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February 2006

Mindmaps, mobility and … just doing it

Thanks to Scott for the tip off (and demo, a few weeks back) — MindManager from MindJet. It took two other nudges, though, before I found myself going off to find out more about this product.

Christian Lindholm blogged about going back to paper and mentioned MindManager:

Lately I have used MindManager X5 which is fantastic mindmaping application, Lifeblog solves many note taking problems as I make notes with the camera phone. A key problem is that my Transformer (Nokia N90) does not give me idle text input and does not allow for mind mapping, web clipping, nor sketching.

I have lots of unstructured data that comes my way, I need to record it and be able to tag it and find it later. I know this is a need lots of people have. I know there are hundreds of products created to fill this demand. If the PC could be a bit smaller, have longer batterylife and wake up in 2 sec. I would use it more for unstructured data collection. 

For my Retro solution I opted for the Moleskin Japanese NotePad in A6 which I modified by cutting out pages which I complemented with a thin notepad A6, where paper is thinner and some can be teared away. For input I acquired a Muji pen with multiple pens, it has black ink, red ink and a 0.5mm pencil. This allows me to make small mind maps with some highlight colour.

(I'm interested in following up the Muji pen — is it this one? The Moleskine: I'm already a devotee.)

Next, and last, I came across Lars Plougmann posting a brilliant MindManager mindmap of Tom Coates' Carson Workshop's The Future of Web Apps talk (click on the image below for a full size version; original Flickr link here; CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license):

Tom_coates

In fact, I now find Lars has posted to Flickr all eight of his mindmaps of the day's talks, and he's written about MindManager itself here. There's an old PCMAG.COM review (of vn 5.1) here.

MindManager is described by MindJet as software that transforms 'brainstorming ideas, strategic thinking, and business information into blueprints for action, enabling teams and organizations to work faster, smarter, and with greater coordination. It extends core mapping functionality with a host of simple tools–collaboration, distribution, administration–making it easy for business professionals to quickly deliver bottom–line benefits enterprise–wide'. I am keen to get cracking with the program and the educational discount (c 70%) makes it not too hard to take the plunge.

So I've got hold of a copy and will take it for a spin shortly, followed by sustained use over the coming school holiday. If it lives up to its reputation, I expect to be seeking to use it with students next term.

Now I just need to work out which Tablet to buy — for all that 'unstructured data collection': the Lenovo ThinkPad X Series (the X41), or Motion Computing's LE1600/LS800 (LE1600 reviewed in PCMAG, the LS800 reviewed by Laptopmag). Bit by bit, it's becoming possible to be connected productively wherever I go, on and off campus, and … to get things done. But I, too, find that paper plays a vital role and I take my notebook and a pen with me as often as I can (or remember).

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Education: making a different world

Neal Lawson, writing in the Guardian:

Education is about more than churning out efficient workers. It's not just what job we want but what kind of world we want to create. Children need the skills not just to play the game but the knowledge to change the rules. … We all want good grades for our children, but our aspirations go higher. We want them to grow to their full potential, not just add to the growth of the economy. We want rounded young citizens. We aspire to a quality of life beyond the "me generation". This is the modern world of personal accomplishment with and for others.

His short article looks at the government's love for a new kind of independent school and his thoughts about the market and schools resonate with me:

Our children are on a treadmill to learn to earn. But where does this "vision" take us? The market relentlessly creates winners - and therefore losers - and depends on our consumption of things we don't really need. Is this the New Labour endgame: to be ever more competitive in pursuit of new trinkets that advertisers persuade us we want? As the economist JK Galbraith said, "There are many visions of the good society; the treadmill is not one of them."

And what about his advocacy of comprehensive education?

Now an emerging hourglass economy, with a wealthy group at the top and an even bigger group stuck at the bottom, is reducing social mobility. Those at the bottom serve the needs of the time-poor rich - cleaning their houses, washing their cars and even walking their dogs. This explodes the myth that we live in a knowledge economy or meritocracy. … But New Labour embraces a grim view of change in which people only respond to targets or competition. There is no space for consensus, cooperation or caring. Capitalism isn't on the national curriculum, but the education system rigorously prepares the minds of our children for it. If this is the wrong direction of travel then which is the right one? It starts from the belief that "it takes a village to form a single child". The education of our children must be rooted in family, kin and community, not in a private company. Comprehensive community schools speak to a different vision of a different world.

