WWW-9 Highlights

Web composition related work | WAP and the Web | GM OnStar system (ubiquitous comp.)

Web composition related stuff

Aurora (IBM Almaden)

Goal is to provide task-oriented access to Web services for disabled users (e.g. allowing the blind to use a speech interface to contact a Web service).  The approach is to construct a programmatic representation of the service, let the user interact with that, and use WBI (IBM's transcoding-proxy framework) to translate between the programmatic representation and actual Web transactions.  PatML (an XML-based pattern description language, presumably developed by the authors?) is used to express the rules by which an activity on a site (e.g. choosing an element from a popup list) is translated to the formal XML representation.  The XML-based descriptions can be rendered as simple HTML, WAP, text-to-speech, etc.

The "composition" element comes from the fact that Aurora lets the user interact with any one of a number of semantically-equivalent sites (e.g. bid on same item at Yahoo, Ebay, and OnSale).  For each semantic domain there is an XML representation (e.g. "bidding sites", "stock purchasing", etc.) and within a domain, there is a ruleset per Web site.  Anita Huang (main author) claims that grouping semantically-equivalent sites into a single domain and using a particular XML DTD per-domain has been helpful.

WebEngineering.org (TeCO, Univ. Karlsruhe)

Their desire is to make the Web look something like CHAIMS (I think!), where everything is a component and all components export well-known behaviors via a method-call interface.   Pages can contain multiple components.  Because pages today are not authored this way (but are instead authored using simple layout-only authoring tools), authors propose to develop tools to parse existing HTML, "extract components" from existing pages, store the component info separately and then augment it with method information.  They do not appear to have actually developed these tools yet, and they don't expect that the tools will be 100% automatic.

The main difference between their approach and ours is granularity: their grain of addressable entity is the component, which can be quite small and maybe dozens on a page, whereas our grain is the whole autonomous service.  I think our approach fits better with composition of existing services since it's easier to reason about the behavior of the overall entity over time and track changes in the service interface than it is to identify "components" inside the entity and track changes in individual components over time.


WAP-wide-web panel

Two totally distinct sets of topics: (a) technology issues (HDML vs WML, etc); (b) overall site structure and UE vs Web-specific UE. Panelists:

The panel was explicitly not intended to discuss whether it was justified for Phone.com to do a separate forum rather than deal with IETF/W3C.  The moderator was embarrassingly apologetic for phone.com, saying that "there is a $5b company there, and their advantage and size might have something to do with a proprietary technical advantage" -- sick.  Happily, Bruce Martin deflected this.

Summary points:

Things to think about:

Questions from audience

Mobile Web marketing (???, PriceWaterhouseCoopers)

"Mobile internet convergence" includes WAP, iMode/jMode, etc. - anything that gives Internet access to non-PC's

Ubiquitous computing related

GM Onstar system

This is a "platform" for delivering voice, data, etc. services to a driver while driving a car.  The UI consists of one or two buttons, microphone, speaker.    Current implementation: you press the button and are connected (via cellular) to an "advisor" who is your personal assistant.  There is also a big red button that connects you to 911.  The platform can tap into various car systems in at least two ways:

  1. Use other car devices - radio, etc. - for I/O.  This enables use of programmatic data services in the future, in addition to human-assisted.  There are also sensors connected to various things like airbags, etc. so the system can automatically detect if you've had an accident and call 911 for you.
  2. Limited control path into the car.  E.g. if system detects airbags have blown up, the remote advisor can direct your car to unlock its doors so that assistance can get in, flash the headlights and horn to get attention, etc.  I had some concerns about security here (imagine someone figuring out how to hack this!) but I was assured that their security was "extremely strong and extremely proprietary".  Boo, hiss.

Interesting points about OnStar:

This last point was ironic because Larry Lessig's keynote made exactly this comparison between wired/cell phone companies and the Internet: in one case the network is centrally controlled and you have to get cooperation from the operator to deploy new services, in the other case the network is not centrally controlled and anyone can offer a new service without anyone else's permission or cooperation.