Touching hands
3.1.3Personalisation and Delegation

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Although it is not that apparent in the general line of development, developments in the long term in the area of information exchange, as well as in the area of the Internet and intranets, seem to be towards increasing diversification of the entire information market, which in its turn enables increasing personalisation of information exchange.
This increasing diversification, and most certainly the increasing personalisation of information, could be a very logical next step. In many areas (of our lives, in an organisation's business, etc.) it is common practise to farm out certain activities or responsibilities to others. In many of our daily, but also many not-so-daily tasks, we farm out the need to possess certain knowledge and experience to specialists and organisations that have made this task to be their primary (or core) activity. For instance, we could go out and visit as many bookshops as possible, and take as many subscriptions to magazines and journals as possible, but we chose to do things differently and visit a library instead, or we buy magazines (e.g. Quote) to relieve us from the task of gathering, selecting and editing the news and information that best suits our information needs. An important reason for doing all this is that this activity or task does not belong to your core (or main) activities, or - in plain English - because (learning to) doing it yourself would just cost too much time and money.

When looking at the current state of affairs on the Internet, the need to outsource one or more Internet-related tasks and activities is getting bigger and bigger. If the Internet is to become the basis for the future information and service market place, then things will have to change, as using it now is time-consuming, laborious and quite often not very satisfying at all: many feel lost, and are unable to cope with the seemingly endless amounts of information that are available to them.
The first signs of such changes are becoming apparent already, in the form of techniques and products such as Push Technology, the first software agent applications, and various kinds of personal (Web-enabled) current awareness services. While these are far from being the perfect solution, the general public is accepting and using them with great eagerness.
Of course, there will always remain groups of people who choose to satisfy their information needs all by themselves, because they are dissatisfied with the selections as offered by third parties (for instance through Push channels), or just because they like doing this themselves. However, many people may be expected to choose not to do this, and will happily rely on the (cap)ability of others to do this for them. And there will be about as much possibilities and alternatives available to fit a person's needs as there are types of persons, i.e. some will want extensive services and premium content and are willing to pay the price for such services. Others will use free or nearly free services such as the public library or add-sponsored information sites, as they are not willing (or able) to pay a high price for getting the information they need.

The bottom line of this introduction is two-fold:
1. There will not be one or very few, but many ways and forms in which information can be offered and obtained, enabling each individual or organisation to choose the way(s) that suits them best;
2. This whole process of offering and obtaining information and services through the electronic market place will be enhanced and catalysed in various ways, and will be more personal as to fit the personal needs and preferences of each individual (user, supplier, etc.). This added-value and catalysing 'force' will be called agency.

In the next section the concept of "agency" will be (loosely) defined and explained, and it will be shown how it is intertwined with the two current information streams in the information market, as well as with a third, emerging one. We will then move on to look at the concepts and techniques that play a primary role in these three trends (i.e. Information Brokering and software agents). The last part of this chapter will deal with the techniques and concepts that play a secundary role, i.e. which are most likely to provide the necessary groundwork to make the whole system function properly and optimally.

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Chapter 3 - From Internet to Online Market Place "Desperately Seeking: Helping Hands and Human Touch" -
by Björn Hermans