mPulse

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Followers, hit-counts, and the Attention Economy

Since I migrated the blog back to my own servers a few days ago, I have realized something: I have fallen back to my old habit of watching the hit count.

This is weird, considering the lack of interest I had in my blog and its stats over the last year or so. But having my baby back home where I am in charge gives a sense that I should pay attention. That I need to know what's happening.

In 2005, when I started doing this, I used to watch my hit count religiously, maniacally. Sort of goes with the bipolar, but I digress. In 2008, we are obsessed with followers, and the Slashdot like addiction to being the first to report some breaking (planted?) news item.

So, after three years of blogging, I see that the online communities haven't progressed much beyond hit counters, page views, or followers. And online cred is a insular and self-perpetuating thing. You draw attention to yourself, you get comments, more people follow you, and more people feed you, you have more to say, more people follow you...and on, and on.

I am not saying that this is good, or ill. I am as much a traffic whore as the rest of the world. I just realize that we are all after the same goal - attention. That was the whole idea behind the Attention Economy, a term I don't hear as much as I did 2 years ago.

With FriendFeed and Twitter, we live in the Attention Economy. With 200 channels in my basic cable package, TV is a passive Attention Economy, controlled by the PVR and the TorrentSphere. Satellite Radio forces us to make choices.

Be it hit-counts or PVRs, we all crave attention, knowing full well how limited the attention-span is. We don't want be to waste our time, but we want to attract that of others.

Attention produces an unbalanced online economy. We can do many things to control the incoming flow. We can also work very hard to expand the outgoing flow. But for most of us, the outgoing flow remains a trickle, maybe even a fine mist.

So where does the power in the Attention Economy lie? With the off-switch.

And we all have one.

How do you use yours?

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