Trends: Attention Profiling

One of the best blogs on media and publishing is called Trends in the Living Networks. It  is written by Ross Dawson whose insights make a great deal of sense. Last week he wrote about six trends that will transform living online over the next years

Those 6 trends are (Each gets a paragraph or more.)
1. Pervasive connectivity
2. Immersive experience
3. New interfaces
4. Attention profiling
5. DIY apps
6. Social revolution)

However the one I was most interested in was:-4. Attention profiling

“We are moving to a world of infinite content. The proliferation of blogs, online publications, podcasts, and videos means we are swamped with information.

The first phase of the response has been user filtered content or collaborative filtering on sites such as Last.FM and scouta.com, giving us personalized recommendations.

The next phase will be to develop detailed profiles of our interests and behaviors across different categories of content, so that we can access or be presented with content in a way that matches our available attention relative to the relevance and interest of the content.

The two most promising initiatives in this space – Particls and illumio – have both been launched in the last couple of months.

We can expect it to become a completely seamless process to find or be given what we want from an infinite landscape of content.”

In the life-cycle and growth of any community we see the same phases and variations. For people to make sense of something so large expect them to use filter and tools so that the signal is stronger than than the noise coming from the massed group.

In many ways online behavior is not so different to offline – it is just more exaggerated, mobile and volatile because it can be and because of amplification of the core messages and other content.

I have a very large home library of books that I use like diving boards to explore ideas with. One of the things I like to do is to revisit older books and reread them to see what differences are years or even decades later.

Also I love the idea of being able to re read information from multiple disciplines together in some kind of giant fractal pattern and see what drops out. But that is very time consuming.

Some books like McLuhans Understanding Media are quite readable still and others aren’t so good, but the point is many writers have been speculating on the effects of socialisation and community for a very long time. 

In essence what we see now are the same patterns on fast forward with feedback loops and much more dynamic interactions but similar cycles of change. Now it is possible to speed read 100 or more RSS feeds and get a much better idea where groups of people and ideas might be heading.  However,  there is still a need to decipher these clues and this is where attention profiling or some variation of it comes in.

What is different now is the impact of multiple trends and technologies working together. For example people using DIY apps to do their own attention profiling such as giant tag clouds for filtering and sorting.

I was reminded of the work of Jonathan Harris – who makes some kind of sense from this an anthropological display of clues writ large. There is a 20 min video on TED called The Web’s Secret Stories. There is even an API for the We Feel Fine project.

His computer programs scour the Internet for unfiltered content, which his beautiful interfaces then organize to create coherence from the chaos.

His projects are both intensely personal (the “We Feel Fine” project, made with Sep Kanvar, which scans the world’s blogs to collect snapshots of the writers’ feelings) and entirely global (the new “Universe,” which turns current events into constellations of words). But their effect is the same — to show off a world that resonates with shared emotions, concerns, problems, triumphs and troubles.

A few weeks back we noticed some unusual host visits from a product called Conversation Miner which is another way that people can use clever tools and filters to keep tabs on what is happening in their “patch. Aubrey Turner had a similar experience and was able to ask the “miner” what was going on. The response is below.

“We pull results a variety of ways, often starting with one of several different search engines and then using our own technology to screen those results. Once they have been pre-screened, one of our employees will actually visit the blog post and read it to determine if it is of interest to our client; the hit you saw was via that system.”

The reality is that networks amplify relationships and so the concept and practise of attention profiling will be one of the key trends as we look for ways to deal with the growth of online communities.