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The organization that I will be conducting my research and assignment will be based on Yahoo.com. Yahoo is a very famous portal that handles massive traffic and requests for many of their services. Among the services provided are latest world and local news, entertainment, sports information, weather forecasting, marketplace and also email services. While most of the services and products can be accessed for free, customers can get premium contents or services for an agreed fee. The majority of the products offered are available worldwide in more than 20 languages.
Yahoo has a huge number of electronic commerce transactions from services such as Yahoo Shopping, Yahoo Real Estate and Yahoo Travel. This service allows users to collect important information and also allows them to make commercial transactions and purchases online. Yahoo’s revenue model is mostly contributed by their marketing services. The largest chunk of it comes from search advertising, where advertisers bid for search terms to display their advertisements on the search results. Apart from that, a big sum of revenue comes from the display and contextual advertising.
Yahoo’s website also has a very comprehensive search engine. It allows users to search the web for information, images and videos, news, directories and shopping. Yahoo’s search engine has a large, unique search engine database. It also includes cached copies of pages and links to the Yahoo directory. Not only that, Yahoo’s search engine supports full Boolean searching and Wild Card Word in phrase.
Looking at the how enormous the website is and the wide range of features and services offered, it is for sure that Yahoo is assisted by many types of intelligent agents to carry out the numerous tasks and procedures. The search engine alone needs a few potent intelligent agents to make sure it returns expected results. Further on in this assignment, I will identify the various types of intelligent agents that is implemented in Yahoo’s website and discuss them in depth.
2.0用户代理系统—— INTERFACE AGENT
One of the intelligent agents identified in Yahoo is the interface agent. In short, an interface agent can be defined as a character performed by a computer that interacts with the user, in a socially engaging approach. Interface agents also help users in carrying out computer-based tasks. The important characteristics of an interface agent include responsiveness, competence and accessibility. Interface agents can also act autonomously to carry out processes without precise directions from the user. Apart from that, they can also collaborate with other types of intelligent agents. Not only do they collaborate with other intelligent agents, there is also collaboration between the interface agent and the user in a same work environment. However, an interface agent may require specific agent communication language when cooperating with other agents but may not be the same when collaborating with a user.
To be able to assist users, these interface agents must be presented with some form of knowledge of its domain. The intelligent agent is provided with some background knowledge and learns the suitable behavior either from the user or from other agents. Basically, interface agents offer help and assistance to users who are using an application or system. The interface agent observes and monitors the actions carried out by the user in the interface, learns short cuts, and recommends other methods of performing a task better. Interface agents usually learn to better assist its user in 4 ways (Maes, 1994). Firstly, it learns by observing and imitating the user. Secondly, it learns by receiving instructions from the user. Thirdly, from positive and negative feedback that the user provides, the interface agent learns. Lastly, it can also learn from its peers, which are other agents.
Interface agents have been applied in various situations of application situations, in which the one measured here is software interfaces, for instance, the software that sits between the main application codes and the user. From the user’s point of view, this is the software system, so this component is very vital. Even a system which is developed very well will be useless if the user is unable to use the system due to poor interface. Hence, an interface agent is accountable for providing this interface. Normally, software interfaces will be reactive instead of being proactive. Consequently, the typical user will perform actions, send out commands or just interact with the interface which will pass this on straight ahead to the underlying application. Therefore, the interface is a straightforward matter, which will provide a handy means for accessing the aspects of the functionality of the system of interest to the user.
Figure 1.1 Structure of an interface agent application
2.2 Application of Interface Agent in Yahoo
2.2.1 User Registration
The application of interface agent that can be seen in Yahoo is in the page where new user’s sign up for an account under them. There are many types of online account registration. They can vary from one that only requires one’s email and choice of password to others that require one’s personal details, preferences and details on interests. Those that require users to fill in lots of information have to have some form of HCI usability to guide users to fill in the right kind of information. For instance, if someone enters alphabets into a field that requires only numbers, the form has to notify the user to change it.
In Yahoo’s user registration page, the interface agent interacts with the user to make sure the user enters the proper type of information. For instance as seen in Figure 1.2, when gender is not selected, the interface agent displays an error message requiring that the user chooses a gender. Also, when the date “February, 30, 2010” is entered into the birthday field, the interface agent once again notifies the user with an error message, “Are you really from the future?”.
Figure 1.2 Yahoo Registration (Personal Info)
Figure 1.3 Yahoo Registration (ID)
From Figure 1.3, we can see that the interface agent immediately informs the user that the ID must be between 4 and 32 characters long. Apart from that, there is another message below it to let the users know what they must and must not enter when choosing an ID.
Figure 1.4 Yahoo Registration (ID 2)
As seen in Figure 1.4, when an appropriate ID has been entered, another conflict arises and yet again, the interface agent notifies the user. This time, the problem is about the unavailability of the ID. So, the interface agent scans the database and comes out with a few suggestions of ID that has not been taken.
Figure 1.5 Yahoo Registration (Password)
From Figure 1.5, we can see that after choosing the available ID, the user is required to enter the choice of password. The interface agent then lets the user know how to make the password more secure and they are required to enter at least 6-32 characters with no spaces.
Figure 1.6 Yahoo Registration (Password 2)
In Figure 1.6, when the password which is “abc123” is entered, the password strength meter on the right of it went up to 3 bars. The interface agent here interacts with the user, letting them know the strength of the password as they enter it.
2.2.2 Music Recommendation
Another application of interface agent in Yahoo is in the music section. In this section, there are thousands of songs from many various genres available for users to listen to. Users are also able to view information regarding the band, artist, composer or the pictures of the album cover.
Instead of displaying all the music selections that they have, Yahoo’s music recommendation feature implements interface agents to learn the user’s preference in music so that the system could just provide the user with a small portion of the overall database of music which it thinks the user would like. However, the system also provides easy access to the whole database of music as the user’s preference may differ as time pass or the user may just choose to look at different types of music.
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