TAG: Attention

The attention economy has come true

Recently I have found myself returning to this classic piece by Michael Goldhaber, published in April 1997!: The attention economy and the Net. In this piece Goldhaber lays out what has most certainly come true: that our attention is what is valuable in an information age. From the summary: “If the Web and the Net […]

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The Importance of “People like Me” features

People like me features are one of the most promising ways to help people find content that is interesting to them.

Jason Kottke points to a study in which researchers found evidence that the brain reacts differently to people who seem like us.

This isn’t surprising, of course. We do tend to react differently when we feel like we’re around a like-minded person.

But how can this help inform design?

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Does social software make us less social?

Bill Cammack over at the Fast Company blog makes an interesting assertion:

“While I agree that (social media) CAN…(make us more social) How often *DOES* social media lead to actual social interaction, for YOU? …I became less social instead of more social because of the fact that my friends are always at my fingertips. For the sake of this post, I’m defining “social” as actually going somewhere to hang out with friends of mine, IRL. (In Real Life)”

Bill says that because people are always a click away, he actually has become less social (face-to-face).

I’m interested to know if others feel this same way: has social interaction through software had the same effect on you?

And, if so, has the increased social interaction through software been for the better, or for the worse?

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Welcome to the Stream

You’ve probably heard the term “stream” in relation to attention, as in “attention stream”.

The usage of the word is spreading, however, and is now finding its way into web application vernacular. It is called a “lifestream”, “socialstream”, “friendstream”, “contentstream”, among others.

It has come to mean a list of the always-updated items in a system. Here are a few examples:

  • Twitter
    The stream in Twitter is the list of latest sms messages from your friends
  • Facebook News Feed
    This stream has lots of different types of items, made up of activities like adding friends, joining groups, and adding applications
  • RSS readers
    Your RSS reader displays a stream of the latest posts from the blogs you subscribe to
  • Del.icio.us Links
    Your list of links submitted to Del.icio.us is a linkstream
  • Digg Spy
    The latest items added or dugg in digg

It should be apparent that almost any items updated in real-time can constitute a stream. And therefore a stream can be used in almost any application that people use. The question is: is it useful to see a list of what you’ve done or what you’re friends are doing? In many cases, it is at least interesting, if not useful.

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Common Pitfalls of Building Social Web Applications and How to Avoid Them

This is part I of a series on Common Pitfalls of Building Social Web Applications.

In the last several years we’ve seen the rise and fall of many social web applications. While most of our attention gets paid to the hugely successful ones like YouTube and Facebook, we can also learn a lot from those that have failed. Here are some of the common pitfalls that lead to failure when building social web applications.

1) Underestimating The Cold Start Problem

If you build and release your social web site and nobody uses it, you have the cold start problem. This problem affects most social sites, and directly results from designing for the network. The effect of the network is that nodes on the network (web sites) have attention momentum. We pay attention to certain nodes (sites) already, and so if you’re trying to add one to the network then you have to build your own attention momentum over time. This is not easy.

Too often, though, this hurdle is underestimated. The first step is to admit there’s a problem. Say “This is not working. Our early users are not using the site how we want them to”. You would be surprised at how often this doesn’t happen. Instead, what often happens is that more money is pushed into features or marketing, which is precisely the wrong move…

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Blogs enable more than they begin

From Brands for the Chattering Masses (NYT – link works right now but may go behind pay wall at any moment) “FOR many, many decades, successful branding — one of the corporate world’s holy grails — involved a clear set of rules. Produce quality goods at the right price. Frame the value in memorable messages […]

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The Paradox of Choice: What’s Easiest

In his plenary at UI11, Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice, made an interesting remark about how people make choices:

“People choose not on the basis of what’s most important, but on what’s easiest to evaluate”.

In other words, many times we don’t choose what’s best for us, we take the easy way out. This behavior is often called laziness, but I think it’s more than that. As Schwartz pointed out, we simply don’t have time for diligent research on all the choices we make. Most of the time, however, we imagine people making informed decisions. We imagine that if the information is there, then they’ll take advantage of it, consider it, and choose wisely.

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Digg’s Design Dilemma

This past week’s Digg controversy is one in a growing number of incidents that suggest that a small group of users are having an undue influence on the promotion of stories. In response, Digg is changing the way that it handles votes by adding complexity to its ranking algorithm. I think that’s the wrong approach, so here’s another idea: change the actual design of the site…that’s the real problem.

The most recent controversy happened on September 5th, when someone named jesusphreak posted Digg the Rigged?, an in-depth article exposing some of the curious details of recently-popular stories on digg. Many of the stories, jp pointed out, were dugg by members of the Digg Top 30, or the 30 most popular digg members (popular being measured by number of stories submitted that were promoted to the frontpage). The Top 30 includes Digg founder Kevin Rose.

This was not the first time that someone has pointed out this phenomenon. On April 18 of this year Macgyver at ForeverGeek posted Digg Army, which included screenshots of who dugg two recent articles on the site. Each article had the exact same 16 people digging it in the exact same order. Of the first 19, 18 were the same. Included in that list of people was, again, Kevin Rose. ( for an in-depth history see Tony Hung’s excellent: A Brief History of the Digg Controversy)

These incidents, taken together, are more than coincidence…

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A Messaging Proxy and Domain as Identity

A pretty good idea

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Find the Edge of Attention

Is attention worth tracking?

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