Tom The Architect

Technology and other Interesting Stuff

Category: attention

Why my Attention doesn’t scale

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.

Identity, Reputation, Trust, then Attention

I was reading Ed Batista’s blog over at Attention Trust. He commented on a post by James Governor from RedMonk on Respect as it relates to attention. James points out:

Respect is what matters. Trust emerges from respect.

Respect can underpin attention but attention shouldn’t underpin respect. Make a contribution. Don’t obsess about inbound links, column inches or TV appearances.

I agree with James, respect and trust are critical components in an attention economy. Identity and reputation (includes respect) are the foundations of an attention economy and underpin trust which sustains attention. Identity, reputation and trust are regulators of my attention. Caller ID exemplifies the role of identity and reputation, once the callers identity is know or not know (aka private call) one can determine based on the callers reputation or lack there of if the caller is worthy of attention.

I agree there are limits to attention just like there were limits to space flight in the 1950’s, we have some technical, economic, social and political issues to resolve. These issues if not resolved will cripple the attention economy and leave consumers as poor sharecroppers on corporate information farms.

James Governor’s RSS Feed
Respect Is More Important Than Attention.

Ed Batista at Attention Trust RSS Feed

Managing our Attention managing attention

I just listened to Seth Goldstein of Root markets talk at eTech 2006. At one point he talks about comparing and creating different views of our attention which may result in a better understanding of ourselves. He also made it clear that his interests were in the monetization of attention. I really don’t share Seth Goldstein passion for interacting with ones’ attention data. I really don’t want to have to spend my attention managing my attention. I seek first attention efficiencies that remove from my attention those things that are not core to me but yet are required, for instance finding cheap air fare’s to my desired vacation spots. The reason for that is I value my attention far more than consumers of my value it. The acquisition of money and things of value is an activity that knows no bounds, time is finite and irrecoverable.

So, as attention companies and services become available one of the key requirements is to provide the value of attention with out requiring addition administration of the attention. I also wonder what is the value of the attention I spend managing my attention? Developers of attention services may be interested in the attention I spend managing my attention. I guess it would allow for better feedback on the developers work.

Fundamentally attention efficiencies will be more valuable than some monetary form of compensation. I think monetization of attention will become a massive economy and the folks at Root markets are helping to build that economy, thanks and keep up the good work.

Root Markets
Root Markets RSS Feed

IT Conversations Podcast Applications for the New Attention Economy By Seth Goldstein
IT Conversations RSS Feed

Bones in Motion Location aware (attention) application builder

I was at JavaOne back in May and I stopped to talk to the folks at the Bones in Motion booth. They were showcasing their J2ME based application that lets you record your jogging and up load it to their site. The site provides you with splits, route maps (Google mash-up), elevation changes, calculates calories burned, allows for you to share your routes, blog about your routes, see recommendations from others, and search for new routes. It is a fee based service (9.99/month) that is conveniently charged to your cell phone bill. In talking with the person in the booth it sounds like this application is the first in a series of Location aware applications. I even find the name of their recorder application interesting its the “Life recorder”.

My question for Bones In Motion can I remove my uploaded data If I choose to leave or share less?

There are a whole class of phone based solutions that are about to explode on the market. If you are a jogger it looks to be an interesting application.

As a side note:
Sprint/Nextel seem to be the only really capable platforms right now. That seemed to be the consensus (Informal non-scientific survey) around JavaOne. Not Surprisingly, only applications signed by Sprint can have access to the GPS services on a handset. I asked Sprint and they said (I Paraphrase) that GPS usage adds costs and they just want to recoup those costs. Nextel doesn’t require that its applications be signed. I think its carrier mentality, protecting their turf. The carriers are fully aware of the value of location aware and integrated applications, they simply want more than just the revenue from the data traffic.

