Attensa

Attensa offers two rich enterprise RSS products

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Enterprise RSS vendor Attensa has released two new products this summer and I was able to take a look at both last week. The company now offers Attensa for Outlook version 1.5 beta and an Attensa Feedserver. Attensa Online, a consumer product we’ve written about in the past, has been deprioritized in favor of an enterprise focus. Attensa was one of the 12 highlighted innovators at the TechCrunch sponsored session at SuperNova this summer.

While RSS for individual news reading is invaluable, leveraging it for organizational communication is undoubtedly going to become a common practice in the near future. Attensa’s use of attention data in both its Attensa for Outlook and Attensa Feedserver products is impressive now and the potential for the future is really exciting. Just about any source of information can be delivered by RSS and as the practice becomes more common we’re going to need more sophisticated ways to take advantage of the medium.

Portland, Oregon based Attensa is based on technology that was originally intended to track consumer interaction with advertisements: clicks, duration of interaction, context, etc. That technology could and likely will be applied to consumer interaction with any type of information artifact – but RSS is a very timely area to focus on.

The company has received $12 million in two rounds of funding, from Portland’s Smart Forrest Ventures and Cambridge, Mass. based RSS Investors.

Despite the many advantages of RSS over email for many information needs, the medium threatens information overload on a scale that dwarfs email. While in the consumer news space, time of publication and popularity with other readers may be the most useful criteria for cutting through that overload – there are other priorities that come into play when your whole organization places RSS at the center of its communication practice. Content from the boss, popularity of items or sources amongst your department in particular and the time of day relative to your workflow are just a few examples of factors in the dynamic prioritization that most of us perform manually when interacting with our many sources of incoming information.

Attensa automates much of this prioritization by moving high priority feeds to the top of your feed reader. It’s a rich and changing algorithm, but the company has a free 60 day trial of its Attensa for Outlook beta with easy import of your OPML file, so I can’t think of any reason not to give it a try if you’re an Outlook user. The interface is familiar and clean, it’s just a question of whether the way it enables you to interact with your feeds proves useful to you. As you can see in the image here, the program lets you put some feeds manually at the top of your list, some at the bottom and then prioritizes the bulk of your subscriptions in the middle field.

When and if your whole organization gets onboard with using RSS, the Attensa Feedserver appears to be a simple and powerful way to integrate everyone’s feed reading together behind a firewall and with sophisticated administrative control. The Feedserver is a box that comes preloaded with Attensa software for serving, synching and administering feeds across your organization. A very usable web UI lets you put different people in different groups, with unique sets of default feeds, permission levels for things like deleting feeds or synching with del.icio.us.

If you read TechCrunch you probably know how easy RSS can be, imagine being able to set up different departments in your organization with feeds preselected as key for them – whether it be persistent search for competitors’ company names, internal reports or the blogs of topical experts. Everyone gets to leverage the prioritization technology and management receives reports on who is reading what, what items and sources are popular – all behind the firewall.

The future for Attensa is very interesting. Think of it as a combination of Bloglines and Digg (plus a whole lot more) behind the firewall. Enterprise RSS alone is an incredibly fecund space just entering formative stages, but Attensa’s focus on attention data and prioritization is particularly intriguing. Presuming that Attensa’s algorithms work well for your workflow, the only disadvantage to its service today is that it’s liable to be even better in the future and hopefully extensibility and updates will be well executed. TechCrunch readers are a forward looking group anyway, right?

Other offerings worth a look are Newsgator’s Enterprise Server, which offers many of the same features but doesn’t appear to be leveraging user behavior the way Attensa does, and KnowNow, a solid if basic looking enterprise RSS play that now includes a brandable feed reader you can offer to customers.

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