Attention as a Currency and Noise


I’m not sold on Google Buzz. It’s very noisy. Heck, if you’re following me there, you’re probably wondering what it’s about. It reminds me of Friendfeed, with the conversations looping under every piece of information. It’s also a lot like Facebook, in that sort of “wall post, comment” dance kind of way. I’ll probably come to tell you why I love it in some future post, or maybe I won’t. I never liked FriendFeed, though Robert Scoble always raved about it. Now, not all noise is bad, but allowing yourself to be buried in it isn’t very helpful.

I am thinking of attention as currency, and am going to recommend that you set a budget.

Attention as a Currency

Part of what Julien and I wrote about in Trust Agents is that attention and reputation and trust are all currencies that aren’t as easily swapped out. You can pay for attention, at least for a little bit. Advertisements are a purchase of your attention. You can’t exactly pay for reputation, though you can buy the trappings of reputation quite easily. And you can’t buy trust. But things like Google Buzz are about attention, and that’s kind of the baseline currency for the higher-level instruments of reputation and trust.

Attention is worth something to me. Your attention is very important to me. (And when I say “me,” replace this with your company name, and you’ll see what I’m driving towards.) Being responsive and attentive in two directions is very important to me.

How You Use Attention Decides a Lot

I have many projects on my plate right now. Too many. I have things I’ve promised friends that need my attention. I have client obligations for New Marketing Labs. I have new friends that I want to explore and get to know. I have lots of places where I can spend my attention.

But attention is finite.

With that in mind, it becomes a matter of budgeting and management. How much one-on-one can I invest, because that’s where the real value of social media kicks in. How can I get more information to more people in a one-to-many format, because that’s my only hope at scaling. This is what we have to ask ourselves daily.

How NOT to Get Sucked Into Buzz/Twitter/Facebook

Ask yourself this question CONSTANTLY: where can I add the most value to what matters most to me and the people who care about me?

I love spending time on Twitter and getting to know people. I do a few hours a day inside Twitter, but for every bit of time I spend just talking back and forth with people to prove I’m human and that I care, I’m also collecting information for work, for clients, for story ideas, and more. When I feel like I’m just chatting for chatting sake, I ask myself, “where can I add the most value to what matters most to me and the people who care about me?” The answer is rarely, “by chatting about plane delays.”

If that doesn’t work, use a timer. I have a very simple egg timer software application for my Mac. I set it often. Want the real one? Go to a kitchen store (do they have those any more?) and buy a green pepper egg timer or a cat-shaped one. Whatever. Simple, and yet it works. Allot yourself time.

Budget. Set an attention budget.

Spending Some of Your Attention

My current favorite tool on the web is Google Wave. Wave is like Google Buzz’s stuffier older brother. When used right, it can be a place to share collaboratively around projects. Julien and I are writing the paperback version of Trust Agents with the help of Wave. I’m planning my next business with Wave.

Why? Because it’s where I’m getting value for my time.

I spend my attention on my blog. Why? Because it’s what matters most in helping others and building my community.

I spend my attention on my book writing. Why? Because it’s going to help me grow new community members and find people who aren’t already in the circle.

See where I’m going?

Set Up a Real Attention Budget

What if you did something as simple as take a spreadsheet and put in the top 3-5 things you wanted to spend time on in a day? Just list them out. Put the first thing first (Thank you, Dr. Stephen R. Covey). And so on. Now, what if you made that a sticky note? What if you made that your desktop background? What if you followed your own attention budget?

What would you be able to accomplish then?

And what does your attention budget look like? Want to share?

Photo credit 4000f

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