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Goals

Develoment of novel electronic document architectures, which are:

  • mobile , i.e., can migrate over the Web between users and services,
  • executable, i.e., enable exploration of information resources related to their content via interaction of users with logical structure elements,
  • intelligent, i.e., can realize on their own various tasks assigned to them by originating authors,
  • evergreen, i.e., are able to serialize and deserialize, dynamically reorganize their logical structure, and automatically update their content,
  • forward compatible, i.e., do not subscribe to any particular vendor, tool or format.

Documents play a key role in any organized structure invented by human civilization, and constitute simultaneously an important information unit as well as an interface unit enabling interaction. This phenomenon is particularly common for knowledge based organizations, established to make decisions, discover facts or accumulate knowledge, like courts of law, forensic agencies, collaborative research teams, medical teams, etc. Full automation of business processes specific to such organizations with computer systems is not possible, due to the role played there by humans, who resolve issues for which no algorithmic solutions exists, or are very hard to find. Examples include: criminal trials, air crash investigations, medical consultations, or even restoration of historical objects from a set of artifacts. Computer systems supporting human users in non-algorithmic decision making is a serious challenge for future knowledge society technologies. The MENAID project addresses that challenge by approaching collaborative computing and virtual cooperation with methods and tools of document engineering - a new discipline of computer science initiated at Berkley by Robert Glushko and Tim McGrath in 2001.

 

A key objective of this new discipline is to invent and develop document architectures and representation formats, independent of information systems supporting their creation, interpretation, exchange and storage. Owing to their specific logical structure and embedded functionality, documents may be readable to humans and computers alike, enabling interaction between individual team members, between team members and system services, or between services alone. Independence of a document logical structure of any concrete computer system will allow for storing documents in repositories of various kinds - from publicly accessible digital libraries to specialized digital archives of a limited access - in a way assuring their forward compatibility with future systems. Document functionality providing for its interactivity with users may be implemented on top of a document logical structure by orchestration of external services available in its ecosystem, rather then direct implementation of systems dedicated to specific applications and classes of users. A collaborative computing model in such case becomes document centric, as opposed to the classic system or data centric views. A document engineering approach will be lightweight, and providing for document persistence and stability, as opposed to heavy system engineering solutions, getting obsolete as soon as their implementation technologies grow older.

 

It is expected that architectures developed by MENAID will enable implementation of:

  • non-algorithimic decision processes with mobile interactive documents (MIND),
  • executable papers with interactive open document architectures (IODA),
  • automated negotiation of collaboration protocol agreements (CPAs) over conflicting collaborating partners profiles (CPPs) in electronic document exchange systems within the ebXML standard.

All three architectures listed above have already been implemented as working demonstrators. The project is aimed to resolve several key issues concerning a possible scope of automation of processes in knowledge based organizations. They are in particular:

  • non-algorithmic decision problems for which mobile MIND documents can provide a vehicle for proper decisions (i.e., compliant with organization standards or best practices) rather then optimal ones, which due the lack of algorithmic solutions may never be possible
  • elements of any logical document structure which may be executed with some assumed level of performance, security and scalability,
  • classes of conflicts in collaboration protocol profiles of collaborating parties that may be resolved by the means of automated negotiations