I do not understand how to teach unless we ask ourselves what vision of a different world drives us as educators and is at the heart of our own school's sense of purpose. Worth keeping an eye on Compass (Lawson is its Chair). Its home page carries this quotation from Gandhi: 'Be the change you wish to see in the world'.

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Ma.gnolia

For a few days now, I've been running a Ma.gnolia account — here. At first glance, it resembles del.icio.us after a trip to the beautician: as I said to Todd Sieling, product manager, 'The GUI you're using is simply stunning — very beautiful, easy on the eye, a pleasure to work with — clear and informative: enough info, links, option choices, etc, but not noisy'.

Importing my del.icio.us bookmarks was easy, and Todd tells me that Ma.gnolia will 'make a saved copy when a bookmark is added, regardless of how, though it will be a while until you see saved copies of all your bookmarks. The process takes a little while with so many bookmarks'. Tag editing will come ('removal and other management tools are on the way') and other ideas that didn't make it into this beta public release (eg, 'a dead link report at the end of an import that will let people follow up on or remove bookmarks that get no response when we try to make the saved copy') will no doubt make an appearance at some stage.

Nick Chapman's Greasemonkey script for copying individual del.icio.us bookmarks works well, but it would be really useful to be able to post a bookmark simultaneously to both del.icio.us and Ma.gnolia.  In fact, great as Nick's script is, there's an appreciable use of time involved in copying across several bookmarks by this means, and since I imported my bank of del.icio.us bookmarks I've made many more and just haven't got round to copying them into Magnolia.

So will I use Ma.gnolia? Todd on the Ma.gnolia/del.icio.us contrasts:

  • Ma.gnolia offers a very different design for a different kind of social bookmarking experience. We prefer focus and ease of use over large amounts of information on a page, and believe that while del.icio.us' way of presenting information works for some people, it doesn't work for the average web user. Both approaches are valid, but neither works for everyone. One way to think about it is that del.icio.us is more like Linux and Ma.gnolia is more like Mac OS - different values, appealing to different sensibilities.
  • Bookmark Ratings give you a chance to differentiate yours and other people's bookmarks for quality.
  • Saved Copies of web pages at the time you bookmark them, so you won't be lost if a bookmarked page disappears since you bookmarked it.
  • Make Contacts of other members to easily watch their collections and to directly share bookmarks with others.
  • Private Bookmarks.
  • Groups, both public and private.
  • Import from browsers and other services.

I love the interface of Ma.gnolia but am wedded to the bare-bones simplicity, the GTD-effectiveness of del.icio.us; nevertheless, to be able to post simultaneously to Ma.gnolia, given that it's making a copy of each bookmarked page, would be good. I'm not fussed at all about privacy — though I know from the del.icio.us discussion lists that some users want this. And if I want to share my bookmarks, it's easy for a friend or contact to take my del.icio.us feed and follow what I'm tagging. Nothing is hidden: look!

I am also committed to del.icio.us because of its user base. Joshua said last week that del.icio.us is not a community — there are no conversations and the aim is instead to let individuals and communities use del.icio.us — but I value it very much for the way it enhances so much my eyes and ears: because I know people through it, most of whom I may never have met physically, whose expertise or interests add to or complement mine, I find news, ideas, research, etc that I would not come across outside of del.icio.us. My del.icio.us inbox is, in effect, a net in which to catch "interestingness" — web interestingness. (del.icio.us as an attention lens.) **And**: tagging! So hard to put my finger on this, but what the people whose eyes and ears I've come to trust (whose judgement and taste have become important to me) choose to tag pages with is often provoking and interesting in its own right and builds its own kind of … community network.

Todd is interviewed here and explains in more detail some of the thinking behind Ma.gnolia. Also reported there is Jeffrey Zeldman, who speaks about the design. They may indeed have concocted a service that will have wide appeal to end-users not yet into social-bookmarking. Moreover, as this interview makes clear, Ma.gnolia is aiming to create its own user-community:

Our approach moves beyond just sharing bookmarks. We want to make bookmarking more about collaboration and about bringing attention to what the community is looking at through our Hot Bookmarks and Hot Tags sidebar items. Sharing across channels and looking at interests as an aspect of both individuals and a community will make for a different kind of experience than Del.icio.us has done well with.

