I read Stowe Boyd's comments about attention profiling with interest. The idea of a markup language that allows us to define what has our attention and helps organisations to use that to push the right data to us is fascinating and although I can see it has big upsides I can also see big downsides.
There is no doubt though that in today's world grabbing our attention and keeping it is really important. So what might happen if we get this right?
The full article is here in this blog. If you are a member of a Social Network like Ecademy then the chances are that your attention is already stretched and you are being pulled in many directions. One Ecademy member, Ronald Wopereis has devoted much of his thinking to attention and views attention as a product, perhaps this is the manifestation of what Ronald has been talking about.
We all have to much to read, and anything which can trim down my search for the right information or people is likely to get my attention. Currently I use Bloglines to monitor the main blogs that I read and that allows me to give my attention to catch up on threads when I have a few minutes. Sometimes that review prompts me to think about stuff and even write my own blog entry - just like this one. That thinking allows me to develop my own knowledge and skills and that's something I really like.
With attention profiles I'd be able to get additional material that fitted my criteria pushed to me rather than me having to go and pull it, and I could probably trim out some of the less relevant material from the blogs I do read. That too would be an advantage. Some of this I can currently do using Google Alerts, and similar tools that alert me when a particular search reveals some interesting new fact.
There is no doubt that providing information about your interests needs and wants can help to develop better, more focused content being directed your way but it also raises issues of privacy. The more you know about a person the harder it is for them to protect other information being linked to them. Assumptive behaviour can result and big mistakes arise.
Groups of people with particular interests might be identified and used for some particularly hard selling advertising spam. However, that might also be a benefit if advertising content is more focused on the individual.
But the biggest downside by far is the risk of losing spontaneity and randomness - almost all my new interests arise by accident, by something that doesn't currently have my attention getting my attention. If I define the way for organisations to push data to me too well and I'm kept busy by it all - I may never see the information that I really would be interested in, if only I knew it existed.
It's an interesting idea, I'll be keeping my eyes on it.