RSS and Attention.xml

Steve Gillmor has a series on RSS and widening its utility via something he calls attention.xml:

it monitors my attention list, noting what feeds are in what order. Then it pays attention to what items I read, in what order, or if not, then what feeds I scan, and for how long. The results are packaged up in an attention.xml file and shipped via some transport (RSS, FTP, whatever) to Technorati. Dave [Sifry] has some ideas about what he will provide in return: “If you liked these feeds and items, then here are some ones you don’t know about that you may want to add to your list.”

But the real power comes in a weighted return feed that works like this: OK, I see who you think is important and what posts are most relevant to your interests. Then we factor in their attention.xml lists weighted by their location on your list, average the newly weighted list based on this trusted group of “advisors”, and return it to your aggregator, which rewrites the list accordingly.

Some other benefits–pushing duplicate links down the list, providing user data that can be bartered for access to full text feeds, and creating the kind of group formation dynamics so prized by developer communities, CxOs, and advertisers.

What do I want from attention.xml? A little help, that’s all. RSS doesn’t need much more fuel to reach orbit; the technology is good at squeezing out the groovebusters and converting the fibrillations of the marketplace into a nice strong sine wave. If we just pay attention, good things can happen that much sooner.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.