Collective Information Filtering for Web Observatories

Collective Information Filtering for Web Observatories

Nikolaos Nanas, Manolis Vavalis, Lefteris Kellis, Dimitris Koutsaftikis, Elias Houstis
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-841-8.ch008
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Web observatories are becoming a common on-line practice. Their role is to compile, organize and convey information that serves the needs of a thematically focused Web community. So far they are typically following a centralized approach, with an editorial team being responsible for finding, collecting, editing and presenting the observatory‘s information content. We propose a new approach for the development of Web observatories based on Collective Information Filtering. Community profiles are used to capture the collective interests of community members and evaluate the relevance of information content accordingly. We can thus build Web observatories that can be dynamically enriched and can continuously adapt their content to the interests/needs of the observatory‘s community. This new approach not only reduces significantly the cost of developing and maintaining a Web observatory, but also, following the current Web trends, it is community driven. In this chapter, we discuss Collective Information Filtering and we describe the architecture for applying it to a Web Observatory. We also present a series of prototype Web Observatories that adopt the proposed approach.
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Although nothing replaces the feel of a real book in your hand, nowadays for more and more people the Web is replacing regular books. The Web also replaces other commonly used artifacts, and often provides new meaning to notions and concepts. Several meanings of the word “observatory” used to exist well before the arrival of the Web. An observatory might be (1) a place for making observations on the heavenly bodies, (2) a building fitted with instruments for making systematic observations of any particular class or series of natural phenomena, (3) a place from which a view may be observed or commanded, (4) a lookout on a flank of a battery whence an officer can note the range and effect of the fire, (5) an organization dedicated in continually collecting information on critical issues, etc. As it will become apparent below, the Web added one more meaning to the word observatory.

The most common observatories are the ones concerning astronomy which share many common characteristics and practices with a plethora of other types of observatories associated with nature and natural phenomena (e.g. meteorology observatories, ocean observatories, volcano observatories, etc.). Most of these observatories are nowadays organized around a Web portal which often is one of their most important components. New type of observatories, not directly related to natural phenomena, emerged in the past few decades (e.g. health observatories (Hemmings & Wilkinson, 2003), language observatories (Mikami, et al., 2005) standards observatory (Anido, RodrÃguez, Caeiro, & Santos, 2004), etc.). These observatories are commonly built with information technology tools and several of their activities heavily involve the World Wide Web. The success of most of these observatories not only led us to a natural context switch but essentially defined the term Web Observatory.

Web Observatories (WOs) are systems which allow for the inclusion of Information Technologies (IT) and the Web in order to monitor and synthesize information within the context of a focused organization. Their main challenges remains very similar to the ones associated with conventional observatories: they have to provide an elevated chamber and a collection of facilities and tools to comfort systematic and exhaustive information collection, effective processing and proper dissemination. The only difference is that this chamber and the related facilities and tools are mostly Web entities. The reader is referred to (Nanas, Vavalis, Koutsaftikis, Kelis, & Houstis, 2009) for help on elucidating the concept “Web observatory” and identifying its characteristics and practices and to bibshonomy.org1 for a large collection of WOs. Their main areas of interest are e-government, Information Society and the IT, the e-health, e-business, e-learning and education and e-inclusion. The general objective of these WOs is to develop an apparatus for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of certain activities, the implications associated with various phenomena and trends, and the reactiveness of the individual persons or groups of individuals on such activities/phenomena (Manouselis & Sampson, 2004).

There is an astonishing diversity on many of their characteristics. For example: Some of them focus only on a small geographic region or a particular narrow thematic area while others concern the whole planet and/or broad subjects. Most of them are owned and operated by non-profit organizations but privately owned WOs do exist. Many operate with less than 5 employees while some involve a large team of full time workers. As expected, these WOs also share several common properties. Unfortunately some of them are undesirable and others need to be improved. The objective of this chapter is to investigate the possibility to utilize emerging Web and Information Technology advances in order to effectively and properly reconsider these properties paving the way to next generation WOs.

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