Product & Startup Builder

Filtering by Category: "filtering"

Information Burnout - A generation of participants turning off

Added on by Chris Saad.
Mary Hodder writes:

"I'm looking for some filter to go through and just grab what I need and not have to know about or read or watch the rest, or reply to it, unless I want to and it fits in with an event or need or desire."

I'm looking forward to hear her thoughts and feedback about Particls.

I'm concerned, though, about a few people who have responded to her post (either in comments or their own blog posts) saying 'Just turn all that stuff off'.

That's exactly the scenario we are trying to avoid with Particls - a worldwide user base of social participants turning off from information burnout.

Diamond in the Ruff

Added on by Chris Saad.
Ash and I were just talking about how certain songs from 20 to 30 years ago had so much passion and heart and how more recent stuff is mainly so bland and soulless - how these days it was hard to find the diamond in the ruff.

I casually commented back - maybe that's because time has been a filter. The songs that have survived those 20 to 30 years and made it to our time have outshined and outlived any of their mediocre peers.

Perhaps as the sunscreen song suggests, times were not better back then, we just have the advantage of hindsight and time has filtered the noise.

It could be said that the definition of a 'Classic' is something that receives a sustained level of Attention over (relatively) long periods of time [Ashley: Does this mean 11d old items are 'Classics'?].

And perhaps time is the best noise filter of all.

Maybe we can build a time machine into Particls.

Web 3.0 - Attention Management

Added on by Chris Saad.
I've written a few times about Web 3.0 before. I have been pretty dismissive to say the least. The definitions keep shifting and none of them particularly convince me that the paradigm change is sufficient enough to justify a version number change.

In recognition of that confusion, there has been a fun competition run by Read/Write Web for a one line description. As part of the converage, James Brown claims that Web 3.0 is actually about better metadata and smart agent-side filtering.

As an example - he cites Particls:

"But perhaps the next step is for it to analyse attention data, like which articles I delete and which I click through; then apply some clever filters appropriately. It looks like Google is on the way to doing this.

And then there's tools like Particls. Formerly called Touchstone, this is a "personalised news and alert service" which monitors the internet, your feeds and other information like your calendar and emails, learns which are important to you, and alerts you in different ways according to their importance."

I do think that intelligent filtering on the agent-side is important (what a surprise hey!) but I am not sure it's called web 3.0. It's called Personalized Aggregation, or Personal Relevancy or Attention Management - and it can fit neatly into the current web.

And next... it needs to move into Media 2.0

Techcrunch subscriber stats - This post can wait until Wednesday

Added on by Chris Saad.
We have all seen this post 'A peek inside Techcrunch's 100k' which shows Michael Arrington's meteoric rise from fledgling blog to blogging superstar.

It's old news.

But something struck me as I was looking at our own subscriber history today. We have the same up and down pattern every week that Techcrunch does. And we are nowhere near as cool as them.

The reason is obvious. Most people turn off their work PCs during the weekend causing the subscriber count to drop and most people turn on their feed reader on Wednesday - literally hump day for feed subscribers - when they are bored and feel like catching up.

So what does that mean? It means that feed reading is (at least for a noticeably large group of people) a 'sometimes' activity. It's an activity that we dedicate time to. It's like we go off to read a newspaper - we dedicate a block of time to 'reading the news'. And there are times when we stop reading the news and turn off the PC or the feed reader - or at the very least minimize it away and stop paying attention.

So what about those other times when something happens that we need to know. An event in a new fangled web-based app...

  • You have a reminder from Google Calendar - wake up!
  • Come and pick up that file in that workspace your working on in sharepoint
  • You have a friend request from MySpace
  • Your industry just had a major shakeup
  • Your employer just filed for bankruptcy
  • Your competitor just changed the game on you
  • A customer just said something negative about your company
  • Your daughter just posted a picture of her new child on Flickr.

These are important "right now" events.

We need a feed reader that can stay 'on' without being 'in the way'. Reading feeds does not need to be like reading a newspaper - it can be a filtered and managed experience so you can stay informed while you're being productive.

That's the dream of Touchstone.

Book: The Paradox of Choice

Added on by Chris Saad.
I'm starting to sound like a broken record now - but here is yet another quote about hyperchoice from a lengthy interview with Barry Schwartz, the author of 'The Paradox of Choice'.

