Jerry B. Weinberg, Ph. D.
Acting Associate Provost for Research and
Dean The Graduate School

The Hyperlink Agent Application consists of two functional components: a Graphical User Interface (GUI) front-end for the web author and a GUI front-end for the web viewer. The web author front-end provides a means for the web page creator to semi-automatically interconnect or hyperlink documents and resources. This hyperlink automation is done for internal documents and resources as well as external documents and resources available throughout the particular web site. The mechanism that is used employs an Intelligent Agent approach. The Hyperlink Agent consists of a set of software components or algorithms that scrutinize user documents and create intelligent suggestions on how the resources should be interconnected. The agent suggests connections that will tightly integrate the resources based on their actual content. The user then has the opportunity to select which connections they feel are appropriate. Once the connections are selected, the Hyperlink Agent automatically creates the selected hyperlinks. A database is used as a central repository for related web site information. It ties together all of the resources available on a particular web site. Keywords or terms act as the glue that bonds information in the database to information on the site. Each term can have a number of resources (i.e., Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) documents, text files, definitions, etc.) associated with it. Each resource referenced contains some sort of information about the term. This feature creates a web site that is tightly interconnected based upon the content of its resources. The Hyperlink Agent provides a means to associate a term to many resources. This is an advantage over HTML that only allows a term to be connected to a single resource.

The web site user or viewer utilizes the second component of the Hyperlink Agent Application. The viewer makes use of this second component to explore particular topics on a web site or group of sites created by the Hyperlink Agent. The web documents modified by the first component (the GUI front-end for the web author) contains hyperlinks that interact with the central data repository. When an end-user selects such a hyperlink the agent retrieves the web sites? resources for items that match the users? request. The user is then presented with a dynamically created web document that lists all of the resources it determined appropriate for the submitted request. The returned resources are then presented in such a fashion as to minimize certain negative aspects of web research. These negative aspects include ?information overloading?, where too much information is presented in an unorganized and confusing manner, and the feeling of ?lost in space?, where the user loses track of the current topic of a hyperlink trail. The user should be able to navigate to a particular web resource, follow related trails, and return to the original reference page with minimal effort. The possibility that the user will lose their reference to a particular trail or research topic will be minimized by an efficient and intuitive user interface.

The Hyperlink Agent Project

Michael S. Bennett