Product & Startup Builder

What's an Attention Engine?

Added on by Chris Saad.
While working on Touchstone tonight we have been listening to Alex Barnett’s podcast. Great stuff! (Alex has also been very kind to mention us on his blog recently as well).

This particular episode he was talking to TailRank’s Kevin Burton. It was very enjoyable to hear the voices behind the names and blogs while we worked.

One thing that we noticed though, was Alex's use of the word "Attention Engine". It was weird because we have been using this term since my post about it on the 14th of November. At the time, I didn't give it much thought and wasn't really interested if the phrase had been used before.

But it also got me thinking - what is the difference between a Meme Engine and an Attention Engine (as was being discussed by Alex and Kevin).

For our purposes though, I think we could describe it as such.

A Meme Engine is something that might make use of a number of mechanisms in order to intuit what a community (maybe even a community of one) is interested in - essentially allowing the best content on a given topic to rise to the top.

The discussion that specifically piqued our interest though was about tweaking that mechanism so that it takes your personal tastes and attention information into account.

This is, as far as I understand, what distinguishes Tailrank from the others.

An Attention Engine (as far as we were concerned as it related to Touchstone) was something that consumed data from any source (be it straight RSS from a blog, the result of a Meme Engine or even a Meme Engine skewed with your personal attention data) and found interesting ways to manage your interruptions for you while you were being productive.

This is something we feel that, right now (or soon at least), Touchstone will be uniquely positioned to do, because, being a persistent client side application, we can take into account all sorts of context indicators and client-side business logic that isn't possible in the browser sandbox.