Why my Attention doesn’t scale

by Tom Carroll

We all have been faced with overwhelming demands on our attention from cell phones to our kids and everything in between. In a previous post I used the idea of caller ID as an example of the relationship between attention, identity and reputation. The problem well illustrated by the caller ID example is the lack of scalability of my attention in that scenario. Caller ID as an attention efficiency is dependant on my on-board identity management and reputation system. That dependency requires that I be present and attentive to the incoming call.

So, I am the limiting factor it turns out (that seems obvious) in many situations through out the day. I know who I trust, who my friends are, what my preferences are, what the state of past relationships are, and the value I place on my time. The critical information needed to scale my attention is not formally known much beyond me.

Today we have wonderful Identity and Reputation silos in Google, Microsoft and eBay, just to name a few. I can, within those silos, replicate some part of my on-board identity management and reputation systems. The silos allow all parties to make explicit their trust for other parties (usually only within the silo, but that is changing) and make that trust known to specified parties within the silo. This facilitation of trust creates opportunities to make all parties attention more efficient, effective and valuable. The silos scale my attention within the silos, not when I’m channel surfing (I am tivoless).

Sadly, the scalability of the current silo model is crippled (in some cases deliberately). I have to manage multiple silos, much of my attention resides outside of the available silos, and a significant part of my on-board identity management and reputation systems is not in the silos. Resulting in my swapping between silos and my on-board systems all the while makeing my attention less efficient and effective.

If we are going to build an Attention economy we must have identity and reputation infrastructure that is more ubiquitous, reliable, secure, and open than the silos we have today.

Or maybe I should just get Tivo.