Last week saw hundreds of web developers fill a Kensington conference centre for the standing room only Future of Web Applications conference. The speakers came from the ranks of the Web 2.0 illuminati, and the topics covered everything from finding venture capital to building and managing communities. Microsoft and Adobe demonstrated their latest tools and platforms, and Fotango unveiled its Zimki hosted web application platform.
However, once you sat down and listened to the speakers, there was one theme that kept cropping up. It was there in Yahoo!'s tale of how they used Flickr as a glue to hold their new acquisitions together, and Kevin Rose's description of how Digg detected attempts to game the site's ratings scheme. The key was "attention data" - the ability to use site metrics to generate additional metadata about a piece of information: who's looking at it, what have they looked at before, who's linking to it, who's blogging about it, who's commenting on it. Site metrics are mashed up with user information to develop a picture of what the information is being used for, and how trustworthy the users that are working with it are.