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The Attention Economy Vs. Flow - Continued

Added on by Chris Saad.
Steve Rubel posts about his information saturation.

He writes:

We are reaching a point where the number of inputs we have as individuals is beginning to exceed what we are capable as humans of managing. The demands for our attention are becoming so great, and the problem so widespread, that it will cause people to crash and curtail these drains. Human attention does not obey Moore's Law.


My attention has reached a limit so I have re-calibrated it to make it more effective. I think this issue is an epidemic. We have too many demands on our attention and the rapid success of Tim's book indicates that people will start to cut back on the information they are gorging. If this happens en masse, will it cause a financial pullback? Possibly if ad revenues sag as a result.

Stowe Boyd writes in response:

No, I think we need to develop new behaviors and new ethics to operate in the
new context.

Most people operate on the assumption that the response to increased flow is to intensify what was working formerly: read more email, read more blogs, write more IMs, and so on. And at the same time motor on with the established notions of what a job is, how to accomplish work and meet deadlines, and so on.

In a time of increased flow, yes, if you want to hold everything else as is -- your definition of success, of social relationships, of what it means to be polite or rude -- Steve is right: you will have to cut back.

Who is right? Who is wrong? Maybe Steve is just old and Stowe is divining the new social consciousness.

Maybe Stowe is just being an extreme purist (Stowe? Never!) and just needs to recognize that there is middle ground.

Maybe the middle ground - Flow based tools that help to refine the stream.

Our eye scan handle the sun - but sunglasses are nice too.

A Flow of Particls through your life - Stowe talks at Reboot

Added on by Chris Saad.
I just finished watching Stowe's talk at Reboot about something he calls 'Flow'.

You can watch it on CoRrElate.

Eric Norlin on the Defrag blog summarized the talk pretty well:

Stowe's basic argument (simplistically paraphrased) is that the tools we're using (social networking, etc) are actually changing the way our neurons are dealing with things - and that has led to 2 central propositions:

1. Time is a shared resource.
2. Connectivity is more important that productivity

As I have written before about Stowe's thoughts on Flow, I think that, for the most part, Stowe is on to something very interesting.

In fact I have been touching on the subject for a while now by arguing that news and alerts should not be treated like email with folders and items to be marked as read. They should flow by you in a news ticker, river of news and/or popup alerts.

As I wrote in my last post on the subject, the only concern I have with Stowe's thesis is that he seems to quickly dismiss the concept of the 'Attention Economy' without quite understanding the implications.

He claims that Information Overload and the economic metaphor for Attention does not fit. He means that we can not assign units of measurement to our Attention and allocate it as a finite resource because Attention can actually be tuned and improved with a physical changing and training of our neurons to perceive the world as a flow - letting the information flow over us. Just like a juggler learns to juggle many balls as a matter of instinct.

That may be true - and he is right that part of the Attention Economy is about assigning value to attention and trying to allocate it most effectively.

However, he is missing the fact that there are 2 aspects to the emerging Attention space that invoke economic theory:

  1. Attention is a finite resource and can be dealt with in terms of economic units that can be consumed - therefore an abundance of Information creates a scarcity of Attention.
  2. Attention data can be used to better target goods and services. The trading of this attention data, and the resulting efficient selection and presentation of advertising to drive sales is becoming an important economic driver.

Stowe seems to disagree only with the first point (I could be wrong - care to clarify Stowe?).

Firstly, I don't think it is as black and white as he states when it comes to point 1 - efficient allocation of our Attention.

Sure we can change our neurons and practice living a life of flow - in fact I advocate that we do - that's why Particls' primary interface right now is a news ticker and not a set of folders and items.

However, I think that tools that use Attention to better focus our stream can only help the process. A tool to funnel and tune the incoming information and present it in a method that is conducive to flow thinking can only be helpful.

On point 2. People are making money off your Attention. They are observing it, recording it and fine tuning advertising and content around it. They are also selling the data to each other. This gives it economic value. The question then is who owns this value and what are our rights as generators of the information and recipients of targeted information.

There is a real economy developing around this practice and standards like APML are about giving us participants some control back.

Continuous Partial Attention Revisited

Added on by Chris Saad.
Stowe has recently written about his ideas of 'Flow' and Continuous Partial Attention (CPA).

