Internet Fish

Unknown author (1996-08-01)

I have invented "Internet Fish," a novel class of resource-discovery tools designed to help users extract useful information from the Internet. Internet Fish (IFish) are semi-autonomous, persistent information brokers; users deploy individual IFish to gather and refine information related to a particular topic. An IFish will initiate research, continue to discover new sources of information, and keep tabs on new developments in that topic. As part of the information-gathering process the user interacts with his IFish to find out what it has learned, answer questions it has posed, and make suggestions for guidance. Internet Fish differ from other Internet resource discovery systems in that they are persistent, personal and dynamic. As part of the information-gathering process IFish conduct extended, long-term conversations with users as they explore. They incorporate deep structural knowledge of the organization and services of the net, and are also capable of on-the-fly reconfiguration, modification and expansion. Human users may dynamically change the IFish in response to changes in the environment, or IFish may initiate such changes itself. IFish maintain internal state, including models of its own structure, behavior, information environment and its user; these models permit an IFish to perform meta-level reasoning about its own structure. To facilitate rapid assembly of particular IFish I have created the Internet Fish Construction Kit. This system provides enabling technology for the entire class of Internet Fish tools; it facilitates both creation of new IFish as well as additions of new capabilities to existing ones. The Construction Kit includes a collection of encapsulated heuristic knowledge modules that may be combined in mix-and-match fashion to create a particular IFish; interfaces to new services written with the Construction Kit may be immediately added to "live" IFish. Using the Construction Kit I have created a demonstration IFish specialized for finding World-Wide Web documents related to a given group of documents. This "Finder" IFish includes heuristics that describe how to interact with the Web in general, explain how to take advantage of various public indexes and classification schemes, and provide a method for discovering similarity relationships among documents.