Home Attention – NewsGator and Bloglines Join APML Workgroup

Attention – NewsGator and Bloglines Join APML Workgroup

Web users interested in personalization, privacy and increasing sophistication in their applications take note: the Attention Data spec APML (Attention Profiling Markup Language) gained substantial momentum today with the announcement that two of the long-time leaders in the RSS reader market, NewsGator and Bloglines, are joining the official APML working group. Nick Bradbury, RSS innovator par excellence, will represent NewsGator in the organization. GM Eric Engleman will represent Bloglines in the group. Bradbury wrote this morning that NewsGator’s FeedDemon, NetNewsWire and Newsgator Inbox products will all soon support both APML export and import. Once that happens users will wonder what’s taking everyone else on the market so long to do something so logical themselves.

Attention Data is one of the concepts online with the most potential – and the most communication struggles (look how long this post is, for one thing!). Adding NewsGator and Bloglines involvement to the existing support for the movement indicates that things could start shakin’.

What is This Stuff?

Your Attention Data consists of all the information online about what you read, write, share and consume. Your Attention Profile is a very rich resource that vendors want to get their hands on (in order to target ads more effectively, for example) and that could open up a world of possibilities if you had easy access to it all yourself.

What is APML? The spec’s website explains it like this: “APML allows users to share their own personal Attention Profile in much the same way that OPML allows the exchange of reading lists between News Readers. The idea is to compress all forms of Attention Data into a portable file format containing a description of ranked user interests.”

When you’re able to offer up some or all of your Attention Profile to a new website you join, you could receive personalized recommendations immediately, for example. For a more extensive introduction to APML see this post by Elias Bizannes.


Adoption to date has been minimal. APML working group co-founder and chair Chris Saad’s company Particls uses it and his related service called Engagd (Saad says think AideRSS for APML – cool!) is used by lifestream aggregator Dandelife and APML publisher Cluztr. IMified announced today that their alerts product FeedCrier now supports APML.

Somehow, though, Saad has been able to assemble a group of industry luminaries to work on APML. He’s a high-energy visionary who lives in Australia – perhaps that helps him avoid the personality conflicts that are believed to have plagued similar efforts to move the Attention conversation forward. The APML working group includes Danny Ayers, Chris Messina, David Cancel from Compete, Steve Williams from Digg, Daniela Barbosa from Dow Jones and quite a few others. It’s an impressive list that should be able to build a solid standard and help drive it to market.

The Bigger Picture

Bloglines first mentioned APML in its recent announcement that it would be supporting OpenID and the cross-application authentication protocol OAuth. Just like with OpenID – it’s one thing to publish to APML, it’s another to allow users to import data into your application and it’s another thing still to make these standards easy and prominent for your users to take advantage of.

It’s great that the RSS focused companies that have are joining the cause to work this all out – but where are Google, Amazon and Netflix? They would provide a lot of energy but could throw around a lot of weight in decision making. I asked Attensa, the most Attention focused feed reader for the past few years, for their thoughts on APML and this is what CTO Eric Hayes had to say on the subject.

Attensa is focused on the enterprise environment where the realities of scaling, security, compliance and confidentiality require a sophisticated approach to sharing AttentionStream data. Our AttentionStream is a rich profile of an individual’s implicit and explicit attention behaviors that we use to enhance the productivity of individuals by bringing highly relevant content to the forefront of their attention automatically and to streamline collaboration behind the firewall through secure channeled discovery in real time. APML is a subset of the rich Attensa AttentionStream and we see real value in incorporating APML standards in our development.

As Alex Iskold wrote in an Attention Economy overview here at Read/WriteWeb,

“It is certainly a step in the right direction, but it is not rich enough to capture semantic attention. For example, there is no concept of a book or a movie, the attention is represented as a set of tags. Such approach would make it impossible to build specific filters for things like books and movies.”

Furthermore, as we discussed here in our coverage of the OAuth draft standard, which would make mashups much easier to create than ever before, good services are ultimately more important to users than standards compliant services.


Today’s announcements are big – but there’s a long way to go. This is obviously a complicated issue that some people are highly involved with and the rest of the world probably doesn’t know much about yet. We soon will though – many companies are already making huge sums of money off of our attention data. Someday soon we may be able to use it for our own purposes as well.

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