I attended the first board meeting of the AttentionTrust which was open to all and hosted by Steve Gillmor, Hank Barry and Seth Goldstein.
Steve Gillmor began by talking about the history of the organization and why it got started. As has been stated previously the core goal of the organization is that attention data - that is, data that describes what you're paying attention to - has value, and because it has value, when you give someone your attention you should expect to be given something in return. And just because you give someone your attention, it doesn't mean that they own it. You should expect to get it back.
Seth Goldstein mentioned that they are now officially a non-profit. Seth also mentioned that there is now a post on their group blog that goes into some detail to clarify their intentions. They have worked with the developer of the Outfoxed Firefox extension (Stan James) to build an Attention Recorder plugin for Firefox. This plugin records a user's attention data to their hard drive with the assumption being that eventually there will be AttentionTrust certified companies that users can trade this information with.
Stan James gave a demo of the Attention Recorder plugin and stated that it has two main features
- The toolbar button which lights up if you are on an AttentionTrust certified site.
- The Attention Recorder logs all a user's web traffic to a particular website. Sites can be excluded from being logged so one doesn't accidentally log access to sensitive websites. One can also configure the sites to which the clickstream logs should be sent.
After Stan's demo, the rest of the session turned into a Q & A session. Below are paraphrased questions and answers.
Q: Why would users share their attention data without getting paid? Is the promise of killer apps that can harness the user's attention data enough for users?
A: The value/price of a user's attention data is up to agreements between the users and companies.
Q: What about legacy attention data?
A: The AttentionTrust has partnered with companies that have some attention data today such as Rojo to see if they can expose it in AttentionTrust compliant ways.
There was a brief interlude at this point where Stan James went over some of the implemention details of the Attention Recorder as well as showed examples of the XML format it uses for logging a user's clickstream. On seeing the XML format, Dave Sifry who was in the audience brought up also brought up the point of ensuring that sensitive data such as usernames and passwords aren't being sent to services.
Greg Yardley is a part of a lead-generation company building a service to match up users to businesses using attention clickstream data. He's been making sure to follow the principles of AttentionTrust while building their application. For example, users can delete their attention data if needed. Steve Gillmor asked Greg what kinds of apps people could build if they had more access to user's attention data. Greg responded with a lot of examples such as more accurate personalized search engines, searching only over websites the user has seen recently, more accurate data for dating sites to use in matching people up, RSS readers that know to mark items as read if you read them from your browser and a number of other interesting ideas.
A member of the audience asked how AttentionTrust compliant lead-generation companies could be marketed as being better than their traditional alternatives that used slimy methods. The response from Seth Goldstein was that leads generated from attention data would be of higher quality (e.g. leads for mortgage customers generated from people searching for "refinance" are better than leads from people signing up to receive free iPods). Another member of the audience disagreed with Seth and pointed out that it isn't so cut and dried. She pointed out that an unemployed college student could spend their days surfing shopping sites for luxury goods but that doesn't make them a good lead for companies trying to sell luxury goods.
Another user asked what ways exist to convince users to choose AttentionTrust companies. Seth said people will build cool apps about themselves based on local data is probably the key. I jumped into the discussion and used Amazon as an example of end users giving a company their attention data on music and books they like either implicitly (by buying them) or explicitly (by rating them). My question was how could AttentionTrust convince Amazon to open up all their attention data. Steve Gillmor replied that it isn't likely that they'd be able to convince the incumbents to follow the principles of AttentionTrust but if enough small players got together and started building some of these cool apps then great things could happen.
I believe there was also a positive comparison to Richard Stallman and the Free Software Movement but I've forgotten the exact details.