I believe most people on the Web are lazy, and would prefer services to read their minds instead of requiring them to expend more effort. I'm talking about most uses of the Web. This is why social bookmarking and tagging in general isn't mainstream -- at some point, the explicit effort gets to be too much work. That's why I believe so strongly in the power of the Implicit Web, and using Attention Data as the backbone of Web services (in addition to explicit user preferences/indications).
I just read a post from Marshall at R/WW on different things you can do to "fall in love with tagging again" -- in general providing good ideas for how to tag content for improved productivity/efficiency/communication. He starts off saying that he stopped using social bookmarking services last year because of the cost/benefit (cost being the effort required). Ok Marshall, I'm with you so far. His 5 useful ways to use tagging weren't very interesting to me, though I can see how it would be for some content junkies.
His "reason 5 1/2" I thought was weak though. In it, Marshall discusses the future where we'll be able to influence our attention profiles through tagging. I can't disagree with that, but I thought his example was thoroughly uninspiring. Marshall is very smart and tuned in, so I suspect he just lobbed the example out there instead of applying much thought to it. So I thought I would provide some examples ...
Ok first of all, tagging is inherently an explicit action -- an extra step -- and therefore (in my mind) just one small way to influence your attention profile. I believe your existing actions, such as reading content, searching the Web, publishing, shopping, etc. represent a much more powerful way, since it's more thorough and doesn't require any incremental user effort.
So let's assume we can leverage explicit and implicit user behavior within an attention profile. And let's also assume we have many many attention profiles and an infrastructure/ecosystem in place. Here are a few more examples of user benefits, which I think are more compelling that the "African photoblogging" example Marshall gave:
- Connections to people -- what if I was able to connect with people who were most relevant to the Google search I just did, or the camera I'm looking at? From within an "attention warehouse", one could even introduce you to someone who owns that camera, ALSO uses it primarily for outdoor adventure photography, and whose blog displays many pictures.
- Connections to content -- what if you could connect with the content being viewed and/or published by groups of people who indicate the same level of attention in certain areas? You could view the Web through a filtered lens of those with an attention affinity to "Barack Obama, Seattle, readwriteweb.com", and even do keyword searches of content viewed/published within that congregation. There are many jewels in the long tail, often hidden due to lack of popularity -- viewing the Web through the eyes of the many instead the eyes of the few improves discovery.
- Attention metrics -- do you ever wonder what your readers are paying most attention to these days? Do they care about Dick Clark? What % of them show an affinity to UK Premiership Football? Understanding what people care about gives you a much different view of the world, and helps break up all the echo chambers.
I believe 2008 will be the year of Attention Data, and user benefits therefrom. Just as the content Web is comprised of HTML links, I think we'll finally see the emergence of the "people Web", comprised of similarities and matches between attention profiles.