Blogging mostly about mundane stuff like, immigration, Workers' Compensation and other immigrant related activities.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

How much for your Attention?

I’ve spent the first few days getting back into the swing of work and frankly not paying much attention. This is always occurs to me when returning from the Holidays. I was out off the office for the last week of December and actually managed not to call in for any of my messages, I did not check my work email once during the week. I’ll admit that it was a bit difficult, but towards the end, I actually enjoyed the time away from the computer.

Overall, I probably spent a few hours during my one week vacation on the computer, mostly browsing the Internet. This for me was quite an accomplishment for me since I average 3+ hours of Internet usage on a daily basis. It did not surprise me how quickly I fell back into my routine and back to surfing the information super highway. I admit that most of that time on the Internet is spent reading a few blogs I have discovered. In fact those blogs are what inspired me to begin this blog. The blogs are mostly those related to business and what is now commonly referred to as Web 2.0.

I’m fascinated by the internet and especially Web 2.0. I can describe Web 2.0 as an Internet that is much more engaging, interactive and collaborative. This relatively new term has managed to make it into the Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia. You can visit Wikipedia and obtain a full definition here.

Wikipedia defines the Web 2.0 as: “Web 2.0 is a term often applied to a percieved ongoing transition of the World Wide Web from a collection of websites to a full-fledged computing serving web applications to end users. Ultimately Web 2.0 services are expected to replace desktop computing applications for many purposes”.

The fact that most of our tasks and activities will be performed on a computer leads me to the topic of Attention. That’s right Attention. The basic definition of Attention is: Attention is the cognitive process of selectively concentrating on one thing while ignoring other things.

Now if you are still reading this, then first “Thanks”, and secondly, perhaps I managed to get your attention. Now let us focus on what attention means on the Internet and why we should even care. It matters because my and your attention on the Internet can be tracked. If our attention can be tracked and placed into some data bank, it can be “sold and marketed”. In the Internet this is called a “clickstream”. This data is essentially “my attention” or clickstream and someone wants to make money from my clickstream.

Webopedia an online encyclopedia dedicated to computer technology says this about clickstreams:

“Clickstream data is becoming increasingly valuable to Internet marketers and advertisers. A virtual trail that a user leaves behind while surfing the Internet. A clickstream is a record of a user’s activity on the Internet, including every Website and every page of every Web site that the user visits, how long the user was on a page or site, in what order the pages were visited, any newsgroups that the user participates in and even the e-mail addresses of mail that the user sends and receives. Both ISPs and individual Web sites are capable of tracking a user’s clickstream. Clickstream data is becoming increasingly valuable to Internet marketers and advertisers.”

Should how you pay attention and what marketers and advertisers do with your attention be important to you? I believe it is important, because take issue at someone making money from my activities without my consent. This is one of those areas that observers of the Internet could not have forseen. It is an area that will probably remain rarely discussed or debated except within small tech circles and perhaps a few philosophy professors, but for the average consumer, he or she is unlikely to focus much, well pardon the pun, but attention to this matter.

So, are you asking yourself, What can I do? I believe that we should take the steps to track and database our attention. I believe we should control and maintain ownership of your attentions. A non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the basic rights of attention owners has emerged to assist us in this matter. The organizaiton is:

A visit to their website had the following: “When you pay attention to something (and when you ignore something), data is created. This “attention data” is a valuable resource that reflects your interests, your activities and your values, and it serves as a proxy for your attention.
AttentionTrust and our members believe that you have the following rights:
  1. Property: You own your attention and can store it wherever you wish. You have CONTROL.
  2. Mobility: You can securely move your attention wherever you want whenever you want to. You have the ability to TRANSFER your attention.
  3. Economy: You can pay attention to whomever you wish and receive value in return. Your attention has WORTH.
  4. Transparency: You can see exactly how your attention is being used. You can DECIDE who you trust.
When you give your attention to any entity that’s an AttentionTrust member, these rights are guaranteed.

Our Mission
  1. Empower people to exert greater control over their “attention data,” i.e. any records reflecting what they have paid attention to and what they have ignored. We accomplish this by promoting the principles of user control, by distributing our Attention Recorder, and by supporting the development of other appropriate tools, standards and practices.
  2. Educate people about the value of their attention and the importance of attention data.
  3. Build a Community of individuals and organizations that will guarantee users’ rights to own, move, and exchange their attention data, in a transparent environment that gives users the freedom to decide how their data will be used.
How your attention on the Internet is used and marketed remains to be seen. Will Internet companies, online marketers provide consumers a right to their own data? This is an area that few consumers are aware of and even less consumers are aware that their Internet viewing habits are tracked, monitored and databased. It goes without saying that we should all pay a bit more attention at how we interact and use the Internet. Our attention matters because our data is being stored and then used by online advertisers and marketers to sell us goods and services.

It can be compared to me invisibly tagging along with you everywhere you go, quietly tracking your every move, documenting, observing and cataloging your every step, then using that same information to sell you the goods and services you will consume, all this without your knowledge or even your consent. Did I mention that your LazyBoy chair is very comfy, but you should really try that new StratoLounger!

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