The Attention Game

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Credit: Flickr / Andrés Nieto Porras

There are many things that alarm me about the tech industry, but one of them is how much of it runs on ads, and therefore on attention. A business model of millions of users -> ??? -> Profit. And the answer to ??? is: sell them shit.

There are two main themes that I think result from this. The first, the way that what we do is divorced from how it is paid for. After-all, we don’t click on ads ourselves. Nor do people we know. The second is this metric of attention like attention is inherently valuable. It’s not.

Maybe it’s hanging out with the kind of techies who get three meals a day and a significant part of their wardrobe too provided at work, but sometimes it feels like tech workers, despite the 6 figure salary, are unwilling to pay for things. This culture where everything is “free”, only it isn’t really, the money comes from somewhere, we just don’t have any concept of where that is. We don’t serve users, we serve ads. When we want a job, we give our labour away for free which somehow helps us get a well paying job and then we profit. Let’s ignore the number of open source projects going bankrupt…

Then, attention. This idea that you do things for “exposure” where the formula is exposure -> ??? -> profit. OK maybe you can argue that this model works for Kim Kardashian but not, I think for most of us. It didn’t work for Monica Lewinsky.

Exposure is not inherently valuable. The value is in what results from it.

Also we can make a case that exposure is just worth less for women. Firstly, because as covered the Male Factor around 20% of men are inclined to dislike women. So we can make the case that say, when presenting to an audience of primarily men, the audience is just worth 20% less to a woman than to a man.

This relates to my distain for Token Women Work for “exposure”. Exposure for being a woman doesn’t lead to paid work, it leads to requests for favours – at best.

At worst it leads to harassment.

Which brings us to the second reason why exposure is worth less to women – because the risks are higher. The fear of harassment is real, and it’s one I hear about often. It’s something I, and my friends experience.

Once I connected these things together, I felt like I understood idea that attention has value. Because it does, if you are selling ads. Less so as a woman trying to survive in the tech industry, though. For everything else… probably somewhere in between.

3 thoughts on “The Attention Game

  1. A lot of the greatest minds of our generation is spending their energy and time to make you click an ad.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

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