I don’t pay attention to that anymore…

I use to watch Lost – I don’t bother anymore. In fact there are loads of things that I use to pay attention to that I don’t anymore. My tastes change, what I once thought of as good I don’t anymore, and what was once good has just gone downhill.

APML or Attention Profile Markup Language is an open, nonproprietary file format that uses XML to encoded a users interests into a single file.

… consolidated, structured descriptions of people’s interests and dislikes. The information about your interests and how much each means to you (ranking) is stored in a way so that computers and web-based services can easily read it, interpret it, process it and pass it on should you request and permit them to do so.”


What APML gives you then is a file expressing the relative amount of attention you have given various URLs and when you last looked at that those URLs. The idea then is that you can move this file from one location to the next, you can also (because it’s XML) edit this file if you don’t want your profile to include the fact you lingered on something embarrassing.

But what I pay attention to changes over time and therefore having a single file that describes what I pay attention seems a bit wrong headed.

My problem with APML is that it’s based on a view of file transfer and data sharing – one where you copy and move a file from one system to the next. I just don’t believe that that is how the Web works. As Chris Messina puts it (in relation to dataportability.org):

In my mind, when the arena of application is the open, always-on, hyper-connected web, constructing best practices using an offline model of data is fraught with fundamental problems and distractions and is ultimately destined to fail, since the phrase is immediately obsolete, unable to capture in its essence contemporary developments in the cloud concept of computing (which consists of follow-your-nose URIs and URLs rather than discreet harddrives), and in the move towards push-based subscription models that are real-time and addressable.

Attention data is highly time and context sensitive – being able to download and share a file with another system seems all wrong. Instead I think that being able to stream data between (authorised) services is the way to go.

If you enabled data to be streamed then you could make you your attention data available at meaningful URLs. For example, my attention for 2007 might be at something like: tomscott.name/apml/2007 and for today at tomscott.name/apml/2008/05/18.

This approach would allow you to expose your attention data (using the AMPL schema if you wish) at meaningful URLs and in useful time slices. You could then combine it with other forms of linked data – like programmes – to give additional context and additional information to your attention data.

I’m all up for making attention data accessible (via an appropriate secure API) but making it available as a file to be downloaded and imported into another app leaves me a little cold.

Photo: What are you looking at?, by Banksy and 'No life before coffee'. Used under license.

3 responses to “I don’t pay attention to that anymore…”

  1. I’d been thinking along similar lines, although not quite getting as far. Completely agree on the whole file thing. It’s nice to know you can. APML definitely needs a hosted brokerage service.

  2. Michael Smethurst Avatar
    Michael Smethurst

    Isn’t it about a time period rather than a set year, month or day? Maybe something like:


    Otherwise you’re confining yourself to the vagaries of the calendar

  3. @Michael : Yes you’re quite right, it should be a range. My mistake.

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