Sifry on the Attention Economy


Dave Sifry of Technorati is speaking on The Economy of Attention. What are the rules that guide the attention economy and how are they different than the rules we're used to in the real economy. Attention is about time directed to a purpose by people.

Most economic models focus on what is scarce in the system. Economic systems aren't only defined by what is scarce, but it's a pretty good tool to find the seams in the fabric of the economy.

In the attention economy, computing power, storage, network bandwidth, and even money aren't scarce. Time is what even people like Bill Gates don't have enough of. We have a finite supply. What else is scare? Not information. Social connections to people are hard to scale.

We can't create time and we can't hoard it. Its a perishable item. Aggregating attention artifacts (where I spend my time, on what activities, and for what purpose) is valuable. Yahoo! and Google value their clickstreams because it gives them insight. Create attention data is easy. Just live your life and the data can be capture. Explicit metadata also adds value (tagging, as an example).

One of the most beautiful words in economics is productivity. This gives you leverage over the raw inputs. Productivity grows an economy without expending any new material. How can attention increase productivity? Technorati was Dave's effort to help him save a lot of his own time by giving him what he wanted when he wanted it.

How can this be applied?

  1. Incorporate an understanding of time and people deeply into the design of applications. He uses tech.memeorandum.org as an example.
  2. Attention is both a currency and a perishable. Make it easy to create and express attention.
  3. Hyperlinks are votes of attention (Steve Gillmor disagrees with this, I think).
  4. Look to create opportunities for economies of scale in participation.