It’s your attention - use it!

Sunday August 27th, 2006 in , , , , ,

One of the interesting aspects of dealing with attention, or specifically the recording of it as , is the immediate and often strong reaction that people have towards it. I’ve seen reactions ranging from “wow - there’s so much potential in this” to “no way - it’s a huge invasion of privacy”. Both are natural human responses - we all have an inbuilt fear of the unknown, but at the same time we are both curious and adventurous.

Our privacy, or the lack thereof, is at the center of a raging battle that affects almost every aspect of our lives. Scott McNealy from Sun once said “You have zero privacy anyway - Get over it“, which sparked a huge debate. In some ways, this is not far from the truth seeing as experts estimate that information about the average working adult in the UK is stored on 700 databases. Interestingly, at the same time we’re seeing services such as myspace and youtube scrape in millions of users looking to express themselves and who they are. In some strange way it seems that the majority of young Americans don’t want privacy, they want attention.

The fact is, as we go about our daily lives we’re leaving an abundance of footprints in the sands of this huge digital sandbox we call the Internet. Most of us let these grains of information slip right through our fingers. Why? For one, most users don’t realize the amount of information they leave behind in the webserver logs of the sites they visit. At the same time, the majority of users have not yet been given the incentive or strong enough reasons to collect and save their different kinds of attention data.

One way of looking at it is this: many companies and organizations already know a lot about you, why shouldn’t you know the same things and hopefully more about yourself? Plus, it’s not like you have to do any extra work, doing what you normally do is all that is required to collect your attention data (and the right tools mind you). For example, lets you keep your own fully-automated music journal and helps you discover new music simply by listening to music as you’ve always done. shows us just a glimpse of the kind of value that can be found in your attention data. Some might think “I already know what kind of music I listen to”, but in my opinion we’re already way past the point where we can remember or keep track of the things we consume digitally - even on a daily basis.

In a way you can think of your own attention data as an extension of your mind and your memory. And who of us wouldn’t want a sharp memory? We might discover surprising and important things about our selves.


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