His premise is that we are not necessarily information saturated - that our brains are evolving to a point where we can let the information flow over us and stay continuously partially attentive to many things at the same time. He claaims that this is a perfectly natural change in our concentration and mental abilities.

He writes about Linda Stone - the guru in CPA.

"Linda and many others will tell us it will rot our teeth, disrupt family life, and lead to hair on our palms. I for one am not eager to turn off my devices and pay all my attention to one thing at a time, one moment at a time. There are too many targets on the horizon, too many members of the tribe, and too many jaguars lurking in the shadows for that. In my tribe, we don't do things that way."
I'm young - my brain can handle it for now - so I agree with Stowe (to a point) - however he also writes about Linda Stone's concerns about Continuous, Continuous partial attention having deleterious affects on the body and lumps us Attention people into it.

"[Linda's CPA concerns], along with Toffler's Information Overload (it's driving us crazy, he asserted) and the Attention Economy mavens (free information leads to attention scarcity). I don't buy any of it."
I disagree with Stowe on this point. We "Attention Economy mavens" and our focus on Attention are not antithetical to his ideas about information flow.

Actually I think, particularly we here at Faraday Media and Particls, we are exactly in tune with his message.

Information (particularly news) should typically flow - not pool.

Reading news in a folder/item email style metaphor is not as effective for the mainstream as having it flow by.

Note that I say the mainstream. Many of us early adopter control freaks like to read every item and have plenty of time to bury our heads in news readers. But that is not always the case - not all the time. An information flow (river of news, news ticker, popup alerts) is typically more effective.

Our work in the field of Attention is not about fighting off flow, it is about regulating the flow so that the stream is full of good content.

Attention Streams - Your life in feed

Added on by Chris Saad.
Stowe Boyd just pointed me to posts that Emily Chang and He (separately) just posted about Data streams.

From Emily Chang's post.

For now, this activity stream idea is providing the start to a holistic view of my activity across online networks: both my own and the ones I use. In turn, this acts as a conduit for you, the reader. Rather than just a static “recommended links” page or a blogroll, the data stream opens up my activity to you in semi-realtime and at one website.
They are both interesting posts on Personal Aggregation. There is a service called Jaiku which does much of the same thing without the databasing and searching.

I personally don't see the aggregation of multiple feeds as anything too amazing. That's what a feed reader does. The more interesting improvement is the fact that the data is then re-syndicated to a single, aggregated feed. But Touchstone has been doing that for months and months. And any feed splicing service can do it easily. Our feed also includes ranks for how 'Personally Relevant' each of the items were.

The final step that seemed interesting to Emily was databasing the results and searching on them later - that would be an easy output adapter to make.

Stowe has focused on the idea of routing items to other applications so you can take action on your attention stream. This too would be a simple matter of writing an output adapter to trap Microformats etc from Touchstone. In fact it's been on our adapter ideas page for ages. It's been there since before I can remember.

Once we release the updated SDK to developers they should be made in short order.

As a bonus, Touchstone would also alert you to important changes in your stream.

Might have to chat to my mate Stowe about the project he is cooking up - could be room to work together on it!

Media 2.0 Workgroup Launch - Continued

Added on by Chris Saad.
Wow... a lot of people are talking about the workgroup announcement at the moment which is great.

Here's a summary of the posts and reactions for you.

Christopher Kenton - Marketing Rev
"Currently, the working group’s web site provides an aggregated feed of articles and postings from more than a dozen industry voices–a list that is apparently growing rapidly after the buzz from it’s launch today. Given the growing excitement around social media and it’s impact on marketing, this promises to be important listening post for emerging ideas and trends.
Paul Montgomery - TinFinger (my personal favorite)
"Today marks the launch of the Media 2.0 Workgroup, following in the prestigious footsteps of such towering, industry-changing, juggernaut organisations as the Web 2.0 Workgroup. The members of such elite inner circles as as gods to us puny mortals, and through their shared workgroup activities they wield such fearsome collective power that entire countries are laid waste in their paths."
Paul your wit never ceases to amuse ;)

Marshall Kirkpatrick
"Looking for some insightful new voices to read in the blogosphere? Check out the just launched Media 2.0 Workgroup - a very cool aggregation of some smart, engaged bloggers."
Jeneane Sessum - Allied
"So in my new role, I promise you, dear readers and friends and detractors, that I will try to use my power for good, not evil, and that means I will construct my meanderings using the broadest interpretation of what Media 2.0 means. Or doesn't mean.

