Category: Food for Thought

The Cognitive Economy

I have been thinking real hard about the Attention economy and then about the Intention economy. In the past I have written about the Situational Awareness economy and online cognitive models, well I think I was in the right neighborhood. I think the economic revolution before us is the Cognitive Economy. The Cognitive economy revolves around memory, attention, perception, action, problem solving. It will be the businesses, organizations, services and people that build value around those key components that will be sucessful in the long term. Now in some ways this is a No Duh moment.

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The change in corporate technology ecosystems

I again was listening to the Grand Central Gang from the Gillmor gang. My only comment on the whole podcast is simply the choice in changing software platforms is not solely based on the technology. In my experience significant change in corporate technology ecosystems is heavily influenced by its IRR and if it is significantly greater than the IRR of current solution. There are many innovative technologies that get adopted slowly because no one is able to produce a cash flow analysis that can move the company into action.

As geeks we sometimes see the potential in technology but the realization of that potential usually trails significantly. This is due in some part to the inability of us geeky folk to relate the technology to the business. In addition to our geekyness corporations (read large) like to have projects that have high batting averages (read no failures). Even more limiting is the corporate desire for not only high batting averages but high power numbers (read no failures and big returns). Short term thinking of many middle managers adds to the ideas of no failures and big returns.

This is why we see time and time again small upstarts using technology to redefine a market and beat established companies.


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Grand Central Gang

Google AdSense as an Activist platform

I was thinking could Google AdSense be used as a platform for activism or protest. could buy keywords that would help expose their movement or act as a counter weight to their opponents. I know that it could be expensive but imagine how targeted you could be. I bet there will be a political campaign consultant that specializes in using Google (if there isn’t one already) to win the swing or undecided voters. Now I understand that Google might have an issue with that.

Then I thought what if Google wanted to provide equal time for searches that were of a political nature. Google could also donate AdSense budget for movements it thought were important. The more I think about it, Google could use its position to influence people one way or another. Imagine every search result page having a small space for activism or protest.

Its a good thing Google isn’t evil.

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.

6 million missing Shopping carts

In the Los Angeles area last year a minimum of 6.2 million shopping carts went missing according to California Shopping Cart Retrieval corp and Hernandez Cart Service Inc. (via Harper’s). I find this number amazing. I wonder if the number of shopping carts that go missing are reflective of the number of homeless. I know scrap steel has gone up but where do these carts go. I also find it funny that there are companies specializing in shopping cart recovery. These companies in my mind are like Dog The Bounty Hunter for shopping carts. It just goes to show that there are niche businesses everywhere. This problem does beg for a technology solution like RFID or something. 6.2 million WOW, I wonder what the recovery cost is to the stores.

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Harper’s Magazine

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.

My Interface Design Principles

I did some work on putting together a new interface design for an application. So, I thought I would provide my guiding principles.

  1. “Information becomes the interface”, Edward Tufte in Visual Explanations p.142.
  2. “OODA Loop” (Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action) By Col John Boyd, USAF (Ret).
  3. Information displays should strive to be no wider than 16 choices and 2 levels deep.
  4. Base change on real observed behavior. The qualitative can not eliminate the quantitative
  5. To some degree the interface has to be stupid simple. The antithesis to this principle is demonstrated by some large ERP software vendors.
  6. Do as much work beyond view of the customer as possible.
  7. Icons are Iconic or they are not valuable.
  8. Visual oriented communication occurs a faster rate and results in increased short term retention
  9. Make help always available and obvious
  10. Continuity Continuity Continuity
  11. Empathy