Now Attention Deficit Disorder Means You're Broke
Apparently, the "Attention Economy" has been floating around for about 10-15 years and maybe even more. In a classic irony, I, of course, never paid any attention to it at all. But its out and about again and being integrated into the Live Business Open Web 2.0 (tying some of the floating names for the new technology wave into a neat single package) as one of the "economies' that we futurists, trendwatchers, analysts, industry viewers and all around know-nothings have to pay attention to and - get paid for giving it our attention. I think.
I decided to treat it as a serious entry into the "name that economy" sweepstakes. So far we had the Experience Economy, the Support Economy, the Innovation Economy, and any number of economies that I haven't found yet. Now the Attention Economy. Giving this credence or attention was a serious error in judgment I now regret, though I'm going to tell you about it anyway - as my mockable concept of the day.
Much Ado About Nothing, If You're Bothering to Listen
I was reading the June 5 issue of Information Week when an article by Thomas Claburn, a guy who is a veteran Information Week writer, comes peeking into my sight - Fight For Consumers' Attention Online Heats Up. Of course, I, being a naive chap, figured that this was about what I'm always harping on to your irritation - a Live Web (my favorite of the titles) themed article on customers - but nooooooooo! Its about the concept that "businesses must do a better job of rewarding online consumers for their attention." I figured that sounded true 'nuf, so I read the entire article. The jist of it was that there is so much information out there for the consumer that getting the attention of the consumer is becoming increasingly difficult. So we live in an information-rich, attention scarce world. Someone then decided that this must be an economic offering. So on the one hand, the idea is that people are rewarded for giving their attention are paid for having their "attention trust" violated via attention bonds that are posted by content distributors. To that end there is a company that's formed called AttentionTrust.org that issues these attention bonds. The idea is for people to gain the right to control their online records related to what they paid attention to on the web. So a cookie would be that. Or a record that tracked how much time you spent on a particular page at a particular item on a particular site. The idea is "consent marketing." To do that, AttentionTrust.org provides you with a Firefox extension that tracks and captures your clickstream and browser history for your own purposes. That gives you control over your own information, apparently.
What is also the case is that the rather old-fashioned idea of "pay them for their time" is becoming "pay them for their attention." So there are companies who will give you free things e.g. cell phone minutes, ad free music, etc. if you view their ads for x time frame. There is a model for online revenue sharing that even Microsoft is looking into. There is a service now called "Scooptwords" that operates as a "blogger agent" that will get companies to buy what bloggers are saying for commercial use and then split the revenue stream, which is kind of nice, but not exactly in the spirit of the blogosphere - though there's nothing wrong with that, either.
The fundamental idea of the Attention Economy is that because the amount of attention a consumer can give a product or service or company or idea is finite and increasingly more difficult due to both bad information like spam and rich information sources available everywhere, the competition for that attention is increasing and attention is becoming a commodity, so the consumer needs to take control of their attention, the same way a union was there to represent the mechanism for the worker to take control of the value of his/her labor power. A great example of all of this is the world famous Google AdSense, which has a revenue sharing model, though the bulk of the revenue is Google's of course.
All right. So far, while a bit of a stretch, there is probably nothing inherently wrong in the thinking that goes into what I just jotted down here.. Though calling it an "economy": is a bit much. But from here on, it goes nuts.
Old Dollars Will Never Die, They'll Just Fade Away
I decided to investigate this a little further and....I'll just let it speak for itself.
I found that the Attention Economy guru or one of them, anyway is a guy named Michael Goldhaber. His is a former theoretical physicist and a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a group I normally respect a great deal. He has a thinktank that I would support called "The Center for Technology and Democracy." But when it comes to the Attention Economy, here are some of his statements I found in a 21 page address he gave a little bit ago:
First, under the title A Closing Scenario
"Money will not necessarily fade in value, in other words, inflation will not set in, in the old sense; neither will recession nor deflation. Instead, money will just lose importance, just as noble titles have over the past few centuries. The stock market might not even fall; stockholders may simply lose interest, ceasing to sell and buy in equal ratio."
Now in the section entitled "The End."
...we seem to be more dazzled by money than ever, just as we seem to be more intrigued by material goods than ever. But these interests are superficial and faddish. They are signs of decadence not of a glorious future for the money economy. Even in themselves, they speak to the growing desire for attention, the need for it as well. Money is now little more numbers, one number among many and, as a source of lasting attention, it can fade in an instant. The attention economy is already here and more completely every day."
Okay. Enough awready. Money is a passing fad. People will lose interest in the stockmarket and just quit trading. Kind of strange since both currency and exchanges have been around since the beginning of recorded history and have been necessary vehicles for the interchange of those goods that we need to live and to be satisfied with our lives. But then, who is all of civilizations in all recorded history to dispute the assertion of the superficiality and faddishness of currency?
In the world that the attention economy envisions, ADHD is the fluctuations of the stock market, and having ADD will mean that you're broke.
One last thing, what is he taking about in the last sentence when he says money, the one number among many can fade as a source of lasting attention in an instant. I actually don't know what that means.
Hopefully, the Attention Economy which really is a stretched version of marketeers paying someone for their time and opinion, will disappear into that rich information bottomless pool and sink to where it belongs - on the bottom.
Now what were we talking about again?
