Attention must be paid

Attention is a hot topic on the internets. Most of the metadata that is used in cataloging and searching the web is very labor-intensive to create.
Google made it’s first quadrillion by being the first to use the metadata inherent in hyperlinks to catalog the web. This was, of course, awesome. But the only people allowed to contribute metadata in a google-based world are web publishers.


Del.icio.us and Flickr have made it easier for people to play along at home. Instead of using links, they use tags, which require much less effort to contribute. But lets face it, the people tagging are, for the most part, the same people who are blogging.
Attention is the general idea of paying attention to what people _read_ on the web, and using that to give better search results. Attention.xml is the technology currently endorsed by the blog-o-rati. XML specifications make my eyes glaze over, though. If you want to know more, I suggest that you hook up your headphones and listen to this IT Conversation with Steve Gilmore, Doc Searls, and David L. Sifry.
My own attempt to feed my attention back into my site is the “Fresh Links” section on the right hand margin. Those links are fed by rss from my del.icio.us page (http://del.icio.us/jboutelle). I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now, and I’ve got some observations:
a)your browsing reveals a lot about you. By looking at my “Fresh Links”, you can probably tell I’ve been travelling in Los Angelos, and that I’ve been shopping for a new laptop and a dedicated web host.
b)the stuff you want to save is not always the stuff that other people would want to read about. Do you really need three links to the vagabond inn in downtown LA (I didn’t even end up staying there!).
c)some useful stuff that would never get blogged (because it’s just doesn’t have a narrative hook of any kind) pops up. For example, hurricane electric and rackspace are two hosting companies that I’ve been negotiating with. Dell 700m laptops have a critical failure in their integrated sound cards. So there’s some value in feeding your reading back into your publishing in a semi-automatic way.
d)The stuff you read (when you look back at it) is very often so commercial that it feels like an advertisement. Why am I giving rackspace and hurricane electric a free add on my blog? I think this is because, in a consumer society, most conversations and text are at least partially about the stuff that you are consuming.
e)The information that appears in that box gives more context about jonathanboutelle the person. My blog focus is narrow, but my browsing focus is, well, not broad, but pragmatic. It’s whatever I’m REALLY doing right now. This increases the possibility that, after reading my blog, you feel you know who I am. It makes the blog feel more authentic, and it in fact makes it more authentic.
That’s it! Nothing profound, but I feel like the feed of my browsing doesn’t just improve my blog, but changes the nature of it.