Welcome to the Attention Economy.
For the past five years, the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference has found new networked innovations before they hit the mainstream. We've showcased peer-to-peer networks and person-to-person mobile messaging, web services and weblogs, big-screen digital media and small-screen mobile gaming, hardware hacking and content remixing. We've hacked, blogged, ripped, remixed, tracked back, and tagged to the nth.
And as ETech marches on, the stuff of which it is made shows no sign of abating: bandwidth continues to broaden, cycles are going spare, storage grows ever larger and cheaper, and content keeps flowing from the fire - hose. Yet our 60,000-year-old patterns of information processing haven't grown at the same pace.
This disparity is having a profound impact upon our social systems both on and offline, personal and business productivity, and the very future of so-called "knowledge work." The new network effects are going to be about attenuation—in a word: "less." Less raw data of the kind currently choking our inboxes and RSS readers, more intelligent sorting, synthesis, and routing of that data. Less noise, more signal. The businesses of the future will be built on delivering us less than the free services give us.
Technologies for creating, aggregating, and distributing data abound; the next important breakthroughs will be those that serve as the gatekeepers of our attention. As InfoWorld columnist Jon Udell puts it, "Devices are on or off. Channels are open or closed. The vast middle ground between those two states remains largely unexplored." It's in this middle ground that you'll find the technology challenge of 2006--and where you'll find the focus of this year's ETech.
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