Practical attention thoughts

I was reading Tom Morris thoughts about attention. First up I thought damm I missed another Beers and Innovations (I actually need to pay attention to the upcoming events calendar in Outlook more often). But more deeply Tom's thoughts about some attention bundler.

I've just installed the Attention Trust tracker in Firefox, which is churning out (not particularly well-formed) XML of everything I browse (there is a button to toggle if I don't want it to record my clickstream).

It would be trivially easy to write an attention tracker which would turn this XML file in to RSS, OPML, RDF etc. I'm excited by the new features in XSLT 2.0 that allow grouping (xsl:for-each-group).

An application I'm thinking of building would be called my “attention bundler”. What it would do is take everything I've been browsing, pull other data that I've been producing (,, Flickr, my blog etc.), mix it all up, produce some interesting results and upload them. It'd be a desktop application – perhaps just a button on my Dock which I could hit from time to time and all sorts of magic would happen.

Is this too geeky? Of course. But that's one way in which we can research how others can use it. We piece together geeky stuff, then test it out, and if we like it, make user-friendly versions of it.

I've been tempted to install the attention tracker too but I use Touchstone which doesn't exactly do the same thing (small picture attention) but kind of does (larger picture attention). One of the biggest things I like about Touchstone is the APML file which gets created. Its an aggregate of your attention instead of a log of your attention which isn't so useful. It also creates a RSS which is uploaded every hour or so to the internet(known as the pebble output adapter). I don't know how the relevencey and attention engine is working but its finding some good stuff and highlighting it to me.

However I wouldn't mind if Touchstone or something else could read my user generated feeds (couldn't think of a better name) as Implicit Concepts. Using a attention bundler it would be trivial to pull in all my user generated feeds and then do some transforming so they were put into the APML file which Touchstone uses. So simple if I got time I might have to set it up as a local cocoon pipeline. I would prefer to do this remotelyonmy server but getting the server to effectively pick up my local APML file and write it back is not trivial. If Touchstone could remotely read and update a APML file it would be much easier. (any thoughts Chris Saad?) Ether way, it would be cool to just build a prototype to get a feel how hard it would be to write, I could certainly do some local syncing to Jungledisk and Jungledisk will sync it to Amazon S3 a bit later.

Time to crank open Synctoy then.

One last word of caution about Attention. This time from the backstage presentation. The attention engines around me are so good at filtering out stuff I'm not interested in, that I didn't know about a major train crash till someone told me about it a couple of days afterwards as I was getting on a train. Epic is here? Funny enough, I found out more about the football and world events by my taxi rides recently that anything else. Is that a good thing or bad,hummm don't know.

meta-technorati-tags=epic, attention2.0, attention, apml, attentiontrust, touchstone, epic2015, xml

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.