But you know, I don't see the market as being dominated by anyone right now. There are still lots of people out there who haven't even heard of social bookmarking, or didn't know you could simply store your bookmarks online. We hope to reach those people with a style and way of working that will appeal to them. And when you look at all the cool ways that people are mashing up web services and remixing data, I think there's more to be had in thinking about the cooperative opportunities than what competition will be like. Sure we want people to like what we offer, but it doesn't have to be at the expense of someone else's service.

As for the name, you need to go here to understand it.

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Amartya Sen : tryanny posing as tolerance

Absorbing interview with Amartya Sen in today's Guardian:

In the light of the recent furores over Islam and multiculturalism, Sen has written a new book, Identity and Violence, to be published in this country in July, which will take a trenchantly critical look at the British interpretation of multiculturalism. Sen sees it as his mission is to rescue what he sees as valuable in the idea of multiculturalism from the prevailing British idea of "plural monoculturalism", which he takes to be damaging and divisive.

What grates on Sen is the idea that individuals should be ushered like sheep into pens according to their religious faith, a mode of classification that too often trumps all others and ignores the fact that people are always complex, multi-faceted individuals who choose their identities from a wide range of economic, cultural and ideological alternatives. "Being defined by one group identity over all others," he says, "overlooking whether you're working class or capitalist, left or right, what your language group is and your literary tastes are, all that interferes with people's freedom to make their own choices." What begins by giving people room to express themselves, he argues, may force people into an identity chosen by the authorities. "That is what is happening now, here," he says, a little indignantly. "I think there is a real tyranny there. It doesn't look like tyranny - it looks like giving freedom and tolerance - but it ends up being a denial of individual freedom. The individual belongs to many different groups and it is up to him or her to decide which of those groups he or she would like to give priority."

Sen is also critical of the growing consultative power given to the religious organisations of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. It does, he believes, magnify the power and authority of religious leaders at the expense of a healthy democratic debate. "Suddenly the Jewish, Hindu and Muslim organisations are in charge of all Jews, Hindus and Muslims. Whether you are an extremist mullah or a moderate mullah, whether you're Blair's friend or Blair's enemy, you might relish the idea of being able to speak for all people with a Muslim background - no matter how religious they are - but this may be in direct competition with the role of Muslims in British civil society."

When it comes to a deeply political problem such as terrorism, for the authorities to advise "action within the community" is, he believes, a great mistake. Sen was in London on the day of the July 7 bombings, and heard the ensuing appeals on the part of the authorities for "the Muslim community" to get its act together. "That was an attempt to bring even more religion into politics, which is not needed," he says. "To classify Bangladeshis, for example, only as Muslims and overlook their Bangladeshi identity is seriously misleading. To drown all that into a vision of 'you are just a Muslim - please be moderate and likeable and replace all those extremist imams with moderate and likeable ones', that is simply wrong-headed." … It is not that he is hostile to religion, he says; it is simply a question of context. Gandhi was very much a religious man and a religious Hindu, he reminds me, but when it came to politics he was thoroughly secular.

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Web Apps & Access to Knowledge

Last week, Wednesday was spent at the Carson Workshop, The Future of Web Apps, in London, Thursday afternoon and Friday morning at the OII at for The World Wide Web and Access to Knowledge Workshop. The two experiences could hardly have been more different, and yet …

The Future of Web Apps (Flickr photos here), which saw an impressive line-up and was attended by some 800 people, has been reported extensively on the web. My highlights (links to session notes are on the event wiki and podcasts are promised here; additional notes also available from the wiki): Delicious - Things we've learned, Joshua Schachter; Building Flickr, Cal Henderson; Designing Web 2.0-native Products for Fun and Profit, Tom Coates; Happy Programming and Sustainable Productivity with Ruby on Rails, David Heinemeier Hansson; How to Build an Enterprise Web App on a Budget, Ryan Carson. There are yet more notes available online: eg, from Simon Willison and Zach Inglis. Tom Coates has published his presentation slides and there's a useful "commentary" on these by Jeremy Zawodny. James Governor has posted about Joshua and Ryan Carson.

