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August 24, 2010

Why My6sense: Right Time, Right Place, Right Context

After a post talking about the "Me Me Me" portion of social media, it seems only right to follow up and talk about news with me. If you caught Marshall Kirkpatrick's story on ReadWriteWeb (See: My6Sense & The Geek Who Rode His Blog to the Edge of the World) or caught the CinchCast interview I did with Robert Scoble, you know that I have joined digital intuition pioneer my6sense as the company's vice president of Marketing, after working with the company for a year as an advisor as part of my work with Paladin Advisors Group. By joining my6sense, I am the company's first employee in the United States, as the bulk of the company is at their Israeli headquarters, and I get the opportunity, once again, to take a major participatory role in a tech startup which has the very real potential to change the way we consume information, of all kinds, in all places.

As you may know from my previous coverage of my6sense, the company has an iPhone application today that prioritizes content from your subscriptions and social streams, based on your own behavior, automatically. Even more importantly, the company has an "Attention API", which can plug into any content provider, stream client or social network, breaking us out of the box of editorially-divined content prioritization, or best guess social circle recommendations, or the most-common, simple chronological sorting.

Truth is, even for the most focused of us information consumers, we are missing interesting content. More people are sharing more information more easily in more places, and it is impossible to read every Tweet, every Facebook share, every RSS entry or every Google Buzz post. Our intuition tells us quickly what are the most important items, and we find ourselves skipping the rest, or getting annoyed at what we find less valuable, considered "noise". I fear it is only going to get worse.

Solving for this information overload dilemma has seen new companies debut interesting filters, or rely on popularity or community to push items that may interest you to the top, but this is not true human ranking function, or it expects you to explicitly list your interests by keyword or subject. From all the companies I've talked to, interviewed, tested, and written about, my6sense has the best underlying technology, which works implicitly, leveraging your own behavior and not only already works very well, giving me a great mobile feed reading experience, but also sets up the opportunity to make this the official prioritization and personalization engine for the Web.

Even if we wholly adopt the belief that there is value in real-time reactions and recency, there is much to be said for the right content to find its way to you at the right time, in the right context. Factors that make you decide whether to read one article or update over another can be dependent on many different things - the source, the author, the headline, the subject, or even the time of day or location, and my6sense's Phds are working on divining the best stuff just for you - not anybody else. And in the year-plus that I have used the iPhone app, I practically never use its alternate time-based view, as the content is unfiltered and usually off-topic.

What makes me excited enough about my6sense to put Paladin on the backburner, despite the firm's doing very well, and having just hired a new partner, is that this is the right time to start plugging in prioritization and personalization for the entire Web. If the entire story were "just" an iPhone application, it wouldn't be interesting. But consider the benefits of personally curated content sites from major media outlets, social networks and clients. Consider how valuable it would be for those sites if users found content more relevant and stayed just percentage points longer per site, read more stories, and clicked on more relevant ads. Consider the real value of not contributing to the world of information overload, but cutting through the noise like a warm knife through butter, find the best and ignoring the rest.

My6sense already has the best technology, from all I have seen and heard, to make this happen. Now comes the opportunity to help do my part, an active role, to transform the company from technology leader to market leader.

And if you are curious what this means for the future of louisgray.com, I will of course be changing my About page and will offer disclosure if there is ever a time that warrants it, just as I always have. I have tried to bring solid content and ideas and smart technology here since 2006, when I worked for a hardware company, and in the last year, as a new media Partner at Paladin. The perspective changes, but the goals remain the same. Please do continue to keep me honest, and always let me know if you think I have crossed the line.

If you haven't yet had a chance to catch the call I did with Robert Scoble from Monday night, it is embedded below.