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Since their launch at Techcrunch40, Xobni has been getting a lot of attention.

I don’t love the name (it’s inbox backwards) for reasons I’ve discussed before, but I do like the product. Xobni is an outlook plugin that contextually exposes metadata and links gleaned from within your .pst file. So when you’re highlighting a particular email you’ll see how often you email the sender and how often they email you, the times of day they typically email you, who else is connected to that person (in that they are on the same email threads), what other email threads you have with the sender, what attachments they have sent you, and much more. See below for an example of what comes up when I’m highlighting an email from my friend Dan Carroll:

screenshot of xobni

This is a good example of attention data in action. Some people call it the implicit web.

There are three reasons that this creates a good user experience:

1. It requires no effort from the user (because it uses implicit metadata that is gleaned from watching normal activity)
2. It is presented contextually (so you’re not overwhelmed with data when you don’t need it)
3. It informs decision/actions that the user might take.

This reminds me of a similar approach applied to online dating that I heard about a few years ago (can’t remember the source). Apparently one of the issues with online dating is that men send out tons of email to women and don’t hear back from many of them, while on the flip side, women get inundated with emails and can’t easily sort through the volume. The proposed solution was to make transparent to each woman how many other women each man who contacted them had also contacted. This simple change also fulfills the three criteria listed above, and would likely decrease volume of contacts as well as increase likely response rates.

If you’re interested in the attention economy, Seth Goldstein has been talking about attention data for years. The Defrag Conference in Denver in November will be addressing a lot of these issues as well (I’ll be on a panel there). If you’re interested in attending, use the code “SPEAKER1” to get $100 off your registration

I’d be interested to hear from readers about other good applications of attention data to improve user experience.