Joshua's talk conveyed a lot of experience. Of all the things he said, these stand out: try and build features people will actually use rather than what they ask for (a point echoed by Cal Henderson); there's more RSS traffic on del.icio.us than everything else put together; "del.icio.us popular" is no longer of such interest to him (the bias drifts with the number of users); beware librarians; the value of a del.icio.us item lies in the URL and, of course, in how people tag the item. No auto-tagging.

Ryan Carson's detailed walk through the planning and execution of DropSend was great — both informative and instructive. But it was Tom Coates' talk that really caught my imagination. (He's posted about his reaction to the day here.) Web 2.0 is 'A web of data sources, services for exploring and manipulating data, and ways that users can connect them together'. From Simon Willison's notes on Tom's talk:

Result: a network effect of services.

* Every new service that you create can potentially build on top of every   other existing service.

* Every service and piece of data that's added to the web makes every other   service potentially more powerful. Massive creative possibilities. Accelerating innovation. Increasing competitive services. Increasingly componentised services. Increasing specialised services.

The Carson Workshop had something about it of the energy and excitement about innovation that characterised Reboot 7; the OII Workshop was … a contrast. Here, with perhaps two dozen (or so) participants, the emphasis was on the academic study of the net, but bit by bit I found it salutary: it made me think again about the web and attention (see my post of two days ago). Slides (pdf) are available on the OII page for this workshop (here). Matthew Hindman's talk, a critique of the claims made for the internet as a force for democracy, stays most vividly in my memory.  His presentation was clear and forceful and his slides do a good job of relaying its main points. On the one hand:

Democratizing the Flow of Information

  • End-to to-end architecture
  • Decentralized content creation
  • Low barriers to entry
  • Common claims:
    • Freedom of the press no longer “limited to those who own one” (Liebling 1946)
    • “Uniquely democratic medium” (CT Sup. Ct. 2005)
    • Sunstein, et al.: Internet = end of broadcasting

On the other:

The Limits of Democratization

  • Why are these claims wrong?
    • Some content still expensive to produce
    • Self-perpetuating, winners-take take-all patterns …
      • … in the structure of the Web
      • … in traffic
    • Importance of search engines
    • User preference and (lack of) skill
      • What does the public seek out?
      • How do they search?
    • Emergence of social elites

Questioning the "blogging=increased democracy" line of thought is important: here's Matthew Gertner doing just this on Tuesday of this week ('Just because the web lets us self-publish, it doesn’t mean that getting noticed is any easier. It’s just that nowadays you’ve got to find a way to charm an unruly mob instead of a media establishment gatekeeper like a magazine editor or record producer'), a New York Magazine article of this week on the same ('a lot of inequality for a supposedly democratic medium'), Clay Shirky's latest essay on power laws and blogs ('In February of 2009, I expect far more than the Top 10 to be dominated by professional, group efforts. The most popular blogs are no longer quirky or idiosyncratic individual voices; hard work by committed groups beats individuals working in their spare time for generating and keeping an audience') …

As I said in the session at the end of the workshop, the internet is a very young technology and it is no surprise that gaps exist between some/many of the claims made about it and the present state of play. There's nothing about technology that predisposes it to do good, and it's no surprise that it reflects pre-existing patterns of power and inequality in society. But there is much to be encouraged by: my hastily cobbled together list included the work of Headshift (I remember Lee's talk at Reboot 7: Gcache link here, my pasta/del.icio.us bookmark here), MySociety, ORG, Robert Scoble encouraging Microsoft to be a little more open and answerable (on the impact of blogging on markets and business, see my post of last August), the world of self-expression opened up by blogging but also by services like YouTube (free, in a traditionally costly area), the power of the Long Tail — not to mention the Fat Middle

When I spoke at the end of the OII workshop, I think I mentioned Patient Opinion and today I came across this from Demos (Molly Webb):

We call it everyday democracy - minding the gap between people and the institutions designed to deliver public services. I'm finding more examples of practitioners in a variety of fields turning to social software tools - in the process they are re-inventing individuals' choices and re-framing the ways each of us involve ourselves in social outcomes.

