Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The web needs to get personal

07.01.2002


In the 1990s, we dubbed the Internet the `information superhighway`. So why is it still so hard to find what we are looking for online? According to Prof. Wendy Hall of the University of Southampton, it is because the web is mostly linkless. What`s more, if we want the Web to be useful in our daily lives, web links will have to become much more personal.



Prof. Hall is head of Southampton`s Intelligence, Agents, Multimedia (IAM) Research Group. She says that hand-crafted websites generally contain few links because they are too difficult to maintain. `It is hard enough to maintain the content, let alone the links.`

Web links are also notoriously frustrating. Computers let us click on objects and text, but only to follow information paths that have already been chosen. Using current systems, users are destined to remain forever lost in cyberspace, because designers cannot anticipate each of the thousands of different ways that people might want to use - and develop - the information contained within their pages.


`Say I`m looking at information about beaches and that makes me think about ice-cream,` says Hall. `I might want information about where I can get ice-cream. Someone else looking at the same information might want to know about the best surfing beaches. Someone else might associate beaches with the D-day landings and will want information about the second World War. All of these associative links can`t be predicted by the designer of a web site.`

But what if links were not pre-determined? What if information paths could be dynamically created and tailored to our interests? Hall and her colleagues have developed new systems that do just this. The key to such systems are paths called `user trails`.

`User trails are basically a record of what information the user has visited,` explains Hall. `They can be automatically created by the system as a user navigates around an information space.`

The idea is that by having collections of "pre-recorded" trails that users have found useful, automated processes can be created to help others with similar interests find information in the same context. `The matching of users, the tasks they are trying to perform and pre-recorded trails can be undertaken by automated processes such as agents,` says Hall. `These agents ask questions such as "Who else has seen this document?" and "What other documents did they read?". They work from the experience of others.`

Hall says travel guides use a similar principle in the non-digital world. `Someone has visited the city before and we use the information available in the guide to help us get to where we want to go,` she explains. `Printed travel guides aren`t so personalised but web-based ones could be.`

In the future, agents and user trails will help people learn by virtually following those with similar interests. `We won`t look for people who are going the same way as us, but our agents will,` says Hall.

Although the web is often presented as a mechanism that replaces human contact, Hall`s research suggests that the very opposite is true. Internet systems which rely on `user trails` will have human activity patterns integrated in their very core.

`At the moment we all see the same web. We actually need different webs, different sets of links, depending on what we are trying to find, what we know already and what context we are in,` says Hall.

The job for technologists, says Hall, is to put these more personal elements back into the system to reduce our dependence on pre-determined paths and links.

`One thing is certain,` says the scientist, `the Web will disappear behind the screens! And with it will go the buttons. Hypermedia is more than just point-to-point links. It is about making connections or establishing relationships. What we need to do is go "back to the future" in reducing our dependence on buttons.`

Dr Lloyd Anderson | alphagalileo

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Underwater acoustic localization of marine mammals and vehicles
23.11.2017 | IMDEA Networks Institute

nachricht NASA CubeSat to test miniaturized weather satellite technology
10.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New proton record: Researchers measure magnetic moment with greatest possible precision

High-precision measurement of the g-factor eleven times more precise than before / Results indicate a strong similarity between protons and antiprotons

The magnetic moment of an individual proton is inconceivably small, but can still be quantified. The basis for undertaking this measurement was laid over ten...

Im Focus: Frictional Heat Powers Hydrothermal Activity on Enceladus

Computer simulation shows how the icy moon heats water in a porous rock core

Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

IceCube experiment finds Earth can block high-energy particles from nuclear reactions

24.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 'half-hearted' solution to one-sided heart failure

24.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

Heidelberg Researchers Study Unique Underwater Stalactites

24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>