Romantic Robot Working on it.

12:54 Fri 27 Jan 2006

Taking your attention

Filed under: Observations,WWW — 12:54 Fri 27 Jan 06

A couple of months ago, I saw a link to the Attention Trust. The aggregation of a single user’s interests had seemed to be a logical step for me before and this looked to be doing just that – basically tracking my attention. So out of curiosity I joined up. Hmmm…..
Here’s the deal as I see it – and I think my vision is pretty clear: I install a firefox extension, every web address I click on is sent to Root Markets (it’s all linked from the above). My data accumulates. I could then be approached by a company who say “Let us see your data and we’ll put you into a draw for a new car (for example)” because my ‘attention data’ is mine to do with as I wish. Then another company, and another etc. Root markets become the middleman by getting some sort of slice for letting the marketeers close enough to me. (Of course I’m sure that a company that got hold of a copy would never ever do more than they said. Oh no.)

Right .. so the data accumulates. It’s possible to use ‘local storage’ where an xml file is created on your machine but despite some instructions to the contrary, it is not possible to store your ‘clickstream’ on your own server. I have a database, I have the code but each time Firefox starts, the extension phones home and overrides what I have chosen. My data, my clickstream, mine to do with what I want but it must be stored where they want. I wanted to store locally because I wanted to watch what happened. I wanted to see if blocked sites really were not recorded (for the brief time the extension was here they were not recorded) and I wanted to poke about and see what data was being stored in the db but not output to the screen – curiosity, that’s all. So being stopped from doing that was extremely annoying. (If I knew enough I’d remove the phone home stuff from the .xpi file).

Two principles from their site:

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.

Two responses from me:

1. No.
I am not allowed to store my data on my server.

2. No.
You are not telling me how or giving me the tools

Did I mention the data accumulates ? So 100,000 people could accumulate data on one of their servers. I’ll be extremely conservative – 10 clicks a day each. That’s 1,000,000 clicks a day. 7 Million clicks a week – which is an awful lot of attention data – and the company will not do anything at all with that unless you agree because it’s your data. Okay, I can’t doubt them on that – but it does become a case of ‘castles in the air’ doesn’t it ? The company stock / profile / whatever and that of the people involved climbs even if they have a ‘product’ which no-one can access. Weird. Not that the people behind this shouldn’t get returns for their work – indeed they should – but it seems .. very .. bubble-like.

Some other thoughts:
1 – You are creating a track of your web habits, a track that would be investigated and while you could take a sledgehammer to your HD, you can’t delete from a remote server. And who is to say that security services wouldn’t impose conditions on companies that say something like “You can’t destroy anything and you can’t tell anyone we told you that and you can’t tell anyone anything about that”.
2 – There would be a market in creating false attention data wouldn’t there ? Wouldn’t be too difficult to create would it ? (open firefox, run code, go bed. Awake to a solid block of data)

It’s a non-profit.. and ?

I really can see a reason why attention is important if you want to look at just clicks but then if you were to find two webpages in my browser history you would have no idea which I had looked at for the longest – maybe I’d taken the dog for a walk and not shut Firefox – and the time was being recorded in the db but not output to the screen (I’ll play later maybe again) – and I can see why someone might want to sell their data in return for something but right now I’m an extension free zone. Go read…

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