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Fighting Attention Deficit with Engagement

Posted by: Rob Hof on July 14, 2006

Heather Green and I just published a story, with the help of colleagues Stanley Holmes and Kerry Capell, on how some companies are managing to fight media attention deficit disorder. Their answer is deeper engagement with readers, viewers, customers, and most of all participants.

Originally, to be honest, we were hoping in part to explore the emerging notion of how people can increasingly take control of the digital crumbs of their online attention. But that was a very tough concept to explain to a general audience (which includes our editors), and I’m sorry to say it ended up papering the cutting-room floor. I’m still interested in the likes of Root Markets and AttentionTrust, but I think they’re a step or two away from adequately articulating their ideas for empowering people to take control of their attention stream. I’d sure like to see some more concrete services based on the idea.

Reader Comments

seth goldstein

July 14, 2006 6:15 PM

Would love to see what ended up on the floor!
Agreed that all of us engaged in the Attention Economy need to continue to simplify and concretize the value of users in control of their attention streams. We still may be some months off.

In the meantime, check out the bottom right corner of Fred's blog at to see his Root Worms, which allow him to share his own personal searches and clickstream with his engaged readers. You can also check out to see a clear example of how users can quickly see how they are spending their attention online (without sending any information over the network or through any complex extension.)

With the right tools and service, consumers will always be able to establish the highest fidelity versions of their electronic selves; and so the key imho is to turn passive behavior into active expression along these lines.

Rob Hof

July 14, 2006 6:18 PM

Very interesting, Seth, thanks. I'm afraid you know all too well what ended up on the floor. But I hope it ends up in a better place before long.... ;-)

Ed Batista

July 17, 2006 10:30 AM

Hi Rob,
I fully agree with you and Seth that it's essential for those of us working on these issues to communicate their importance more clearly. In fact, I posted on that subject last month:

"Watch Your Language: Straight Talk About Attention"

I also agree that the education and awareness-raising processes will move forward when we can demonstrate new services that are relevant and useful to ordinary people.

Among other efforts, AttentionTrust is currently working to encourage communities to distribute our (free, open source) Attention Recorder among their members, so that they can start capturing their attention data and share it among themselves. These groups can then use our (free, open source) Attention Toolkit to direct this data to a database so that they can begin to analyze it. This process requires a little technical know-how, but it's not all that complex, and AttentionTrust can provide some support.

I think these distributed, community-based efforts will complement the services being developed by Root and others, and I'm confident that we'll see some interesting innovations emerging from then over the next few months.


Ed Batista
Executive Director

Abigail Johnson

July 17, 2006 2:35 PM

Rob (and Heather):
This is a great article. I have brought it to the attention of a lot of people I know because these issues are so much at the hub of changing communications today.

It raised in my mind (and on my blog) the question of what are the "inalienable truths" of communications, regardless of the medium. Would be very interested in your thoughts. Thanks.


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