Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Skip, skim and engage

Today, while browsing my aggregated feed of nearly 50 conversations I noticed Google Reader introduced a new feature called "personalized trends".

Measuring "engagement"

Recent discussions about Web 2.0 measurement touched this very topic: how to measure engagement?

Google's attempt is a good start, but it doesn't tell something very important: when I use Google Reader, if I don't want to view the same posts over and over, I have to tell Google Reader to "mark it as read". This also happens automatically if I stay focused on a post for a couple of seconds. This ends up showing "% Read" of nearly 100% in most cases (see right). Of course, I don't actually "read" everything, I barely "skim" over most posts, stumbling on something I find of interest from time to time. So we face, as on most Web sites, three types of engagements (or attention): skip, skim (or scan), read (or focus).


As the word implies, we go right over the item (be it a blog post, an RSS item or an element of a page). The attention is diverted to something else in a very short amount of time. This could be the result of a badly chosen title, a good title that doesn't cater to my interests or my current goal, or the presence of another item screaming at me for attention. Clearly, there is no engagement and thus, very little value.


This happen all the time. While Googling, we fiercely scan the results. While reading a blog, we scroll down a specific article to look for something interesting when looking at a video on Youtube, we watch a few seconds and decide to continue or stop right away, etc. When I use Google Reader, I do that all the time naturally, since articles from various sources appears one below the other. There is no real engagement yet, it will depend on my specific goal and my ability to achieve it. The value might not be immediate.


On the three dimensions of attention defined by Davenport, this would be "attractive" (as opposed to "aversive"), "voluntary" (as opposed to "captive") and "front-of-mind" (as opposed to "back-of-mind". I'm truly "engaged" and there is a clear value, usually for both parties.