"Harvesting intentionality"


Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Sun used the phrase “harvesting intentionality” in a blog post recently.

Discovering Intent

Now, why is the search business so valuable? Because it’s an exceptionally efficient means of harvesting intentionality – if a consumer is searching for “flights to Cairo,” the odds are good she’s in the market for a trip to Egypt. That intent represents a ton of value for the airlines, hotel chains and car rental companies that serve travelers to Egypt. Whoever first recognizes that intent can broker a relationship between the traveler and those businesses, and charge a healthy toll for the privilege (that’s the heart of on-line advertising). A discount airfare to Cairo, presented alongside the results of a “flights to Cairo” search, has a far higher likelihood of generating a ticket purchase than an unqualified billboard or ad in a newspaper. It’s easier to find needles in haystacks when the haystacks are sorted by needle count. [Jonathan Schwartz’s Blog: Sun’s Cloud (4 of 4)]

He goes on to discuss how downloads of Sun’s open source software provide valuable ‘intentional’ data, data which reveals intent.
There has also been some discussion of the value of bit.ly, the URL shortening service, in light of recent investment. For example:

… The most important aspect of Bit.ly is not that it can shorten URLs. Instead its real prowess lies in its ability to track the click-performance of those URLs, and conversations around those links. It doesn’t matter where those URLs are embedded — Facebook, Twitter, blogs, email, instant messages or SMS messages — a click is a click and Bit.ly counts it, in real time. Last week alone, nearly 25 million of these Bit.ly URLs were clicked.

By clicking on these URLs, people are essentially voting on the stories behind these links. Now if Bit.ly collated all these links and ranked them by popularity, you would have a visualization of the top stories across the web. In other words, it would be a highly distributed form of Digg.com, the social news service that depends on people submitting and voting for stories from across the web. Don’t be surprised if Bit.ly formally launches such as an offering real soon. This will help them monetize their service via advertising. [Why Bit.ly Will Upstage Digg]

So, again, a discussion of the value of intentional data, of trying to discern people’s intent and using that to support other services.
In a library context, this was a topic of discussion at the recent heavily amplified Libraries of the Future event in Oxford, where library consultant, Ken Chad, argued that libraries suffered by not aggregating circulation or other data which revealed user choices. Libraries in general don’t have good mechanisms in place for discerning people’s intent and and for using this data to develop services for ranking, relating and recommending. This was also a central theme of the recent Tile report of which Ken was one of the authors.
See some discussion of these comments by Joy Palmer of COPAC here.
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