Managing My Attention

Posted by

I read, listen and watch a ton of information daily. In this respect, there are millions of other people just like me. Most of what I read starts in an aggregator, like an RSS reader or media player. Some of it comes to my inbox. Some of it I find using search tools. All of this information requires some increment of my finite daily attention.
I’m frustrated with is the lack of effective navigation between sources to avoid duplication. I don’t want to read the same thing twice. I’ve posted on this sometime in the past. The problem remains, so I’m complaining again.
This attention problem, which in my mind is loosely related to the Attention.xml concept, can be solved. Hopefully it will be solved. There are baby steps in this direction with services like NewsGator online, which links the various places I might read RSS together making note of when I already read something. NewsGator is currently limited in tracking my cell phone, XP Media Center, FeedDemon and NewGator Outlook add-in. Bloglines does something similar with several aggregation clients. The existing solutions don’t go far enough.
I read Doc Searls almost every day. Sometimes I read him first; sometimes he’s the 100th thing I read. I also read a bunch of people who frequently link to Doc. If I’m reading from an aggregator and Dave Winer links to something Doc Searls said, the existing tools don’t provide a way for me to know I already read the post Dave linked to. When I click Dave’s link, it takes me to the Web archive of Doc’s post. When I read Doc in my aggregator later in the day, I still get no indicators letting me know I already read the Dave-linked Doc post. If five other people I subscribe to also link to the same post from Doc, I don’t have any indication the article linked by these five additional people are also linking to something I already read.
In the browser, we get a vague visual indication of our travels through the changing color of visited links. Connecting the browser, email and RSS is a different story, because the three are generally unaware of my overlapping activity. Sure, I’ll remember I already read a story once I get back to a site, but I shouldn’t have to hit the same page over and over to know I’ve been there before. My tools need to get smarter and warn me ahead of time.
This is different than the type of attention problem the AttentionTrust aims to solve. From my understanding, AttentionTrust deals more closely with my rights to control what I do with my attention and how it gets stored. The overlap, at least in my mind, is the idea that we need tools to effectively manage our attention in order for the goals of AttentionTrust to succeed.