Capturing and taking advantage of users’ actions on the Web has come a long way since business models were first implemented around the idea of clickstream in the ’90 . Instead of having the commercial sites taking advantage of the attention that users pay to different products, in the recent years the tide has turned arguing that interactions with the content (e.g. buying, listening, reading feeds) and users reactions to that content (e.g. ratings, reviews, tags) should be something that the user can control.
AttentionTrust.org, for example, calls this "attention data" and argues that it is a valuable resource that reflects user’s interests, activities and values, thus serves as a proxy for their attention.
AttentionXML (1) is an open specification to capture individual’s clicks to track user’s behaviour and information consumption on the Web. Contextualized Attention Metadata (CAM) schema was build upon it with an extension that allows capturing observations about users activities in any kind of tool, not just a browser or newsreader (Najjar et.al. 2006a,b).
Attention Profiling Markup Language (APML), on the other hand, offers a way for a user to create a personal Attention Profile, which is portable, sharable and captures users’ attention on self-defined services. Moreover, the social aspect of the Web, where users not only interact with resources, but actually participate in communities and create content, has created a need for users to capture these participatory aspects of their attention.
Thus User Labor Markup Language (ULML) that proposes an open data structure to outline the metrics of user participation in social web services. One of the ULML use cases, for example, is around creating metadata (e.g. tagging, voting, commenting etc.) as a way to improve and maintain users’ existence in social web. All these specifications serve the same goal; being openly transparent about one’s interests on the Web in order to make the best use out of them for the user’s own benefit.
I'm currently thinking with my studdy-buddy Nikos Manouselis how we could save such attention profiles from different repositories to have a more holistic picture of what do users do on educational repositories or on federations of them. I think that alone would be a great advance for the research.
Second, it might be that the same user have profiles in different repositories (like I have one in MELT, in LeMill and OERCommons), so this would allow the user to consolidate her interests and resources found in different places, like bookmarks or collections that I have created in these different repositories. It could be nice to have my personal tagcloud based on my attentions in different repositories to allow me to access resources in these different services this way.
Third, there are resources that many of the educational repositories share. Like in MELT, we have most bookmarks on resources from LeMill. It is of interest for LeMill to know that they have fans and users in MELT, so this is the info that can be fed back from MELT to LeMill, and they can boost their stats with this! Not to mention of getting back the participatory information from MELT, e.g. users tags, ratings, etc.
The fourth advantage could be that using this type of profiled information to see what resources from LeMill have been of use to the "extended community" (e.g. outside of LeMill's own user base). This info could help them to boost their reputation in the network of repositories. If we knew that half of the repositories in the federation actually have users who interact with LeMill resources, that would give LeMill a great boost as an interesting repository to play with, a reputable provider of resources (someone pointed out this saying, hey, think of eBay's reputation points for sellers!). I already had toyed with the idea of "travel well" value for each repository in the federation based on the evidence of previous cross-border use of their resources (of course tracked down using something like portable profile).
Of course, finally, such thing could be used for recommendation purposes and to allow users swiftly find resources of interest without noticing that they have to go to a different repository. Like the previous idea of cross-repository tag clouds.
 AttentionXML (2004). AttentionXML specifications, Retrieved June 8, 2007, from http://developers.technorati.com/ wiki/attentionxml.
 Najjar, J., Wolpers, M., & Duval, E. (2006a), Attention Metadata: Collection and Management. Paper presented at the World Wide Web 2006 Workshop Logging Traces of Web Activity: The Mechanics of Data Collection, May 23, 2006, Edinburgh, UK.
 Najjar, J., Wolpers, M., & Duval, E. (2006b). Towards Effective Usage-Based Learning Applications: Track and Learn from User Experience(s). Paper presented at the IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (ICALT 2006), July 5-7, 2006, Kerkrade, The Netherlands.