BIMActive by Bones in Motion

A life Connected

As we become more connected in our daily lives we are going to become more dependant on online cognitive models. These online cognitive models will become our primary conduit for knowledge. Today the primitive online cognitive models consist of a composite sets of applications, their rules and their data. The applications range from email to our cell phone, all providing some mechanism for us to be attentive to information. The models today stop short of proxying our understanding of the information. We are still faced with internalizing almost all the information we receive and then formulating some understanding. As that happens we will be forced to create mechanisms to maintain our situational awareness, and at the heart of that awareness will be our online cognitive models.

The models enabling situational awareness may be capable of representing our understanding and acting on that understanding. This may all occur beyond our site based on rich collections of attention/gesture data and rules. I think of email filter rules, pop-up and download permissions and IM presence rules as just the first step in creating the building blocks of composite online cognitive models.

Attention and Gestures require an honest broker

In information centric economies, value is a function of trust. The role of the honest broker is to provide a well understood and transparent point of reputation for attention and gesture information. The information economy we see growing around links and clicks is driven by the reputation of a few silos in the economy. Google, eBay, Yahoo and Microsoft are major reputation providers in the link/click economy. I would never call any of these parties honest brokers, though some are closer to honest broker than others. These reputation providers are by no means neutral and each defends their reputation silo fiercely from competition. That defense can make the reputation less accurate as it is never clear where the interests of the provider end.

In the Attention Gesture information economy an honest Broker is required to facilitate the exchange of and valuation of information. Similar to financial scores, the honest broker provides the unadulterated reputation of an attention/gesture provider allowing the attention/gesture consumer to value the information and then provide the attention provider with some sort of value. The honest broker never has a hand in determining the value of the transaction, but by ensuring that reputation of the provider and consumer are well known to both parties it ensures that each party can trust the valuation. The honest broker provides reputation for both attention/gesture providers and consumers, allowing both parties to identify the value of the attention data.

This honest broker service might be free as part of a network collaboration or it may be a fee for service model similar to credit card industry. Regardless, an honest broker is required to defend the attention/gesture pools from fraud and hijack. The honest broker will become a mechanism for maintaining experience continuity across a long running set of interconnected actions and exchanges, in a life connected.

As we move from an attention economy to a situational awareness economy honest brokers will be woven into the fabric of our online cognitive models.

More than a product offer, It’s attention efficiencies and products

Traditional companies (manufacturers or any one in the classic supply chain) will be faced with competition for their customers attention. A company today strives to spend the majority of its attention on its differentiating value. That means GE doesn’t think how it buys pencils is a differentiating value. The attention that GE wishes to spend on those non-differentiating items is small and getting ever smaller. The funny thing is the attention efficiency GE seeks from its suppliers is in some cases the efficiency GE’s own customers are seeking.

So what does a company like GE do to meet the customers desires, it offers its customers the opportunity to spend less time managing the domain that GE’s products and services are applied in. For example, GE may build custom fuses for power plants but that is not the real value. The real value is ensuring that a fuse failure doesn’t take the plants production capability off line. What GE could provide the customer is an attention efficiency around monitoring a plant’s distribution network, coupled with a highly integrated logistics capability, and a ready supply of power distribution products. GE becomes the Tivo of power distribution, identify the parameters of need, set it and forget it. The attention that GE set free can be applied elsewhere. That attention efficiency doesn’t mean it costs less, though it should. It means that the company trades unskilled dollars for talent that can be used to improve revenue making operations.

More and more companies are going to be required to deliver more than a product, they will have to deliver a product wrapped in an attention efficiency.

The GE example is just for illustrative purposes.

Attention efficiency

I think that the attention economy is best served talking about Attention efficiency.

Attention efficiency is the ratio of useful, valuable, or effective output to the total attention input in any system or systems.

