Computing Applications

Editorial Pointers

  1. Article

If this issue does nothing else, it should convince you that personalization means something different to anyone who uses it, creates it, designs tools around it, even writes about it. Indeed, this milestone edition came about because of differing opinions over the questions and technologies that define personalization.

It all began in March 1999, when Maurice Mulvenna contacted me about developing a special section on the remarkable advances in systems that personalize the Web experience for each user. He envisioned a section that would examine the science of personalization and the challenges e-businesses face in building sites that are customizable to every user. After all, a happy customer is a loyal customer, and a loyal customer winds up on the company’s bottom line.

We jumped at the opportunity to cover this field and were pleased to have Mulvenna and colleagues Sarabjot Anand and Alex Büchner sign on as guest editors. As first drafts arrived, I contacted Doug Riecken, a longtime member of Communications’ Advisory Board and a big-time Communications enthusiast, who also happens to be an expert in the field of AI and personalization. I was hoping he would help assess the manuscripts at hand; what he did was much more.

While noting the excellence of the articles for their strong overview of the science behind data mining and Web-based tailoring technologies, he was quick to point out his own view of personalization involved a much different emphasis. He wanted articles that discussed business and user experiences; he envisioned essays that examined the deeper issues of commonsense reasoning and privacy protection, and he implored me to include reports on some of the new tools and interfaces that enable the personalization process. More important, he was willing to take the lead in this quest.

As a result of these spirited efforts, we present a landmark issue on the state of personalization technology. A record 58 authors participated in this project, producing 26 articles exploring the software and systems that learn user needs by tracking their usage patterns and preferences. Everyone may agree the ultimate goal of personalization is to give users what they want without them having to ask, but as you will read, there are many, many ways to tailor products and services to individual users. Our heartfelt gratitude goes to our tireless guest editors and authors for their support and devotion to this project.

Finally, let me point you to the debut of a new column we’re calling "The Business of Software" (p. 19). Phillip Armour, vice president and senior consultant at Corvus International, has worked in the software development business for over 26 years. He brings an intelligent, clear-sighted approach to the serious assertion that software is a medium, not a product. His first installment suggests a whole new way of viewing, developing, and managing software.

Diane Crawford,

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