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The Electronic Broadsheet


The following chapter gives an overview over the implementation by briefly describing the system setup, describing two possible user scenarios, and comparing the current implementation with the ideal newspaper from the first part of this thesis.

5.1 System Setup

The most visible part of the physical setup is the 2000-line color monitor. With its overwhelming size and resolution it dominates the location. The monitor is the driving force behind this project, and is a factor in all decisions. The user reads news articles off this monitor, but it can also be used for "normal" computing like word processing and text editing.

Beside the main display is a smaller color screen that gives the reader an overview of the news available. Since the newspaper has several section pages and only one page can be displayed at a time on the main screen, the map tells the reader about news articles on other pages. The space onto which the pages are laid out is the "newspace". See figure 8.

By clicking with the mouse the reader can indicate interest in certain articles. If a story of interest is found on the front page and there are more stories concerning the same issue on a section page, the system will pan over to the corresponding section page. The user can go back to the front page anytime.

5.2 News Path from Source to Screen

The Newspace project receives around 3000 news articles per day. This is more information than anyone wants to digest. Therefore, personalized filters screen the content of the articles to find the articles that have the highest match with each reader's personal profile [Orwant 91]. The articles that pass the filters are dispatched to the display application.

The communication between the article selection process and The Electronic Broadsheet is simple and clean. Communicating with the article selection process over a local network, the display application receives articles that are to be displayed. In return, the display application sends the user's response to the articles shown, e.g., what articles that have been read, how long time was spent on each story etc.

The user communicates with the display application by indicating interest in certain articles. By moving the mouse into the article that is currently being read, the display application calculates know how long time is spent reading each article. By clicking in the article, the reader expresses particular interest in the story. The user's motivation for following these rules is to get even better filters selecting news tomorrow.

5.3 Scenarios

The Electronic Broadsheet is intended to be personalized, not only with regard to content (quality) selection, but also reader habits like reading speed, frequency of reading etc.

The following scenarios illustrate how the system may adapt itself to different users. The two people described live slightly ahead of our time and have access to sophisticated equipment, but all aspects of the electronic newspaper described are implemented in The Electronic Broadsheet.

5.3.1 The Professional News Reader

"After the mandatory cup of coffee in the morning, Judy sits down in front of the display and starts another working day. Her employer is a major chemical conglomerate and her job in the public relations department is to follow the newspaper media coverage of the daughter companies. She gets most of the information she needs from the screen. This morning one of "her" companies has had an explosion in one of their plants. Two stories covering the event have made it to the front page. The articles are accompanied by figures that show that the accident was caused by a leak from an old pipeline. No question, this will be the topic of the day. A quick glance at the map tells her that several other articles, probably concerning the same case, are waiting for her on the section page. She can see from the faded tint that they have been sitting there for a while--good she got here a little early this morning. She also notices that the stories come from major wire services. That means work! Judy points at one of the articles and the section page corresponding to the unfortunate company comes up.

After reading the remaining articles in the section, Judy knows there is nothing she can or should do. Her weekly report about the media image of the company will for months to come describe the consequences of the accident and how to deal with the negative publicity, but she can use the next hour or two to catch up with the rest of the world.

When she returns to the front page it looks quite different. The articles she read have disappeared - replaced by more recent news. Every now and then a new article comes up. She can see them pop up on the map, while old articles are taken down. When starting to use the system she was worried about losing important information when unread articles were taken down. After a while she realized that only articles with low priority or outdated information were eliminated. Often they were replaced by more recent versions concerning the same issue.

Suddenly a picture of her manager pops up on the personal mail page. She recognizes his face even if it's scaled down on the map. His accompanying message, which just wanted to make sure she was on the right track, reminds her of the report he expects tomorrow. Reading news is not everything she does. There is always a report due and some thought in the back of her head that has to be spelled out. The word processing page is handy for this, no news articles will disturb her there..."

5.3.2 The Casual Reader

"Bill comes home just after 6pm. As a gardener he spends most of his working day outside wasting few thoughts on what goes on in the rest of the world. However, after dinner he sits down in front of his monitor to go through the most important stories of the day. His main interests concern the environment and recently there has been plenty of good coverage. Today's top story describes the indictment of a chemical plant leader charged with negligence that eventually caused an environmental disaster. "Just about time this news got out to everyone," he says to himself not realizing that most people got a totally different front page from his.

The front page also contains electronic mail from members in the botanical society. They are identified not by their picture, but by their favorite plant. The yellow tulip made it to the top--that's the society president's identification. Today she didn't have much of importance to say, just some random ideas for the next meeting. Bill replies with some of his random thoughts.

More environmental news pops up as he reads his personal mail. Enough is enough--he decides to take a break from disasters. Thank goodness for the comics page..."

5.4 What was not Implemented

Current technology does not allow for the implementation of the ideal paper as described in part I. Also, sloppy programmers hinder development. Here is a list of some important elements that have not been implemented so far:

* The frame buffer is able to show small video segments. This powerful medium is undoubtedly a part of the newspaper of tomorrow, but today it is a cumbersome source. It is hard to automate the process of digitizing news from television--the only source we have at this point. As a result, there is only a few video sequences available and they have little news information value. They are shown to visitors as a part of the Newspace demo, but is not fully integrated in the newspaper presentation.

* Pictures and figures are also important information in today's papers. Currently, the Newspace project has access to a news figure source, but setting up the system to automatically grab new diagrams has turned out to be a problem. A solution is in progress, and will hopefully be integrated in the near future.

* Electronic mail has not been included as a regular service. Mail can be sent to a demo user, formatted and displayed on the screen, but there is no way to reply to messages without turning to regular UNIX utilities.

* After an article has been formatted, the Electronic Broadsheet only knows about it as a pixmap, i.e. it doesn't know which words a story contains or where they are displayed. In order to increase user feedback granularity this will have to be changed.

* Some user parameters, such as the rate at which articles fade is not variable in the current implementation.

5.1 - System Setup
5.2 - News Path from Source to Screen
5.3 - Scenarios
5.3.1 - The Professional News Reader
5.3.2 - The Casual Reader
5.4 - What was not Implemented

The Electronic Broadsheet - 30 JUN 95
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