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Types of Agents

The term ``agent'' is used increasingly in the literature and means very different things to different people. We view agents as pieces of code that undertake tasks on behalf of a user of the system. Agents might be classified based upon the sophistication of the service provided. We believe that 5 levels may be a more appropriate classing for the kinds of tasks we have in mind.

Executive agents would be responsible for contributing planning level skills involving the entire group, or subgroups-- for example, an agent that enforced Robert's rules of order on a meeting might operate at this level.

Collaborative agents would be responsible for independent action and direct contribution where the action involved more than one individual--for example, an agent entrusted with setting up a meeting that included as many of the important actors as possible would be of the is class.

Contributory agents would be responsible for direct contribution to action where the action involves only a single individual--for example, an agent that reviewed comments and presented a classified list grouping comments into ``substantive arguments'', ``references and examples'', and ``grammatical corrections'' would be of this class.

Communications agents would be responsible for managing communications-- for example, mailing materials to a group, or coordinating responses to a ballot.

Service agents would be responsible for providing low level services to individuals or system components. The nature of these tasks is such that they are universal and generally trusted--for example, logging and reporting activity, managing directory information , etc.

Michael Spring
Mon Dec 16 14:39:59 EST 1996