“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

/ROOT Markets, a bet on a future that data companies haven’t yet figured out

Posted by direwolff on March 18, 2006

I previously wrote about the challenges facing ROOT Markets in the following post.  Having recently attended the SDForum’s Search SIG (special interest group), I was able to give some more thought to the issues of attention raised by the panel which included Seth Goldstein (ROOT Markets founder and co-founder of the AttentionTrust), Dave Sifry (Technorati founder), Mike Arrington (of TechCrunch fame and Edgeio founder), Gabe Rivera (Memeorandum founder) and Steve Gilmour (writer, pundit, co-founder of the AttentionTrust).

In order to understand what’s being done around enabling people to track and manage their online attention, it’s worth perusing the AttentionTrust site, where you can learn about the Attention Recorder.

What’s really interesting here is that in today’s world, there are many large data companies that track a lot of information about consumers, whether it be the credit card companies tracking transactions, or companies like Axiom that track our demographics and geographical locations, or be it companies like TRW and others that track our credit.  In none of these cases, do consumers opt-in to participate, but that doesn’t stop these companies from having information on us from which they generate substantial sums.  While we’re able to some times see the information they’ve kept on us, more frequently we’re not, nor are we able to participate in its ownership.  Now this is the world that we have lived in, but it is not the world we will be living in soon.

The Web has changed everything, to the extent that large numbers of people are beginning to move more and more of their activities online.  Whether it be their financial activities (ie. bill payment, fund transfers, stock transactions, etc.), or shopping (ie. books, toys, electronics, clothes, flowers, etc.), or read the news, or order their Fast-Trak, go to driving school, rent a cabin in Yosemite, make travel plans, order pizza, research and arrange an appointment with a real-estate agent, choose and buy a car, etc…  More and more of our transactional activities are being made possible online.  The economies of scale make this direction worthwhile for both the providers of these services who can now reduce their physical world dependencies and high costs, and it’s worthwhile for consumers since they can now interact with the service providers more conveniently and at any time.

So where is the new data frontier for the old data providers.  Afterall, their previous tracking of data was towards selling it to other institutions who needed to know credit information, or in more frequent cases, companies that wanted access to marketing lists for direct mail offers.  With so much activity moving online, knowing an individual’s clickstream could become the next panacea.  Well, most consumers never really understood the depth to which data about them was being collected and sold.  But much has been made about this over the past 10 years, and while most people see no way out of it, they’re at least aware of this.  So with a proposition that states that people can not only share in the ownership of their own data, but can actually do useful things with it, you have to believe that AttentionTrust has fired a shot across the bows of the data collectors and aggregators that may take them a little while to realize, but could materially change the economics of the next generation of data.

If by knowing more about what people give their attention to, it helps determine their intentions, and they are willing to be participants and beneficiaries of the resulting activities, offers, and incentives that will be derived from such a system, then there is indeed a very large opportunity being created here that will empower consumers, merchants and service providers.  This also could disintermediate the data aggregators of yesteryear, who have honestly behaved very badly at the expense of ordinary people.  I have written about ChoicePoint in the past as one example, but they’re not the only ones.  This is indeed the dawning of an age that returns control of our information and our intentions back to us.

My advice is that you keep an eye on both the and /ROOT Markets, as these two groups are starting what Mark Pincus frequently refers to as a revolution of the ants.  That’s us people!!!…and it’s a good thing.


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