I have not written anything on this blog in over a month. It bothers me not to write for such long periods of time, since I know that my influence expands and contracts based on on how often I post. Relationships require frequency of contact to flourish, whether they be personal or business oriented; and the relationship between me as the author and you as the reader is no different.
I am usually mindful of this. Like perhaps many bloggers, I start my own web browsing experience with a number of tabs tuned into my stats from Typepad, Feedburner, Measure Map and others. It is a form of self identification, trying to understand who is paying Attention to me in terms of how many people end up on my page and how they get here- was it a reference to me from somebody else’s blog or was it a search engine query that surfaced one of my prior posts above the algorithmic fold?
In fact, I know relatively little about you. Maybe you subscribe to me through my feedburner API, or else you might show a little cookie to one of my widgets, but I still don’t really get a clear sense of who you are in any personal, dynamic, emotional way. Email introductions are more connected since you reveal yourself as an individual with your own voice. Once in a while I might even run into you at a meeting in person and you will tell me that you are a long-time reader of my blog. These are some but not all of the various ways that you express your presence to me as an active reader. By active I simply mean that you are telling me directly that you are paying Attention to the information I am producing.
The combination of ways that I experience your Attention has created a new upper register of consciousness. It is filled with audients: people like yourself who are tuning into my output and for whom I feel a certain sense of responsibility. It is exceedingly hard to talk of you as a coherent group. What do you who landed here from a Wikipedia article on Wall Street soft dollars have in common with you who saw a reference to me in Fred Wilson’s blog, other than the fact that you are both reading this page? So instead of thinking of you as a single figure in the foreground, it is as if you are a constant murmer of feedback behind me- watching me, no matter what I might be doing, but unavailable to me no matter how much I might want to pay Attention to you.
The opportunity to understand the behavior of readers and feed this back to publishers is driving significant product innovation. The most recent example is MyBlogLog which was purchased by Yahoo! before it had a chance to demonstrate its viability as a stand-alone product, much less as a independent business. Lately, tools like this for understanding the (implicit) Attention of readers are improving even faster than those for expressing (explicit) personal information of publishers such as blogging, tagging and rating services.
As I am able to access increasingly fine-grained information about the nature of my audience, the way in which I express myself here on these pages begins to reflect that understanding. It is no longer so simple as writing about something and then waiting for people to show up who are interested in the subject of the post. Now, many of you often show up in advance, announcing your interests immediately. If I dont satisfy your expectations for certain insights while I have your Attention, then I will lose it to others sources. Without your Attention, the writing likely stops. And without the writing, so goes this blog which is a big part of my online identity.
One way of putting it, then, is that the stability of my identity is tied to having access to your Attention statistics.