Patientopinion.org is making the space for a constructive conversation about the provision of health services that doesn't happen within the current NHS institutional arrangements. And I just came across Global Giving. This model aims to connect the leaders of development projects directly with funders, offering an alternative to World Bank or government charity models. (more info in the Washington Post article "Aid Recipients Might Have the Best Ideas About Allocation")

Online tools can enable new models of engagement toward delivering social outcomes. I can't help but be inspired by the 'let's fix it' approach.

*****

The academic study of the internet seems like a world away from the creative buzz of Web 2.0 — but it's no bad thing to be forced to pull up and think about what we're claiming for it. Mike Cornfield, as Steve Schifferes reminded us at the OII, reviewed the role of the internet in the 2003–2004 US election cycle (pdf) and didn't conclude with an easy, black-and-white picture:

Did internet use make a difference in the 2004 presidential race? Yes. The most successful campaigns relied on it to gain advantages over their competitors. The numbers of adult Americans who relied on the internet to learn about the campaigns, to help make up their minds, to help others make up theirs, and to register and vote is simply too large relative to the final margin to think otherwise.

The numbers of American citizens who turn to the internet for campaign politics may dip in 2005 and the off-year election in 2006, in the absence of a presidential election. But a return to pre-2000 or even pre-2002 levels of engagement seems unlikely. As broadband connections proliferate and hum, the old mass audience for campaigns is being transformed into a collection of interconnected and overlapping audiences (global, national, partisan, group, issue-based, candidate-centered). Each online audience has a larger potential for activism than its offline counterparts simply because it has more communications and persuasion tools to exploit. This transformation makes life in the public arena more complex.

The more citizens use the internet, the more they might expect from campaigners and political journalists: rapid responses to information searches; a multiplicity of perspectives available on controversies; short and visually arresting promotional messages; drill-down capacities into referenced databases; more transparency from, and access to, institutions and players. Meanwhile, on the supply side of the political equation, candidates, groups, and parties now have models for how to use the internet to raise money, mobilize voters, and create public buzz. The new benchmarks established in 2004 could well be matched and surpassed in 2008.

In the coming months, well before net-guided election mobilizing recommences in earnest for the 2006 midterm elections, the online citizenry will continue to make donations to campaigns, sometimes in a big rush triggered by a news event. Political organizations with email lists ranging from the millions to the dozens will continue to urge citizens to give money, sign petitions, and tell friends to join. The definition of “activist” might continue to loosen, to include people who do little more than what ten minutes a month at their computers enables them to do; parties and groups will devote more energy and creativity to aggregating these actions into grassroots power. The definitions of “newsmaker” and “news” will also loosen, both because of what grassroots campaigners can do with the internet, and what bloggers, web video-makers, and others with things to say to the public can do through the internet to distribute their messages.
These changes could herald a major reconfiguring of the most public aspects of the American political process. Its contours are as yet unclear. Perhaps one approach to campaigning will dominate in the age of the internet –but it may be the case that several models compete over a period of time, or that each election cycle and political situation summons a unique configuration from each major player. Furthermore, there are innovations yet to come as more internet tools (for advertising, polling, and knowledge-creating) make it out of the lab and early adoption phase.

The only change that would surprise us would reverse the fundamental trend underwriting all the other changes: the cycle-by-cycle expansion of the population of the online citizenry. 75 million Americans at the last election-day peak, and counting.

'might' … 'could' … 'may'. There's a lot to play for, a lot that's uncertain, and anyone interested in democracy should be watching the ways in which a web of data sources — services for exploring and manipulating data, and ways that users can connect them together — er … come together.

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Mobile MySpace

Back in January, I noted the stupefying success of MySpace. Now comes news that it's set to go mobile:

CNNMoney.com — MySpace unwired:

News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch hopes to extend MySpace's influence beyond the PC. Today, the popular site is expected to announce a partnership with Helio, a wireless carrier backed by Internet service provider EarthLink (Research) and SK Telecom, a Korean wireless carrier which operates what's viewed in the industry as the world's most advanced cell-phone network. This spring, MySpace and Helio will launch a service that will let users access MySpace from their mobile phones.

For MySpace, the deal is another move to keep its users bound tightly to it, communicating with friends or listening to music from artists featured on the service. Such innovation should help MySpace avoid the fate of social-networking pioneer Friendster, whose users ended up going elsewhere when it failed to introduce new features.

