culture" in this post

http://longtail.typepad.com/the_long_tail/2005/06/tribal_culture.html

which references a photo of Anil Dash in a (you guessed it!) T-shirt.

For us sad little B-list people, how about an explanatory link to the "Scoble/Cruise/cheerleaders" thing? Google is no help!

Posted by: Mike Duffy | Jul 8, 2005 3:23:50 PM

During the Bill Clinton era, I had a sweatshirt that said Friend of Bill and had a picture of William Shakespeare on it. I was shocked at the number of people who never "got it." I know I'm an egghead literature major, but come on...it's William Shakespeare. I wasn't running into many other friends of Bill, so when I found one, it was a kind of special connection.

Posted by: Shawn Lea | Jul 8, 2005 7:30:59 PM

Your t-shirt post and this one reminded me of the designs Rory Blyth has on his Cafe Press site at http://www.cafepress.com/neopoleon. Check out the warning on the "Binary - The Ultimate Answer" graphic.

Posted by: Bruce Krautbauer | Jul 14, 2005 8:05:30 PM

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