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Click stream dating and the Attention Economy

By Murray Bourne, 14 Mar 2006

There was some very interesting stuff that came out of O'Reilly's recent ETech Emerging Technology Conference.

For educators, one of the important concepts in the conference is the "Attention Economy". There is this realisation that the gadget providers may have shot themselves in the foot. The average attention span of teenagers is something akin to that of a gnat's, most likely due to the increased use of gadgetry. So how do you keep their attention long enough to sell them something? And in the case of education, how do you get them to listen long enough to teach them anything? (Of course, this is the wrong question to ask. It should be "How can I change my lecture into something more engaging, interesting, challenging and in the process, encourage the students to learn something?")

Marketers are very interested in what consumers are giving their attention to. There was an interesting tool "Root Vaults" [no longer available] which allows you (or marketers) to record all that you do in a Web surfing session. You can see what grabbed your attention, where you wasted your time, where you were not interested. [I decided against downloading this tool, even though it is interesting. What happens to the information? How can you be sure it remains private? BTW - I find Google desktop does a good job of tracking your internet usage.]

One interesting possibility with Root Vaults is the concept of "Click Stream Dating". The idea here is to match you with someone that shares similar surfing habits, then send you on a date. I can see their first date now:

"Hi Tom"

"Hi Kumiko. I saw this great gaming phone in Gizmodo."

"Yeah, I saw it too. I read in Slashdot about McAfee virus scans are deleting lots of good files."

"Yeah, I read that.."

"Seen anything I haven't seen?"


Hmm, I am reminded that some of the best relationship matches are with people who are genetically different. Maybe the Root vaults people will consider that.

Anyway, if you've got to here it means I have kept your attention for more than a gnat's attention span. Now, go change that lecture...

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