The move also gives News Corp a foothold in the rapidly growing mobile market. More than 60 million teenagers now carry cell phones, and most take them everywhere they go. MySpace Mobile, which is a free service, could turn into another lucrative advertising venue for News Corp.

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Memeorandum & TailRank

This is a bit of background info I want to keep in mind: it throws some light on operational differences between Memeorandum and TailRank.

TechCrunch » TailRank is Looking Good:
The core back end difference between the services is that Gabe Rivera, the founder of Memeorandum, hand picked the original “seed” blogs with subsequent sources discovered by his system (guaranteeing quality but sacrificing breadth), whereas most of TailRank’s content comes directly from users who upload their favorite blogs in OPML format (the file format that most RSS readers like Bloglines and Rojo use to store feeds). The additional breadth of coverage offered by TailRank may be the cause of its lag behind Memeorandum in breaking news.
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Attention, Reading Lists, RSS, etc, etc

Attention continues to get my attention. David Sifry, in his recent update on the blogosphere and its staggering growth, says:

We track about 1.2 Million posts each day, which means that there are about 50,000 posts each hour. At that rate, it is literally impossible to read everything that is relevant to an issue or subject, and a new challenge has presented itself - how to make sense out of this monstrous conversation, and how to find the most interesting and authoritative information out there.

Alex Barnett posted on this issue:

The live web discovery problem is different type of discovery problem to that the traditional search engine space has been trying to solve. Companies such as Technorati, Icerocket, PubSub, Memeorandum, Tailrank, Digg, FeedDemon, Rojo, and Bloglines and many other start ups that have cropped up in the last couple years recognize this and are helping us navigate the torrent. However, in my view, what's missing from the current generation of the aggregators, feedreaders and live web discovery engines is the ability to scope these services against my attention data. Some of these services provide tag and keyword RSS search subscriptions and have some personalization features.  These are steps in the right direction, but we've got a long way to go.

(There's a podcast available with Alex, Joshua Porter and Steve Gillmor discussing attention.) Which makes me recall Herbert Simon's words:

What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.

Reading Lists, as I've blogged before, are hot and are being talked about in the context of an 'attention-based recommendation system'. (Listen to another of Alex's podcasts, here, with a discussion between Alex, Danny Ayers, Joshua Porter and Adam Green about Reading Lists.) Dave Winer's guidelines are lucid and helpful (and see his OPML Editor doc) and I have really enjoyed Danny Ayers' take and this comment by Darren Chamberlain:

I think I don’t get the idea of a reading list. Is it just the portion of a blogroll that you’ve been reading most recently (the blogroll’s intersection with your attention data)?

dd's comment points to a key significance of Reading Lists, their dynamic nature. EirePreneur has a post touching on Reading Lists but focusing on Feed Grazing and (wait for it) Web 3.0 that has set me thinking, and Danny Ayers' comment there ('the near-future of the web is going to be a generalisation from a Web of Documents to a Web of Data') is my excuse for not yet blogging about last week's conferences.

Alerted by Alex and Robert (and Greg Linden's comments on the latter), I'm playing with Megite (my personal Reading List here; not a good idea, it seems, for me to have included the BBC News feed — it swamps everything), and have now also gone back to Findory and TailRank. (There's a post about all this by Richard MacManus, too.) Alex:

Megite is going letting me do what I've been asking Memeorandum (or anyone else that will listen) to let me do for ages  - to pivot off my own OPML file. The feature isn't switched on for everyone yet, but I've pinged the Megite developer, Mathew Chen, so hope to hear from him soon. … I'm more convinced than ever that the ability to render a personalized experience based on Attention data is where its at. And I'm not talking about just clickstreams. Your OPML file (specifically your list of RSS subscriptions) is one example of this Attention data set. It says a lot about you: the topics your interested in and the people you listen to, and much more. There is plenty more Attention data that can be leveraged though. My tags, my wishlist, the books I own, etc. We're just at the beginning of the Attention Engine race.

In the comments to Alex's post, Greg Linden says: 'Thanks for trying Findory! The relevance rank is not random nor is it solely based on your OPML file.  Findory decides what is relevant based on the articles you read. Play with it, click a few articles, and watch how it focuses in. Findory learns very quickly'. And Kevin Burton: 'TailRank has had this live for 2 weeks now'.