The Tone Rich Crowd
I'm on the treadmill these days, listening to a book I've already read called "The Wisdom of the Crowd" by James Surowicki. His argument is that the wisdom of diverse crowds is greater than the wisdom of specialists or experts. That they are more likely to come up with something closer to the right answer than any single expert or individual member of the crowd itself might. But it is a diverse crowd not a homogeneous one that is likely to get the answer "righter." The reasoning is that the diverse crowd is less likely to succumb to the thinking of those in the crowd like them. Each individual is willing to think as an individual participant and thus provides a piece of intelligence or thinking that contributes to a holistic answer.
The book is a lot more complicated than that, but I think that pretty well encapsulates what he thinks and I see its validity though it makes me uncomfortable to see it. Not because it means that I might as well not be a CRM expert because the practitioners as a whole are smarter than me. In fact, that's probably true and why something like best practices can exist. Because the crowd's wisdom is the spark for the creation of the best practices. Experts like me become facilitators that can provide the questions the crowd needs to answer and then a road leading to the direction of the next question. The other reason that this thinking has some uncomfortable validity to me is actually more emotional than it is quantifiable which is a lot of the way that Wisdom of the Crowds makes its argument - using studies of group results to make the case. But, what makes me think that there is something valid is more along the lines of something that Johannes Kepler called the "Music of the Spheres." He says that there is a geometric order to the entire universe that is self-evolving and you can see it in the micro and macro structure of all things. Consequently, for example, it has been found recently by astronomers that the Music of the Spheres isn't just a poetic description of a scientific principle but is an actual "thing." The name for the phenomenon, which has been identified in astronomical terms as "flicker noise." The Earth hums a tune. Black holes, through their X-ray emissions, have complex musical compositions that they play.
All that means is that at least the physical universe, as unknowable as its been, is turning out to be something that is coherent with the scientific laws that man continues to either uncover or create.
What does this have to do with CRM or the wisdom of the crowds?
Weeeelll, I was listening to Prairie Home Companion, that really funny and superbly literate show that Garrison Keillor is so famous for and now is the subject of a Robert Altman movie with Meryl Streep and Lindsay Lohan. He was live at the Austin City Limits, home of the some of the greatest music and musicians ever - people like the late Stevie Ray Vaughn and Johnny WInter and just a cornucopia of great electric blues guys. At one point in the show, during one of his comic bits, he had this Texan audience sing the theme from the musical "Oklahoma" - roughly equivalent asking a Yankees fan to chant, "Go Manny!" In any case, what was interesting was listening to this large audience singing Oklahoma. Collectively, they were singing perfectly harmoniously and just right-on-key. And I thought, "ya know, that seems to happen a lot. When you hear a crowd sing, it tends to sing in harmony. Yet if I asked each member of that crowd to sing individually, I suspect 75% or more would be totally off key or even tone deaf. But the whole group sings so well together. Amazing." Yep. That's what I thought. I did, really.
Crossing That Bridge Now That We've Come To It
I never thought the mainstream would be one of the first to bridge the gap between the cutting edge and the mainstream. But it is happening and the vehicle is that classic that I've grown to love over the past few months - radicals beware here - Business Week. Yes, Business Week, owned by the 120 year old McGraw-Hill, a company that never will stop reminding you of its heritage and one that conforms more often than not to standards set at the turn of the 20th century, and my publisher too. Not particularly a likely candidate for leading a charge into the Live Economy (my new name for the economy at least for this paragraph). But with their June 5, 2006 issue,they've started a quarterly insert/submagazine called IN and it focuses on innovation either community created or the attempts by business to focus their models around innovation and who the leaders of that are. My particular favorite in this issue was the visionary Patrick Whitney, who is the head of the Illinois Institute of Technology Institute of Design. He has a program that marries innovation, design and business and has developed three graduate tracks for that program, two for Masters one for a Ph.D. Sadly, I don't think I could get into any of them but they are truly worth looking at. I'm going to invite Patrick Whitney to join Rutgers CRM Research Center Industry Experts Board. I only hope he graces us with his presence. His work is breathtaking and groundbreaking. Take a look at who he is here and the course curriculum here.
Now I can't say that Business Weeks first efforts are perfect. One of the naysayers pointed out in his commentary that while BW says that of the 25 highlighted leaders of innovation, 70 percent are women, all of them are Caucasian and that does seem a bit strange since I'm sure that someone somewhere isn't who is an innovator. But that said, that imperfect start is a start by a mainstream publication run by a fuddy duddy of a company to begin to become a transmitter and purveyer of the new business models that are being created to fix the old broken down business logic that contemporary customers hate. So, good for you BusinessWeek! I'm renewing my subscription.
We're talking about mine here. As most of you know I'm a Yankees freak/fan/zealot/lunatic. I'm also a baseball history dude and a crypto-Sabermetrics guy - meaning in this case, I like arcane stats - to a point. They do get to the ridiculous. But that said, I follow my Alexa and Technorati rankings to see how I'm doing in the standings and how close I am to getting to the All Star Game in July. Here's my latest:
- Alexa 3 month average (how they do it, not me) - 357,203 which is an improvement of 297,557 places since the prior three months. That's out of a total of a claimed 6 million web pages. Not too shabby.
- Technorati - As of today, due to 140 links, I'm ranked 74,533 out of what I suppose is 37 million and rising.
Because I'm a stats freak, I find it really cool that people are paying attention to me (though I'm not giving up money in exchange for that - actually nor am I getting much either). But I really don't know what any of it means. How important are having links in Technorati in the grand scheme of things? What are the criteria for Alexa? Do the criteria make the numbers meaningful or meaningless? I have nary a clue, fellow blogistas, but if it means I'm batting over .300 and will hit 40 homers and drive in over 120 runs, then you can count me in.
Okay, enough, too much. I'm done. Goodnight.