“The problem used to be, ‘how do we get information out to people?’ That problem has now been solved in spades. Now the problem is, ‘how do we filter the information so that people can actually use it?’”
He is concerned that filtering technologies may not be up to the task of helping us deal with the overabundance of choice and information we seem to find ourselves having at the moment.

We'll see what we can do.

Thanks to Marjolein of CleverCogs for this!

Attention is Saturated - not Scarce

Added on by Chris Saad.

I have grown to like this quote very much:

"What does an abundance of information create? A scarcity of attention."

So if scarcity in a marketplace creates value, then tools that help with attention scarcity are the brokers of the new economy.


I like it because it puts things in economic terms and some people like to think in monetary terms.

David Henderson, however, has another great idea. He claims that his Attention is not 'scarce', it is Saturated.

He says that:

Attention scarcity implies there is attention available. Come on in and I will give some of my remaining scarce attention. Attention saturation implies there is no attention available. It’s all used up. It means you need to displace some already engaged attention to get my attention.

I think that is a fascinating way to look at it.

Because, as he alludes and I have outlined in the Media 2.0 Roadmap, in a world where your attention is saturated, people don't need more ways to find stuff, they need a way to automatically and personally FILTER it.

In a post called 'The Aphrodisiac of Attention', John explains the sinister game that telecommunications companies are playing with our Attention and how filtering might play a role.

...a conversation I had ten years ago with a senior exec of a major telecommunications company. He proudly announced to me that his company had a twenty year plan: "In the first ten years, we will commercialize technology to help everyone connect anytime, anywhere. But the real money will be made in the next ten years. At that point, we will focus on providing technology to block access anytime, anywhere. Can you imagine how much people will pay for that capability?"

John also has the following quote:

Trusted filters, trusted protectors, trusted concierge, human or technical, removing distractions and managing boundaries, filtering signal from noise, enabling meaningful connections, that make us feel secure, are the opportunity for the next generation. Opportunity will be the tools and technologies to take our power back.

Blog Highlights of 2006

Added on by Chris Saad.
Hi everyone - I hope you had a great 2006. I know we certainly have. In just one year, Touchstone has gone from the back of a napkin to a funded, flying company with a number of great staff, friends, advisors and testers. We wish to thank you all very much for your efforts this year - we literally could not be doing this without you.

Here are the highlights from the blog over the last year in reverse order (most recent at the top).

Hitting the Mainstream 2
Information Overload hits the mainstream media for a second time - in a big way.

Hitting the Mainstream 1
Information Overload hits the mainstream media for the first time (or there abouts)

Democracy Now!
Web 2.0 has barley hit and people are talking about Web 3.0. We discuss how absurd that is and why YouTube is NOT Web 2.0.

Show me the money (or pain!)
Some people (read:head in the sand) think there is no information overload problem. This post explains why there is.

Filtering vs. Ranking
Some people are still talking about filtering RSS. Filtering is so 5 years ago.

Aggregation is King
Content used to be king. If that's true, then Aggregation is now master of the universe.

Desktop vs. Web-based
Web 2.0 implies that stuff is on the web. Not true. This post talks about the value of desktop applications in a web world. By the way - did you know the Browser is a desktop application? Shock/Horror.

What is Attention Data?
And no - it is not just OPML or Attention.XML.

Personalized Content
Some claim that the battle for 'People Powered News' is over. Digg and others have won. I make the argument that People Powered News MIGHT be done, but Personalized Content is just getting started.

There is no more audience
Participants have killed the audience. Media outlets that treat their audience like eyeballs are doomed to fail in a Media 2.0 world. This is a short rant about the death of the Audience.

Touchstone funded by Angel
Touchstone get's funded by an Angel Investor. What more do we need to say about that!

The Long Tail of Attention
Chris Anderson describes the three factors that have made the Long Tail a viable market. I then explain why a Tool like Touchstone empowers the 'Long Tail' (that's you and me) to take advantage.

Personal Relevancy
What is Personal Relevancy exactly? It's when your interests and personality become the basis for choosing content, rather than the whims of one editor who decides what 'the mainstream' should care about.

Tune Out the Noise
Touchstone is not about alerting - it is about NOT alerting. Think about that.

Attention, Scarcity and Demand
Markets work on Supply and Demand. Price is dictated by Scarcity. So in an era of abundance, the scarcest resource is our Attention.

Power Back in your hands
Amazon Recommendations are great... for them. They help cross-sell and up-sell their customers. But what if you could use the same technology to take control of your information across all the sites you visit?

