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Below is the reviews of the general agents that are envisioned for
CASCADE--Document Agents, Navigation Agents, Writing Assistants, Management
Agents, and Personal Preference Agents.
- Document Structuring Agents
- The document agents will be built with three
basic assumptions in mind. First, the underlying electronic document will be
SGML-compliant--i.e. it will be rigorously structured and controlled from a
logical point of view. Second, it will make use of a system for linking
document components in a controlled hypertext web that adds integrity assurance
to URL and Hytime standards. CASCADE will build on the widely used URL
approach adding the structure and control suggested by the Dexter Hypertext
Model. Third, agents will employ message passing.
The current document space in CASCADE reflects the underlying unix file
system. This will be replaced with an SGML repository residing in the DBMS
that views the document as a logical structure consistent with both SGML and
the user's mental model of the document and comments. Within the structure the
user should be able to seamlessly view the entire document even though each
section may be under the control of a different individual or group.
Research indicates the importance of the representation of text. Comments and
revisions need to be associated with the appropriate portion of text. There is
a need to facilitate commenting and linking these comments to specific parts of
text. Also related is the display of various text items--full text,
`place-holders', and annotations. Their distinct functions imply a need to
represent or display these items differently. The right to directly modify or
alter the text is another option needed in a collaborative system. This implies
that the ability to identify commentors or revisers is required. This concept
also relates to generations of the same documents and management of those
previous versions. Access to the current, as well as prior, versions of each
document section will be supported. Document space construction agents will be
responsible for both the logical structuring of the entity as well as the
physical creation of the structure. In addition, the Document Space Agent will
be responsible for distribution of the components in order to achieve the goal
of document immediacy and ubiquity.
While CASCADE will support and encourage electronic documents that have no
linear form, there is a clear need for the creation of paper and electronic
copies of documents that have a ``normal form''. This will be the
responsibility of the Linear Document Construction Agent. This will require
that the agent understand how and when links are to be traversed, and how the
resulting composite document should be processed for presentation.
CASCADE provides a number of facilities for inserting, reviewing, and reporting
on comments which will be presented in the next section.
- Navigation and Browsing Agents
- The prototype browsing tool currently
provides a two-dimensional overview of the physical document space. Docuverse
represents a large document space by selecting only one or two attributes of
the documents in the space. The browser is a tree-based structural display of
part of the document. It shows individual document components and the links
between them. Also the landmark and preview tools are used to aid navigation
in CASCADE. More details will be presented in the next section.
A graphical directory tree makes it easy to find the desired document and its
sub-components. Usability studies will be required to determine the best
graphical representation. The navigation function will map additional data to
the visual structure in accord with the general rules set out by Spring
. Icon color, size, shape, and intensity can be used to display
various information about the node. Finally, a lens feature can be implemented
to allow for component preview. A document viewer is an integral part of the
navigation mechanisms. Whenever a document node is accessed, the document
contents become visible along with its hypertext links. Given the proper
permissions, a document may be directly edited at this point but it is
anticipated that only minor changes will be performed this way. The viewer
will mainly be used to read and navigate the hypertext document and to embed
comment or reference links directly into the text.
- Writing Assistants
- Every document is written in accord with a set of
goals and constraints; it is important for the author to be mindful of these.
Engelbart and Lehtman  discuss the notion of an on-line handbook
which contains pertinent information for a given project. Writers could access
a listing of relevant information about a particular document.(This
informational object mechanism could be sensitive to the specific document and
present information accordingly.) This suggests a document information agent
with information about audience, tone, style, deadline, key words, words and
phrases to be avoided, sample formats, etc. which could be invoked as needed
by the writer. Writers might request that the system check their work against
a designated standard. The writer could select the topic of choice, view
his/her document and the explanation. We believe that providing constraint
management for style, content, and format concerns will improve the quality of
the document and reduce the amount of time needed to complete the document.
The following questions will need to be answered.
- What is the most effective way to present this information to the users?
- Given that authors will find the notion of a ``reminder'' window useful,
what document information should be maintained?
- Will all authors or will only the primary author use them (find them
- How will system checking of the work of the authors affect the quality of
- Will these features result in earlier draft versions because authors know
that `checker' features are available?
- What writers workbench kinds of features will be most used?
- Management Agents
- There are any number of decisions that will need to be
made by the individual or team with overall responsibility for the group
effort. These include such mundane issues as setting up versioning
parameters, checking system usage, creating or changing access rights, etc.
At a meta level, some individuals will want administrative agents that do all
the work. Others will want administrative agents that only execute explicit
instructions. Below we provide a sample of the kinds of agent functionality
that will be explored in this class.
- provide for version/revision control -- number of versions to keep, when
to establish major version points, etc.
- assignment of components to individuals and vice versa.
- reports on attempted security violations or complaints regarding access.
- locking/unlocking of components as they are completed or opened for
- check-out and check-in of documents as they are worked on
- collection of ``garbage'' for audit trails. For example, as components
are completed or as comments are marked as ``satisfied'', ``outstanding'', or
``irrelevant'', keep track of what is done.
Time management is another concern in collaboration. Deadlines could be
brought to the writers attention in a variety of ways--e.g. messages when a
deadline is approaching, Changing color of the document's border or icon, etc.
To develop a time management module, we need to know the types of reminders are
most effective and least offensive to users, which visual cues best indicate
- Personal Preference Agents
- In addition to `look and feel' preferences
such as colors, fonts, window decorations, sizes and bitmaps, the personal
preference agent will handle such things as:
- Preferences for views and filters
- Preferences for starting location i.e. ``home'' versus ``last
- Writing/commenting preferences such as signature files for comments and
mail, default name and type for comment labels, etc.
- Display/browsing preferences such as which links to display, how to
annotate them, i.e. by date, by username, etc.
Next: Information Aided Processes
Up: CASCADE Agents
Previous: Existing Agents
Mon Dec 16 14:39:59 EST 1996