One pleasant surprise in the SharePoint keynotes was a recognition of the issue of attention management. Jeff Teper said one of his passions is “information overload,” the topic that eventually leads one to attention management once they’ve calmed down from the hysteria of “overload.” I found a bit more on the Office Blog, where Jeff Teper wrote:
“we believe personalized and proactive insights are required to cut through the noise. As humans, we have an incredible ability to achieve—but only if we can focus. And we need technology to help us, so that we can focus our energies on accomplishing big things.”
Jared Spetaro, GM of Office product marketing, said “We believe in personal insights that can be heard when you cut through the noise.”
Well, Mr. Teper and Mr. Spetaro, we share this passion. SharePoint has great promise to alleviate the overload of email, but also threatens to make a bad situation worse when no one can find anything in a sprawling SharePoint mess. Yes, SharePoint can get so bad its users long for the days when everything was sent around in email – at least that way the information was targeted at you!
If you really want to help attention management in SharePoint, how about:
- An Attention API . Change operations include tweaking of relative importance, whitelists and blacklists, privacy requests, trust/access settings, timeframe resets (such as taking a new role). Query operations include different wants of retrieving relevance rankings.
- An open XML format for exchanging attention information to make it easier for the full set of applications in a user’s worklife to participate in utilizing and refining the user’s profile. This would be an updated version of the dormant APML (Attention Profiling Mark-up Language). This is needed since an attention profile that only includes a subset of the user’s activities based on market boundaries, and it only usable from within one interface will always be hamstrung.
- Apply my Attention Management System Conceptual Architecture to look across all inputs, processing, and outputs instead of relying on architects of small parts of the system to build their own ideas in without a view of the overall attentional system. As an example, see how the EAM was applied to email. I think that when enhancing SharePoint, Microsoft tends to see each button and field as a feature request to be prioritized against all others. That means they don’t accommodate value of chains of features that, in isolation are not being requested or seem high impact, but are important when taken as a chain connecting to a common goal. Addressing attention management will require valuing a slew of inter-related features as being greater than the sum of their parts.
- The activity stream of Yammer is a great start for plugging all the sensors into. But I want to see a full set of controls for filtering them: thumbs up and down (like gmail), filters, user-defined thresholds for alerts, subscribe/unsubscribe, sharing of attentional profiles (per agreed-upon privacy constraints). I wrote about this in 2011: If You Thought Your Inbox Was Overloaded, Wait Until Activity Streams Enterprise Attention Management can yield significant performance improvements to organizations and SharePoint has many opportunities to succeed (or fail). Microsoft seems to recognize these issues, which is a good sign. I’ll be looking to the product to actually realize this vision.