Attention and the illicit meta-data trade

by Tom Carroll

It’s a funny world, serendipity strikes. I was listening to the Gillmor Gang SearchSIG Gang podcast which could have been named the AttentionSIG Gang. The conversation about Gesture Bank and the value of meta-data was very interesting. The idea of Gesture bank as a counterweight to the walled meta-data gardens made me think about all the meta-data I have seen traded. I have seen traditional demand data being traded for improved supply chain performance and purchasing behavior being traded for cash. I guess enterprising people have always been able to find a way to monetize an ever increasing percentage of the information generated everyday.

Serendipity strikes, I had recently listened to a speech by Kim Popovits Founder & President of Genomic Health as part of the Stanford DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders lecture series. Genomic basically was able to monetize the value of wax block biopsy samples that are stored after a cancer surgery. I know Genomic is doing great things for people with cancer but I wonder if those patients whose wax block samples allowed Genomic to prove their product, ever imagined they would be helping Genomic achieve a market cap of $270 million. There was (and most likely still remains) no way for cancer patients to monetize their wax block samples and now Genomic has created a walled garden around the data gathered from those wax block samples. Brilliant.

As industries (Financial, Medical, Mobile Communications ect…) create information the players eventually figure out how to use the whole cow even the moo. For some period of time many information assets sit undervalued and untapped. Eventually, an enterprising and innovative individual finds the long neglected assets and creates a way to make money with them. In most cases the resulting monetization occurs, at best, in a walled garden, most commonly thought, it occurs behind the ramparts of a castle where no one speaks of the trading of those long overlooked information assets.

The promise of Gesture bank (As I think of it) is it’s potential to become a market maker for attention meta-data, a creator of attention meta-data liquidity (think Fannie Mae). As Steve Gillmor said, (I paraphrase) during the podcast, most pools of meta-data are not open and available for purchase. What goes unspoken is the meta-data is used to serve the purposes of the collector and those purposes may not benefit the contributing parties. It is rare that a source of information as rich as the web/internet would have at it’s infancy an opportunity for the unwashed masses to realize the value of their participation beyond simply viewing web pages and receiving email.

At least that’s how I think about it.