On attention management & owning your content

The internet became a terrible place. It seems that today we need to give our data, content and attention to others in order to receive a virtual form of social affirmation. This is my answer to that.

Attention as a currency

I don’t like this. I have trouble managing my attention and I noticed I started to develop several nervous habits. I am a child of the internet, a true early adopter. Hence I used to be an avid user of any services that had gained traction. It was interesting to see platforms rise to the liking of the crowds, but also to see them disappear again to be forgotten.

The end result seems to be a war of titans, with monopolies fighting for our attention and content. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google {Home|Photos|Mail|Drive|etc}. The patterns and habits we develop in using these services and apps are new. When we pat each other on the back and talk about rising engagement numbers or stickiness, what does that mean to the person that has been using your app? Did we solve a problem? Maybe. Did we improve that person’s quality of life? Probably not. Not really, at least. But to keep these services running we need to monetize them, make money off the attention that we’ve generated.

If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold (Andrew Lewis)

There are no true free products. Either you pay in some sort of other currency (content or attention), or there is a tax that needs to be paid later.

Content is King

Besides attention, the monopolies capitalize on content. Who has the most pictures, videos or posts? Have your users create and upload more, so it can be converted in attention. Content is capitalized because it generates attention. More content means more attention. But what if one of the titans looses? It might have your content, but a question that we don’t seem to ask ourselves often enough is: If it means anything to you, do you have a copy of that content? Lots of pictures of me are on Flickr. In Flickr’s hay day, I was finishing my Bachelor and interned at Last.fm, heck, what a time that was.

But with Yahoo falling apart, Flickr seems to follow suit. Some friends seem to upload pictures on a regular basis still, mine just sit there. And the pictures I was tagged in. But what happens with those pictures when Flickr dies? Before trying to find an answer, I simply acted and started to make copies. And not just Flickr, everything. Facebook, Google Photos, Youtube, Instagram. I will download it all.

I experiment with new services and am fascinated by their adoption, logic and UX patterns. I will keep exploring them and talking about them with friends, but I need my own place to store and share my own content. So this is it: https://roelvanderven.com

My content is my own

This website will be my go-to place for all of the content that I have created, or that includes a mention or my face. It’s a work in progress and I’ll probably never finish. But while I’m at it, I’ll document my progress and experiences. It was already a while ago when Noortje was inspired by this post: “Go back to Blogging“. Ktinka spotted it too, albeit focused on blogging, the message is the same: own your own content.

Thanks for the nudge Ktinka, this is my version of that!

A place to call home

The above might be the main reason I’ve set up this website but I’ve set multiple goals for myself:

Control and own my own piece of the internet

Every word, page, link and photo I own. I can change it, update it, improve it and remove it. And when I do it will happen instantly. That’s a great feeling.

Personal SEO

I learned a thing or two about SEO in the past years. While my early adopter habits have paid off by plastering the first two pages of Google results with relevant links, there are (at least) two other people who bear the exact same name as me. They pop up on search results too, but sometimes it might cause confusion. Therefore I will try and dominate the first result page of Google when searching for my full name, by providing great structured data, linking to nice valid content and optimizing this website for speed and UX for both mobile and desktop.

Write more

I previously wrote some pieces, posted some of them and had great plans for more. I never really developed a good writing habit. Now that I’ve set multiple incentives for myself I aim to publish more articles. I will experiment here too, short blurbs and long form content, just to see what works.

That’s it. I hope you will think about your own content too. Do you have backups? Do you create content for others, or for yourself?



By Roel

Roel is a senior product manager at Spotify. He loves internet quirks, baking, running and tech.