For example, the attention efficiency of television changed a great deal when Tivo arrived on the scene, reducing the required input to get the same value. To deliver on the attention economy is to deliver attention efficiency. If managing Tivo consumes the same amount of attention as the eliminated commercials then Tivo has done nothing to deliver attention efficiency (not the best example, but its late). So as attention becomes the measure of value then we must understand what burdens our applications and businesses place on the attention of our customer / users / observers.

Today we lack any real attention efficiency due to the fact that we are required to interact in so many different silos. I like to think that we will move the online experience (offline experience will slowly disappear) from one of silos that force attention inefficiencies, to a paradigm of situational awareness that is driven by creating attentional efficiencies based on our individual values.

It is critical to point out that the folks who think about attention are themselves early adopters and forward thinkers, that is not the case for everybody else. So our success is dependant on folks that don’t think about attention but value it and desire simple means to deliver more effective output from their attention investments.

The definition of efficiency courtesy of

Attention economics, ah the possibilities

As I think more about the economics of Attention I am struck by the silos. Everyday of my life my attention is disrupted by the constant silo switching. I spend 2 to 2.5 hours per day driving to my place of employment. Today, that time is better spent thanks to my self programmed iPod. There exists a huge problem maintaining the flow of information into and out of my commute silo. I have to spend time to deliver information into that silo and its a pain in the neck, sync, plug in, navigate, unplug, plug in navigate, and unplug every day. So here is what I think would be nice.

In the evening as I review my schedule for the next day, iTunes detects my car as a device on my wireless network. iTunes updates my car with the content I have added and allows me to program my drive to work with content. My calendar also detects my car as a device on my wireless network (or as a client via EVDO, a nod to Steve Gillmor) my temporal data gets downloaded and is used to prime my navigation system. The car then could make suggestions regarding when and where to get gas based on price, route changes based on live traffic data, and provide access to my voice mail. The opportunities are all over the place. Why can’t I sync my contacts in Google or yahoo bidirectionally with my cell phone.

Creating attention efficiencies for people in their daily lives is just obvious. Jon Udell writes about the broader value of attention efficiency and effectiveness [1]. Technology has consistently increased the productivity of the individual within the context of a specific task. How about life productivity, how about increasing the continuity of experience of my life, I would be willing to pay for that. In the end, all the players (companies, customers ect..) will have to focus on collaboration, continuity of experience and increased situational awareness.

[1] Attention economics: by Jon Udell

Attention: Move to a more cooperative model and increased situational awareness

I have been thinking about the Attention economy and what it means for businesses. I find the idea of a more cooperative value model eludes most traditional businesses. I have had to explain multiple times that the value of an interaction includes more than just the product and the cash payment. There exists around all interactions meta data that in some cases exceeds the value of the obvious portion of a traditional transaction. I think that many companies take meta data for granted. There tends to be an assumption that only one party is capturing meta data. In non-online interactions that assumption maybe correct, but in the online world what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Businesses will wake up real quick when customers realize that they can monetize their book purchasing or reviewing habits on amazon by sharing their meta data with Borders.

No longer is the customers meta data a private source of insight or value. As new companies move to free customer meta data and its stored value, traditional businesses will have to move to a more cooperative model. I expect some companies will fight this effort by trying to institute draconian terms of use and invoking copyright protections. Those companies will be fighting a hopeless battle, and if they are successful it will only create a black economy of customer meta data and that is never good. A transparent and open meta data trade is best for all parties involved.

The cooperative model will force companies to work to provide more value for the meta data in the form of better financial terms, increased services, and a broader continuity of experience. Cooperative companies will enable customer creation of a rich situational awareness. That situational awareness will drive productivity and create additional business opportunities.

Thomas W. Malone gave a presentation on the Future of Work at the Accelerating Change 2005 Conference, which focused on the impact of the declining cost of communication. This declining cost of communication is enabling both customers and companies alike to utilize a broader spectrum of the information in our everyday lives. In the future we will all need and have personal situation awareness systems. This will make the information management tools of today look like a Motorola Bravo pager in the age of smart phones.