Fellow ZDNet blogger Denise Howell and I went to an AttentionTrust luncheon, where Michael Goldhaber decoded the concept of attention and Seth Goldstein and Steve Gillmor rolled out some AttentionTrust and GestureBank announcements. Denise covers Goldhaber's talk and the Goldstein/Gillmor announcements with her usual thoroughness. Be sure to check out her posts.
I came away from Goldhaber's talk with a better understanding of attention as a force of human nature, a kind of currency that everyone craves and dishes out according to various conventions. The Internet brings the potential of getting the attention of hundreds or millions of people, Goldhaber said, but attention is an intrinsically scare commodity. "Technology creates the potentiality for more attention, but also the increased competition for attention leads to scarcity, so have to compete very hard to get that," he said. Basically every waking hour multiple inputs are competing for your attention or you are seeking attention. Goldhaber added the notion of illusory attention, where a speaker or TV talk show host, for example, gives the illusion of paying attention to each individual in the audience, trying to convince them that what he or she is saying is important.
Web sites try to provide illusory attention by giving the reader, viewer, clicker some sense of control over the content, Goldhaber added. "Some people with some Web sites collect data and then use the data to pretend to the person that they know who they are," Goldhaber said, citing Amazon. "You feel aligned by the software, and it seems personal and is telling you stuff you’re are a little surprised they know and a sense of empathy for you. It works until the suggestions are very stupid. It's an arms race--as users become more sophisticated, [Web sites] have to come up with more sophisticated illusory attention to create sense know something about you."
Goldstein (pictured below) and Gillmor (at left) sounded like revolutionaries plotting to overthrow the oligarchy attention silos. Gillmor talked about land grab on behalf of users.
"Nobody can fight us on this," Steve said, referring to the notion that all the data users leave on Web sites rightfully belongs to the users. GestureBank, which is now part of AttentionTrust.org, is the vehicle for pooling open, anonymized data and creating affinity groups owned and controlled by members that can be applied to monetizing attention. "Links are dead because there are more efficient models already in the ecosystem, and it will pay us with authority, influence, money, fun, laughter, music--more efficiency than the page view model," Steve said.
He also proclaimed that RSS, in addition to links and Microsoft Office, is dead, saying that the river of news is overflowing its banks and that there isn't a way to accommodate the success of RSS.
There is something going on here that ain't exactly clear, but the Attention Gang, like the Identity Gang, wants to create a level playing field in which the users are in charge their personalization data and breadcrumbs, not the Web sites they visit. Steve noted that in the last few day several "attention players" has been in touch about AttentionTrust/GestureBank supporting their attention gathering specifications. Whatever standards or specifications emerge for attention have to come from market forces, not from mainstream vendor brute force, according to Steve. Now the Attention Gang needs to convince billions of Internet users that they should care about the data they produce inhabiting cyberspace and trust in the GestureBank. That will be tougher than coming up with the technology and tools to pool data and create affinity groups.