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ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)


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Rick Cecil <[log in to unmask]>
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Rick Cecil <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 11 Nov 1999 07:37:23 -0500
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challis wrote:
> What happens in a world of media convergence when we're dealing with
> pervasive, handhelds, portables, smart appliances, broadband,
> audio, video,
> etc., etc.? Can we build 'smart' tools that parse, sort, and deliver
> content/information/data that is appropriate for the target platform? Will
> humans need to custom design for these various platforms? Or is it a
> combination of the two?

I'm not a tech guy, but here's how I think it might work.

With XML (other non-proprietary technologies may work as well--like PHP,
etc.  Of course, all this works in conjunction with CGI/PERL and a database)
we will be able to have content in one bin and templates in another bin.
When a user makes a call to the server for information, the server will
first evaluate the type of media the person is using and then smash the
content into the appropriate template before sending it uptream.

The thing that really gets me about XML, though, is the power behind it.
Imagine working at a newspaper that takes the story the reporter types into
their database of stories and codes it up in XML.  Copy editors can pull the
story from the database, place it on the page.  And after the paper is
complete, someone can press a button and send the storied into the web-bin.
A web-user surfs buy the site shortly after the button has been pushed, the
web server grabs the most recenet content, shoves it into a template and
sends it on its way.  Of course, this would cause a lot of server load, so
you could have flat-files created right after the internal database dump.

To make a long answer even longer, you would have a combination of
automation and human interation.  You would need a human to develop the
templates, write all the XML and programming, and get the internal database
to talk to the web server.

Right now, we're doing an early version of this with Oxford University

I'm not sure what technologies we're using--the tech-geeks handle that (I'm
just a desing-geek), but it works in a similar way.  We get the data, and
then run it through a build that shoves all the data into a template.  Now,
we could expand this by fleshing out more templates and having the build
also shove the information into a template for TV, one for handhelds, etc.

Now, here's the question, what kinds of information do you put on the site
for handhelds, for TV?  How will people read differently on those devices?
Currently those will have less screen real estate than the browser has.  (Of
course, WebTV is not really combining TV and Web--merely puting the web onto
your TV.  And once the Web actually comes to the TV we may not have this

I'll shut up now.  Please forgive me, it's early and I seem to have

Richard F. Cecil
Interface Designer
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