CPSC 689/602--Spring 1997
Computer-Supported Cooperative Work

Paper Report

Title: The Information Lens: An Intelligent System for Information Sharing and Coordination
Authors: T. Malone, K Grant, K. Lai, R. Rao, and D. Rosenblitt
Citation: From Technological Support for Work Group Collaboration, pp.65-88, edited by M.H. Olson, 1989, Hillsdale, NJ Lawrence Erlbaum.
Reprinted in: Reprinted in: Groupware and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, pp.461-473, Edited by R.M. Baecker


This focuses on a prototype system, called the Information Lens. The objective of Information Lens is to help filter, sort, and prioritize messages addressed to an individual and also to find messages not specifically addressed to them which may be useful. One of the keys behind this system is using semi-structured templates for different types of messages. These templates are used by the senders when composing messages and by receiver to construct rules for filtering, categorizing, and otherwise processing messages of different types.

There are five key ideas that, together, form the basis of the Information Lens System:

  1. A rich set of semi-structured message types can form the basis for an intelligent information sharing system.
  2. Sets of production rules can be used to conveniently specify automatic processing for these messages.
  3. The use of semi-structured message types and automatic rules for processing them can be greatly simplified by a consistent set of display-oriented editors for composing messages, constructing rules, and defining new message templates.
  4. The definition and use of semi-structured messages and processing rules are simplified if the message types are arranged in a frame inheritance lattice.
  5. The initial introduction and later evolution of a group communication system can be much easier if the process can occur as a series of small changes.

The potential problems which can arise from the unintentional or purposeful misuse of the system include: excessive filtering, imperfect finding, excessive processing loads, privacy concerns, and conflicts of interest. A system like the Information Lens can be expected to work best in communities where people share goals and where there are not strong conflicts of interest about whether certain kinds of information are worthy of attention.


This paper presents a combination of ideas from artificial intelligence and user interface design to provide a powerful computer-based communication and coordination system. It shows how powerful the collaboration computers can be in providing more and more support for the information processing performed by individuals.

Report prepared by: Gary Baker, Email: sadiki@tamu.edu
Discussion date: Feb. 26, 1997 Report date: March 4, 1997