Swarming media has a post on some other, related implications of all this — the way we're projecting our deterritorialized, multiple identities in cyberspace:

The obvious unwanted social implications extend to surveillance and impersonation, but culturally, we are creating selves outside ourselves. Many-tendriled projections.

Compare James Governor on Declarative Living.

Meanwhile, FeedBurner's FeedFlare API (the release of which coincided with last week's Future of Web Apps conference) has got my attention:

The really big idea … was … the notion of providing a universal framework/API to enable any third-party web service to integrate with a publisher's content, without concern over what content management system the publisher is using.

The 101 ideas FeedBurner published for FeedFlare underscore the role of RSS as a way of gluing things together. Mitch Ratcliffe on the original FeedFlare announcement:

Using metadata this way will allow greater integration of intelligence in the management of feeds. The announcement talks about more browser-friendliness, which is a big plus, but RSS is fading into the communications between applications and, I think, that's where it will take deepest root.

Kevin Burton:

(FeedFlare) should allow more innovation in the space.  For example I could add TailRank features directly in FeedBurner.  Other smaller companies could add plugins for their content as well.

In a year or two, what will be the place and nature of RSS aggregators and these rich RSS feeds? Richard MacManus has a post today declaiming, 'Personalization + Clustering is the next big step in RSS. If 2005 was about Aggregation, then 2006 is all about Filtering.' Danny Ayers focuses on the technicalities behind this and in the comments adds: 'the smart aggregator (with hooks into things like the Technorati API and a bit of P2P) is probably a quicker route than trying to put all the processing online'.

Union Square Ventures invested in FeedBurner believing that RSS will become mainstream, but they, like Fred Wilson, know there's some way to go yet. Matt McAlister's gloomier still. Me? — I think Lloyd Shepherd has it right: 'the fact is that RSS is gluing all sorts of things together at the front end and the back end. … it’s entirely understandable that the RSS front end is still a bit squishy and unfriendly - people are still trying to get to grips with the possibilities of it at the back-end. Not because people are stupid, but because those possibilities are just so huge'.

Back to Attention. The Guardian picked up on this last week and advertised AttentionTrust.org. I joined this a while back and am now beginning to see its value through using the AttentionTrust approved service, Root Vaults. You can download AttentionTrust's Attention Recorder extension for Firefox here and you have the option either to record your attention data direct to your hard drive, or to Root Vaults or ACME Attention Service.

These are some of the things to do with attention, RSS, etc that have been crossing my radar recently. (There are others, but I'm sticking here with the ones that have really preoccupied me. Companies like Attensa are on my screen, too …)

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Blair & ID cards

With news that Blair is now set to miss today's vote on ID cards (see here), there's also this — from the Guardian:

A British Nato and defence specialist today undermines Tony Blair and Charles Clarke's claims that the new identity cards database for 60 million British citizens is safe and secure. … Brian Gladwin, from Worcester, now a security consultant to US government agencies, said Mr Blair and the home secretary had got it wrong when they accused critics of producing "a technically incompetent report" on ID cards. They had accused the report's main author, a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics, Simon Davies, of bias because he is also a director of Privacy International, a human rights group that opposes ID cards.  Now Dr Gladwin, who led research into protecting foreign spies from compromising the country's most secure communciations system, has written to Mr Blair saying he was the author of the sections of the report dealing with safety and security. He pointed out that the "technically incompetent" data was subject to review by the LSE before publication by two "independent information security experts, both of whom are internationally recognised for their expertise".  He warns the new database will "create safety and security risks for all those whose details are entered on the system".

In a damning blow to ministers' claims of bias, he tells Mr Blair "in case you think that I am an opponent of ID cards, I should point out that I support an irrevocably voluntary, self-funded ID card scheme". He reveals he would rather pay fines than join a compulsory scheme, saying "it is shameful that those who are less well-off will be forced to put themselves at serious risk for a system that serves no purpose that cannot be achieved in other, more effective and less costly ways".

Ministers had sought to undermine the report's findings because it has been a key issue in fuelling the rebellion among Labour MPs on ID cards, which halved the government's majority and led to a string of defeats in the Lords.

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