Surfing your clickstream

Summary:AttenTV has come up with a novel use for the clickstream--that log of the pages you visit as you surf the Web. They are transmitted to other AttenTV participants who are (in effect) looking at your screen as you navigate the Web. This purports to be entertaining.

AttenTV has come up with a novel use for the clickstream--that log of the pages you visit as you surf the Web. Clickstreams are (potentially) a marketer's best friend: They supply perhaps the finest psychographic information available anywhere. Luckily, clickstreams are private--unless you sign up for AttenTV. Then they are transmitted to other AttenTV participants who are (in effect) looking at your screen as you navigate the Web. This purports to be entertaining.

So What?

And maybe it is. If Reality TV can make us stare at dull people doing dull things, AttenTV can probably do the same with what you might call "Reality Web Browsing." There's something intrinsically interesting about voyeurism, irrespective of how (un)interesting its target might be. A colleague of mine visited Google recently and saw (among other wonders) a wall-sized screen showing a huge sample of currently-executing searches. (In the interests of propriety, so-called "adult" searches are omitted--I mean searches like "tax shelter", "gingivitis", and "male pattern baldness," for example.) He said it was mesmerizing.

But entertainment is the least of AttenTV's goals. Ultimately, they want to make it possible for you to sell your clickstream to advertisers, who would then show you material tailored to your psychographics. Presumably, another road to wealth would be to become popular (lots of people watching your clickstream) and then sell your attention--you'd visit site X three times a day (for example), your virtual tour group following close behind, in exchange for some kind of compensation.

It's a fascinating idea but I don't think we'll go for it. Some years ago I (almost) helped pilot some software that scanned an enterprise's email accounts in order to identify employees with various kinds of expertise. It had about six layers of security and anonymity built in...but most of us (including me) were still too squeamish to sign up. (Note that an enterprise is in a position to mandate adoption of this type of software, which would probably yield significant knowledge management benefits. If you're curious about it, check out Illumio, Tacit and Microsoft's Knowledge Network)

If I don't want my professional data scanned by my own company, I certainly don't want my personal data scanned by the general public. Don't get me wrong, though; I'm not really averse to the concept. In fact (oddball that I am), I'm thinking of asking Google for a ticker feed of their "taxes/gingivitis/baldness" stream.

Topics: Google, Microsoft, Software

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