We came here to tell stories, didn't we? Yes we did! Once upon a time, we were the wedia media pedia, weren't we? Yes, we were! And with the web 2.o pony beaten just shy of the glue factory, I'm looking for new rides, higher slides, longer strides. So let's find some together! Are you with me?"
Stowe Boyd
"I don't agree with Chris that the Web 2.0 meme is "a little worn out", but I do agree with the importance of media 2.0 as an area of inquiry."
It's ok Stowe - you can disagree with me - as long as you concede I was right in the first place :)

Frantic Industries
"As far as the name and the concept go, I must admit that I’ve personally never thought of the Web 2.0 phenomenon outside the boundaries of the Web. [..] Looking at it this way, it’s probably a subset, and not a superset of Web 2.0; however, it’s still an interesting topic to discuss. Social content, social news, and citizen journalism - all themes that are very frequently covered on this blog - are tied both to the traditional media and to the web, so I guess that pushing “Media 2.0″ as a concept does make sense."
I would argue that the Web is only one form/medium of Media. There are others that are far older and more entrenched in our way of lives and others still that are still emerging and evolving. So the goal of Media 2.0 is to broaden the Web 2.0 conversation and put it into context.

Strange Attractor - Suw Charman
"[...] when you think about it. We've already had New Media, but it's clear that New Media isn't keeping up with the incredibly rapid development of the web and Web 2.0. New Media is antiquated, obsolete. Any business that pats itself on the back because they have some sort Head of New Media needs a kick up the butt and a lesson in Media 2.0."
On a personal note
I am a little overwhelmed by the fact that it seems that everyone blogged about the launch credited me as the single handed mastermind. I can honestly say I did not expect, nor do I deserve credit for it all. We are honored to be keeping such prestigious company.

I'd like to publicly thank everyone for getting involved - especially those who really helped get out the word and invite people into the group from the very beginning when it was just a crazy nugget of an idea.

Daniela Barbosa
Ben Metcalfe
Marianne Richmond

Thanks Guys and Gals (got it right this time Daniela).

Sunday morning snippets

Added on by Chris Saad.
A few snippets for the day - then I am off to spend the day on a boat while Ashley and the team slave away cutting code for the next Touchstone build *evil laugh*.

Revising Press Releases
An Anonymous commenter pointed out for me that my mention of Stowe's post about PR people missing the point on Press Releases left out the other side of the discussion. I didn't know there was another side at the time but Chris Heuer has a post on the issue highlighting Stowe's oversights. I like Chris - he bought me a drink while I was in SF.

Chris' point is that while real conversational engagement with your participants is the ideal, Press Releases are still a necessary way to make (and clearly mark) landmark announcements in clear, concise ways. His point (rightly I believe) is that while purists would argue that a 1st person conversation is better than a fake 3rd person declaration, a Press Release is still an important hold-over for mainstream media to get the complete picture in a bite sized chunk

Stowe argues that declaring anything a 'Press Release' is missing the point. That Press (at least press who treat their readers like eyeballs) should die and that we should all be equal participants in the social media ecosystem. By the way I like Stowe too - he also bought me a drink!

My opinion on the matter is this. I think that anyone who takes the time to invent something, lobby for it and contribute to the community is doing the right thing. That's the definition of social.

The issue, however, is larger than this one point. When considering people's opinions we must take into account their bias and their agenda. My agenda is personalized aggregation. My life and my work is based on the premise that people should find what their looking because of their Attention Profile - a fingerprint that represents their interests.

If hRelease (the reason the issue of a Social Media Press Release is being discussed at all) helps Touchstone identify important headlines for journalists, then so be it. Ideally though, the connection of people with content they find relevant should be a transparent and automated process based on merit rather than any corporate press declarations. That might mean they find negative commentary before they find polished/fake/controlled press releases from a company.

I think both can co-exist though - and the community (and some smart algorithm) will decide which they pay attention to most.

Social Media is Dead
I also pointed to the 'Social Media is No Mo' post by Steve Rubel. Some people didn't realize I was being sarcastic when I 'agreed' with him. Brian Solis commented to point me to this post.