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Common Cause February newsletter: When it feels like we’re Wordles apart

23/02/22

Common Cause February newsletter: When it feels like we’re Wordles apart

Common Cause's February newsletter
This is a blog by Elsie Roderiques
Elsie is a member of staff at the Common Cause Foundation.

Dear friends,

If you’re not already playing Wordle, then you’ve probably heard of it; the ‘viral puzzle craze’ which has swept the internet in 2022. Of course the big news this month is that the game has been sold to the New York Times for an undisclosed ‘seven figure sum’, but its origins are much more humble.

Josh Wardle, a software engineer in Brooklyn, initially created Wordle for his partner who is a big fan of word games; which is a very sweet gesture; so much so that the New York Times called Wordle a ‘love story’. There are already articles all over the internet with theories as to Wordle’s popularity; Marketing Week takes a behavioural psychology approach and suggests that the ‘secret sauce’ is scarcity; even Wardle himself agrees that it’s part of the game’s appeal, but are we doing it a disservice by thinking that’s all it is?

In an interview with TIME, Wardle says that he made something “that he would like to exist on the internet’. Perhaps the same can be said for many people driven to invent and create, but it doesn’t seem like Wardle was in it for the wealth, power or notoriety — he seems to shy away from the newfound attention, and, unusually, until the sale, the game generated no income; existing without adverts or notifications to drive you to it — in fact, it was costing Wardle $100 a month to run. Wardle is clear that his intention was to make a game his partner would enjoy playing, and being intrinsically motivated in this way has meant that it has been easy for him to say no to monetisation, which many people had been encouraging him to do.

Perhaps the joy of Wordle is not only in its simplicity, or the purity of its intention, but also in the fact that it has generated community around it. In a statement on Twitter about the sale, Wardle has been touched by the many stories of the game uniting us; friends, families and strangers.

It’s not the first time that Wardle has worked his magic to bring people together online in seemingly impossible ways. In 2017 he worked at Reddit on a project called Place — a vast, collaborative piece of art co-created by over a million people over 72 hours. It started as a 1,000 x 1,000 pixel blank canvas that invited Reddit users to place a pixel upon it, but only one every five minutes. The instructions read: “Individually you can create something. Together you can create something more.” The results were truly astounding and the sped-up playback is well worth a watch to see what emerged as the communities rapidly organised themselves to create something chaotic, collaborative and uniquely beautiful.

It seems Wardle has a magic talent for bringing people together online in a way that feels at odds with the extrinsically motivated, divisive and money/influence-focussed internet many of us experience today. Somehow he has managed to create small pockets where we get to experience humanity in the virtual; spaces to collaborate and cooperate and connect.

What do you make of Wordle? Flavour of the moment or something special? It would be great to hear of other corners of the internet where intrinsic values live; if you know of any, please do share them with us.

With care and solidarity for these times we’re in,

Elsie, Ruth & Tom

Healing division through exploration of shared values

Tom’s paper “Healing division through exploration of shared values” on the Othering and Belonging Institute blog develops the argument that public debate at its most polarised focuses on attitudes toward specific political programmes or policy choices, rather than the values that underpin our political convictions. Read the blog

Values 101 Workshops

Photo by Chris Montgomery on on Unsplash

We’re currently enjoying hosting our first Values 101 Workshop Series of 2022, joined by a brilliant cohort of participants from across Europe, who are working towards social and environmental justice in a broad range of ways.

Our February workshop’s sold out, but we still have places for our next workshop series taking place in May and on the newly released dates for June.

If you’re interested in exploring a new approach to transformational change based on what really motivates people to care for one another and the wider world, then do check out the upcoming trainings by clicking the link below.

Find out more

Reader’s Corner

Here are a selection of articles and podcasts we have been reading and learning from over the past few weeks.

Paper

Written by our very own Ruth, Transforming Narrative Waters explores the practice of deep narrative change in the UK. The paper details the findings from Ruth’s research, giving particular attention to the ways in which deep narrative change can be said to be being practised in the UK today, and the barriers and opportunities that exist to growing and embedding this practice in the future. Ruth is really keen to hear reflections and feedback, so do feel free to get in touch.

Book

More than one fifth of children today want to become influencers. In an extrinsically motivated system where you could escape economic uncertainty by winning the internet’s attention, it’s perhaps easy to understand why. Symeon Brown’s new book “Get Rich or Lie Trying” explores the fraud, exploitation, bribery and dishonesty at the core of the influencer model and asks if our digital rat race is costing us too much.

…Game

(We couldn’t resist.) If you can’t get enough of Wordle, or perhaps you’re looking for something different, there are a plethora of variations popping up all over the internet, including Nerdle (for numbers fans), Worldle (for geography buffs) and Quordle (Wordle x4).

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