Anti-Web 2.0
Touchstone is a desktop application. Does this make it Anti-Web 2.0?

Not a Gadget Engine
Touchstone compared to the current rash of Gadget/Widget engines out there.

RSS is not just about News
Imagine using RSS for something other than News. Feed readers fail for most of those other applications. Touchstone picks up the slack.

Thanks again for sticking with us. The best is yet to come!

Chris, Ash and the whole Touchstone Crew.

The PageRank of Personal Relevancy

Added on by Chris Saad.
Ilya recently posted some great data and analysis on the current state of RSS reading habits.

He goes on to explain many of the issues I alluded to in a previous post titled "Show me the money (or the pain)".

I think the question of information overload is answered. Yes there is an overload. But RSS is not the problem. In fact blogs and user generated news are not the problem either. They are just one source of information in our lives.

There are application events, presence changes from our friends, internal memos from head office, applications on our desktop and more all clamoring for our time...

So tools that try to cluster and suggest content from blogs and mainstream news sites are only (very) useful for part of the time.

Ilya goes on to make a great suggestion in his post. He recognizes that collaborative filtering has limitations, Keyword filtering is 'so 5 years ago' and that any one 'community voting' measurement will fall short.

With Touchstone we have gone to great lengths to cover all these usage scenarios. We have built a platform that accepts 'items' not 'RSS'. This means that we can source content from places other than RSS and then cache, rank and route them in a unified way.

Our 'rank' is not based on collaborative filtering or keyword filtering or community voting or previous reading behavior. It is based on some and none of these things at the same time. As such, our technology can work in a vacuum on a personal item behind the firewall, just as it can work on a news item that the whole world can see and link (read:vote) to.

Also, there is no 'handshake' period where our application tries to track your reading behavior over time. We are on the client side which means we have access to your browser history/cache, documents and email for an instant, broad and ongoing base of 'Attention Data' in order to determine your interests.

Ilya rightly compares this to PageRank. While PageRank uses incoming links as a vote to measure authority, it relies on a broader set of factors to make a decision and produce a number.

And because the result is a number rather than a binary 'yes or no' filter or an opaque recommendation, Touchstone can make intelligent presentation decisions when displaying the alert/content/information. The bigger the number the bigger the item on the page.

My friend Adam also posted about the 'Feed Overload Problem' on his blog.

Filtering is so 5 years ago

Added on by Chris Saad.
In a recent Read/Write Web blog post Richard (Great guy by the way. Met him at Arrington's place for drinks and poker!) talks about Filtering RSS. He states:

[Filtering is important] Because it's the next step up from RSS aggregation, as many of us now have too much information coming at us.
I agree there is too much information coming at us, but the problem is not just the volume, it's the quality.

There is no variation in the sound. It's like using all the colors of the rainbow at once. The result is white. Or playing all sounds everywhere at the same time. The result is noise.

What we need to do is add variation back into the system. We need a way of creating our own personal signal.

I have a problem with filtering. To me, filtering is like Web 0.5 search. WebCrawler and others were doing keyword matches and returning a barley useful set of results. Filtering is rudimentary and only partially useful. Google understood that a piece was missing. A way to rank documents not only based on the number of keyword hits, but on their popularity in the community and relevancy to the subject matter.

What we need for RSS is ranking. Real ranking. Not just based on the number of keyword hits but on relevancy. Unlike search, however, relevancy is not enough. What we need is Personal Relevancy.

Personal Relevancy is not about asking 'How many keywords hits does this document have to my search query' or even 'how popular is this document based on incoming links' but rather 'Based on everything you know about me, how much do I personally care about this document right now, in what format do I want it presented to me and on what device'.

Can you see the difference? Of course you can.

Unlike filtering, relevancy is not black or white. On or off. Include or exclude. It has variation. It has rank.

Touchstone has been ranking content for 6 months now. We have decided to go one step further. Escalating Alerts. But that is a topic for another post.

Another key theme of the post was the ability to re-syndicate the 'filtered' content to RSS. Touchstone has also been doing that for ages. But again, our RSS feed is not just filtered; it is ranked. We have added an extra tag called 'Rank' so that compliant applications can make intelligent presentation decisions just like Touchstone does with its Escalating Alerts.

Filtering is neat. Ranking is powerful. And over the next few months when we start to release Touchstone into the wild I am sure the community will agree.

If you have interesting ideas about how to apply our personal relevancy technology, drop us a line.