Michael Pick of Particls has written the perhaps most comprehensive overview of attention profiling and APML (attention profiling mark-up language) to date. APML is a proposed standard that allows users to share their own personal attention profile and compress all forms of attention data into one portable file format that can be traded between attention seekers and givers:
"We have reached the point of information hyper-saturation. It can become quite a chore to find relevant content online, when there is so much other information competing for your attention. But by implementing attention profiling, it becomes possible to have the services and Web sites you visit begin to make suggestions for content that you might be interested in. APML is a proposed standard that gives you greater control over your own attention data, and in principle will allow you to selectively record your attention profile--the sites you visit, the search terms that interest you most, the content you most commonly link to--and share it with your favorite Web sites and services...For the companies involved this is big business--as there are marketing firms willing to pay a lot of money for this sort of information."
Sure they are. And while the monetization of a user's Web biography (consisting of both his click stream and his content contributions) is certainly the Holy Grail for online advertisers (and principally of benefit for the user, too), attention profiling still has to come a long way to be fully embraced. The big challenge for APML advocates is to dispel concerns over potential privacy violations. Skeptical comments such as the one below from Mashable's Mark Hopkins seem to be widespread:
"Various vendors and APML consuming software now know exactly what sort of porn sites I may be paying the most attention to, for instance, or about research I may have done on militant Islamic Web sites for a political piece for my blog--something considered dangerous information these days. I'm just not comfortable with that sort of information sitting out there in the public's hands."
This is understandable, and the recent arrest of a Muslim woman in the U.K., who downloaded various Jihadist documents from the Web, has validated Hopkins' angst. If my click stream can become my criminal track record, well, then maybe I am indeed what I click.
Facebook's recent disaster with Beacon has certainly not made it easier for APML-evangelists to make their case. In fact, Facebook, by over-reaching, may have increased awareness for an issue that would otherwise not have received an equal amount of attention.
Michael Pick seeks to mitigate concerns over APML privacy violations by highlighting the four guiding principles of APML:
"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."
What do you think? Would you be willing to share your attention data?