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I agree, although I don't think that the challenge has been solved for 'messaging' any more than it is for 'browsing'.
Many MMSC vendors and trancoding engines exist. But in my experience, the human process of determining delivery context for messaging is a similar process to that for web and markup content.
1) naively start using UAProf data, 2) realise it's wrong for the device in question, 3) beg, borrow, and steal better data from the manufacturer / OEM / test-team, 4) extract data from WURFL / the web / mailing lists, 5) patch it up into a private config file
Yes: vendors in this space are extremely adept at efficiently sizing, shrinking, re-writing, and re-coding. But when to do which, and with which constraints and parameters? Be believe that's where the imperative for accurate device recognition and descriptions comes in.
(In fact it's slightly harder for the push-based messaging context, brought on by the fact that you don't have any communication from the recipient to use as a clue to the device's identity.)
In summary, I am enthusiastic of DDR encapsulating more than just 'web' and 'browser' device descriptions. And I think we still have something valuable to provide there too.
Yes, you have indeed understood the essence of the DDR. For information on adaptors (technologies that use information from the delivery context to adapt the content delivered to a client) you should review the material produced by the Device Independence Working Group. Some of the DDWG members are also participants in the DIWG, so there is a lot of cooperation between the groups.
While you are reading the DIWG documents, bear in mind that whenever the phrase "delivery context" is mentioned, this is an opportunity for the DDR to play a role, because the DDR will be able to provide that part of the delivery context that relates to "static device characteristics".
If you have any questions about content adaptation, feel free to ask questions on the DIWG public mailing list . I have CC'd this reply to that list.
From: Tammy [mailto:taylortk@...]
Sent: 05 May 2006 04:20
To: Rotan Hanrahan
Cc: public-ddwg@... Subject: Re: Comments on Device Description Repository Requirements 1.0
Hi Rotan, all this conversation spurred me to read the working draft. Especially when I saw an email from Tim-Berners-Lee in my mailbox! While the discussions in this working group have been high level and beyond my understanding, the working draft seemed to make some things clear. If I understand the part of the picture correctly, using DDRs and content adapters - developers can build an unabridged encyclopedic Web site (full of text, tables, figures, drawings, video clips, sound and other learning objects) that will work for any device because content can be 'filtered' or reorganized based on the calling device. The content adapter is then uses the DDR to format the output. If a device can handle the full unabridged Web it will get it otherwise if it needs to fit into a pocket sized book the adapter makes the decisions of what goes, i.e. if the device can't take the video it can get the alternate graphic/text (a transcription or captions).
What I'd like to know is where can I learn more about the device adapters. I see them being to DDR what CSS is to HTML. Is that a correct analogy? One formats presentation the other formats content. Devices would not be the only thing to adapt to, how about content adapted to education grade level, reading level, intermediate/advanced, disability.... ?
Is there a public working group discussion list for the device adapters?
St. Petersburg College
Rotan Hanrahan wrote:
For the sake of avoiding the kind of loop that the BPWG experienced in past debates, let us concentrate on how this issue relates to the work of the DDWG.
Ms Breck notes that there are many people using a diverse set of mobile devices to access educational material on the Web. Unfortunately, much of the material they may wish to access is not available to them because it is incompatible with their device's capabilities.
The suggestion that the authors of existing material would recreate their material to suit this diverse community is interesting, but often impractical for a number of reasons:
- The authors may not have the resources (finance, time, etc.) to undertake the effort.
- The authors may no longer exist (people move on, people fade away).
- Alternative representaions of the content may not be available or appropriate.
Even if the authors decided to recreate their content for one set of limited devices, there will be other sets of limited devices that will continue to be incompatible with the content.
Adaptation is a potential approach. It can be applied in a variety of ways including:
- The original authors recreate their content in an adaptable format.
- A third-party provides a proxy that "scrapes" pieces from the original content and delivers it via an adaptation solution.
Scraping is a technique that requires heuristics/rules to determine the pieces of the content to be extracted, and then reformats these pieces into new content. In the absence of the original author, the process will have to "guess" the intention of the author (i.e. why certain pieces are in certain places). Sometimes it gets this right, more times it gets it wrong.
Regardless of how you obtain the pieces of content, there is always one essential step in the solution: ensuring that what you deliver to the end-user will work on the end-user's device.
It is this particular step that the DDR hopes to address. Without it, all of the other processes will be prevented from making the Web accessible to the types of users Ms Breck identifies.
Of course, it is obvious that an adaptation process is also key to this. I represent a company that provides professional solutions in this space, and I am joined by others in the DDWG who also provide solutions in this space. There are commercial and non-commercial solutions too. All of these will benefit from reliable device information. The commercial solution providers already build extensive private databases of such information, but a general standardised solution that could be used by anyone in the Web (including its mobile aspect) is necessary if everyone is to benefit equally.
Please note that some excellent effort has been made within the Open Source community, in particularly the WURFL project. It is therefore significant that both of the people leading that project are participating in DDWG, and we are grateful for their insights. We are also grateful for the input from the OMA community.
All of these people understand that to extend the reach of the Web and ensure that the benefits can be shared regardless of the capabilities or limitations of the devices, it will be necessary to have reliable device information. It is therefore fitting that there are messages on this list from potential user communities (e.g. students of the world) who will benefit directly from a successfully implemented DDR. It is for these people that we put in the effort.
In return, I would ask the representatives of these communities to let their colleagues know that the challenge of device diversity is not being ignored, and that we value your public support. We also ask you to support our "neighbouring" Device Independence group, as their goal is to exploit device knowledge with appropriate adaptable authoring technologies, which may eventually make diversity a real benefit, and not the "problem" it is so often perceived to be today.
Creating content that is as open as possible means making it available
to the widest possible audience, which means that content should be
adapted for a wide set of clients. This proves the opposite of what you claim here..
The phrase here ³wide set of clients² could be synonymous in this discussion with ³wide set of handsets² < because different clients choose different handsets. We have a reality in which the acquisition of devices for voice and email purposes has caused a splintering diversity of device-type.
In this situation where there are many types of devices, educators look around and see that there are a around a billion people who have the mobile phones and have no other connection into the Internet. Wouldn¹t it be wonderful if we could deliver educational resources through these phones!
The devices essentially all can receive texting, so that is one way. They will one day all host the Web. Perhaps there is an interim middle method to format existing educational materials for the variety of handsets. Perhaps there is not . . .
I don¹t mean to start another loop, and apologize for that. My background is having headed (1996-2001) the content of HomeworkCentral.com (became BigChalk.com and was absorbed by ProQuest). I was able to hire graduate students to select links to their academic subjects and to organize them in interlinked packets by subject. We found 150,000+ links of academic knowledge and organized 35,000+ subjects that were visited 4 million times monthly by 2000.
All of the links we collected were ³open content² < that is freely accessible online at no charge. Those links, and many more, are still out there at MIT¹s open courseware, the Smithsonian, laboratories, expert websites etc. etc.
As was true more than ten years ago, anyone with Internet access can enjoy this handsome digital material from Florence about Leonard, including those with Web featured phones. But for the upwards of a billion other people who have no Web access but do have phones, perhaps there can be a common format devised to deliver Leonardo, at least in part, now or soon. It could be a format into which the scholars in Florence could revise their exhibit so small screens, blackberries, Palms and the rest could interface some of the knowledge.
Apologies if this is not the appropriate forum. Thanks for the chance to express the thoughts.