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October 05, 2005

Attention management

Steve Gillmor and I were talking about his workshop at Web 2.0 about attention trust, and since I won't be able to attend today I thought I would blog some thoughts I've had on attention management.

As the amount of information people interact with increases it can become quite overwhelming, and we need better techniques to deal with the flow not only from a data capture perspective but also from a user interface perspective. In a way, there may be more information to pay attention to with the introduction of attention trust feeds!

One approach to this is to provide ways to scale the amount of attention required at different points in time, rather than attention being an all or nothing affair. Below is a diagram showing the relationship between the current focus of attention on some information and its degree of presence on the display. As focus increases on particular information, more of the display can be used to represent it, and as focus decreases that information can be relegated to a smaller or even no presence on the display.

attention diagram

Good applications should support the fluid transition between these levels as the user focuses on various information throughout the day, and developers need frameworks and tools to help present this information effectively across the web.

For example, you might be looking for a rental apartment and interact with a great rich UI showing available apartments on craigslist and might use that in context with a mapping application to understand relative locations. After choosing the apartments you're interested in, you might add a small display to your desktop to observe new listings that appear via the craigslist RSS feed so you can keep an eye on the range of what's available. When you get a better idea of what you want, a notification can be set to just let you know when a new listing becomes available that matches your criteria. Occasionally the focus of attention may increase again to explore more detail and then shift back to a low level. Once you find what you're looking for, you can of course ignore the information completely.

05 Oct 05 11:01 AM


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