I spotted a new XML button on a blog yesterday:

Get My APML

The button links to an APML file that describes a person's interests, in an XML dialect suitable for consumption by software. APML, which stands for Attention Profiling Markup Language, has a short-on-detail spec that wasn't easy to figure out. There's an example and a schema, but no description of each APML element and how it can be used.

The web applications Engagd and Dandelife support APML, so I joined them to see how they use APML to describe my interests. Like John Tropea, the blogger who led me to APML, I like the idea of pulling this kind of data out of sites like Amazon.Com and Netflix so you can use it elsewhere.

I publish an OPML reading list of the RSS feeds I'm currently reading. Engagd will analyze this file to determine the subjects most of interest, storing the results in APML. The site decided that I'm geeked about these topics:
















The key attribute lists my biggest interests, according to Engagd. Before there are any misunderstandings, my concerns over "performance" are not personal in nature. I'm interested in the performance of the North Texas Mean Green.

Key interests should change as my reading list changes, because Engagd keeps monitoring it. The site can use my APML data to recommend items from other feeds, producing a new filtered feed in RSS format. Here's some Digg stories Engagd thinks I might like. (Note: The feed doesn't validate because of a rank element that's not in a namespace and other issues.)

APML doesn't show much promise in Engagd's current recommendation engine, but it's a new app limited by the data I gave it: one reading list. APML's designed to hold information about all of the stuff people are interested in -- products bought, movies viewed, books read, web sites clicked, celebrities stalked, and so on -- that they decide to offer for public consumption.

Excessive sharing gives me the heebie jeebies -- does the world really need to know much time I spent reading about Jason and Sam's breakup on General Hospital? -- but I'm going to start publishing an APML file on Workbench and pay some attention to the project. I don't like the green icon that Engagd developer Chris Saad has suggested for APML data, so I'm creating my own:

To get my attention, click my monkey.

Credit: Attention Monkey is borrowed from the Tango Desktop Project and is available under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license.

-- Rogers Cadenhead

Comments

Hi Rogers,

For me, the key thing about APML is that you get a local copy of your data and can port it, modify it, and just generally control it.

I use Particls, which generates an APML file on my local computer. No one else can see it - but I can. With time, it gets more detailed - but most importantly, I can see it and Particls lets me do what I want with it. I agree the whole sharing thing is a bit of an issue, but I suppose what I want to illustrate, is that you do that by choice - it's not a requirement.

Also, the quality of the ranked interests is purely limited by the generator - all APML does is store the data in a machine readable way that can be used consistently across applications.


 

79-10


 

Something I've always tried to avoid is tracking software. I clear cookies. I run software that filters certain kinds of requests made back to me as I surf. For all the promises of the brave new world where my interests tracked, recorded, and served back up to me, I wonder about tunnel vision.

If I were someone inclined to listen to echo chambers, I would be encouraged to believe that my ideas, my interests are the right ones, the only ones, and certainly the best ones.

You have to avoid yes-men in your life in other words, whether that be biological or electronic. The first time I ordered a book off Amazon I was bemused to find it badger me the next time I visited with selections that "others who bought 'XYZ' also purchased...etc. etc." Each time thereafter it would remind me of old purchases.

I happened to be visiting for a completely different reason and thought it less than helpful it was trying to still entice me into something I'd half read and then tossed aside. For unrelated reasons I've not purchased off Amazon again. At least that is what my non-paranoid side says is the case.

APML sounds interesting, but it does nothing to keep your mind open and seeking new avenues.

On the other hand, it's the remote control device to browsing the internet it seems. Good thing we don't need to get up to change the channel anymore. I love my remote.

Regards,
etc.


 

For me, the key thing about APML is that you get a local copy of your data and can port it, modify it, and just generally control it.

I use Particls, which generates an APML file on my local computer. No one else can see it - but I can. With time, it gets more detailed - but most importantly, I can see it and Particls lets me do what I want with it. I agree the whole sharing thing is a bit of an issue, but I suppose what I want to illustrate, is that you do that by choice - it's not a requirement.

Also, the quality of the ranked interests is purely limited by the generator - all APML does is store the data in a machine readable way that can be used consistently across applications.


 

Also, the quality of the ranked interests is purely limited by the generator - all APML does is store the data in a machine readable way that can be used consistently across applications.


 

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