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James Robertson

Posts: 29924
Nickname: jarober61
Registered: Jun, 2003

David Buck, Smalltalker at large
Two Views of Attention Posted: May 17, 2006 4:48 PM
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Original Post: Two Views of Attention
Feed Title: Cincom Smalltalk Blog - Smalltalk with Rants
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It's after lunch, and time for a breakout session on attention - Craig Barnes and Seth Goldstein are running this one. I had some less than charitable words for Goldstein's ideas here. Barnes is with Attensa - no moderator, so it looks like the two of them will give their views. Craig is speaking first.

What does Attensa do? It observes behavior (RSS), prioritizes, and attempts to give you mor of what you want - all the while mitigating overload. This is all based on what they call predictive ranking. They rank things for you based on observing your behavior while you read RSS - more than just links. They give you a manual ranking stream as well, letting you push things up or down (which itself modifies the automated rankings). They are in the process of adding things "from the cloud "(or behind the firewall for intranets).

So what is attention? Most people are talking about browser clickstream behavior. They aren't doing that in the browser - they are following behavior with RSS. That can include group behavior. Heh - they've been talking to Steve Gillmor for quite awhile, and don't really like the attention.xml path to get there. They think it's too heavyweight. Like Steve, they believe that "the user is in charge", but they've come to different conclusions based on that. They don't view this as being for the targeting of ads (they are mostly going after the enterprise). So what do they target?

  • Blog Posts, News Headlines
  • Alerts for BI (Business Intelligence) - what I use search feeds for
  • Business Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts
  • RSS Enabled Enterprise apps - they are seeing more of these all the time

The bottom, bottom line - RSS overload will dwarf email overload (don't I know it :) ). So this all goes to what they call Attention Streams - where people are spending attention (in the Enterprise). So:

  • Business RSS for now
  • Email Implications - nothing done yet, nor do they have firm plans. But they think that attention as it applies to RSS applies to email as well.
  • Other stuff - PDF, docs, etc.
  • Structured Blog Templates (microformats?)

Sounds to me like they are trying to create tools that people will use for prioritizing their attention in the enterprise. Ahh - Attensa is another Outlook plugin thing. That explains why Greg Reinacker walked into the room :)

Seth Goldstein has the title "Selling Attention" on his slides. To start with, Seth thinks Attensa is doing good work for the Enterprise, but says this: we are all touching different parts of the elephant, but it's still one elephant. Seth is involved in attentiontrust.org with Gillmor, et. al.

His evolution in this area - from Josh Schachter/del.icio.us: "Tags are crystallized attention". hadn't thought of it that way, but it makes sense. Attentiontrust.org with Gillmor. He calls attentiontrust a consumer advocacy group, interested in making sure that you have access to the attention that you are giving things. With all that data being electronic, recording it is easier, and that you as an individual should, at the very least, be able to keep track of that.

So what is this all about? He's trying to create a marketplace for clickstreams. The idea would be to reverse the selling situation - allow people to market themselves to companies. He thinks it could become a new kind of credit bureau. Hmm. Color me skeptical. The idea is that you toggle some settings in a browser, and then let their servers gather your clickstream data for potential sharing. The reporting is interesting - it gives back details on what I've visited. You can share this data with other users of their system.

One thing just became clear to me - the potential for extreme embarrassment is huge. Sure, you can turn the tracking off, but imagine that you forgot and visited an, umm, "not safe for work" site. Here's the end question I have - what's the business model? How do these folks intend to monetize this? Ah - he says that there will be opportunities down the road via leads. Hmm. I think the VC guys were skeptical of that kind of thing :)

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