Can you have my attention please?


Recently I have been writing a browser extension that keeps track of my activities and the web-based resources I use. I found that the data it collected was actually very valuable to me, it created a mini attention profile and by pushing this into various JavaScript libraries I was able to produce pretty graphs that showed a great deal about the way I work.

During the experience I realized it would be advantageous if I could do two things;

  1. Export this information to a service that could make further recommendations on resources that could improve my working habits.
  2. Tap into the many other ‘Silos’ of information I have accumulated (del.icio.ous , last.fm etc) and use this in conjunction with data my tracker has produced.

Looking for solutions to these problems brought me into the world of DataPortability which is an attempt at using various open standards (such as OAuth and APML discussed here by Scott Wilson) to give users the ability to move data between their silos, applications and web services. It is backed by names such as Digg, Google and Facebook.

What was interesting to me was the prospect of moving my attention profile from one place to another; one reason being that I find some places are very good at capturing a snapshot of my attention but then make poor recommendations on where to go next (such as Simpy); moving my attention profile from somewhere that specializes in capturing it to somewhere that generates user content sounds great; could I upload my delicious bookmarks to Digg and get user generated recommendations on resources to use?

A little research into applications and vendors that support DataPortability standards killed my excitement; I found two services I use that would export my attention profile as APML (Digg and Dandelife) but only one closed beta service (Particls) that would do anything with it!

The only example I found of anything interesting that could be done with DataPortability methods was a set of experiments created by employees at Sun which would create an APML file from my Last.fm and make recommendations based on it (something which Last.fm already does very well).

I find it really surprising there hasn’t been more of an interest in DataPortability and attention profiling especially from a business point of view; the amount of times I am asked to fill in a questionnaire would suggest to me that my attention might be actually worth something! So despite the current lack of services and vendors doing anything ˜cool™ where DataPortability is concerned I am still very optimistic some method of moving my attention around will eventually take off, not just because of the big names and buzz surrounding it; or the benefits users will reap but also because of the value my attention profile is worth to people who wish to sell me things.