Google Research

A Case for Usage Tracking to Relate Digital Objects

ReColl 2008 proceedings (section of IUI 2008 proceedings), ACM


This paper covers the evolution of the concept of Usage Tracking to automatically link digital objects such as documents. Extensive ethnographic studies of information work have revealed that establishing and maintaining relationships – between documents, between artifacts and between people – is at the core of information work. Focusing on just one aspect of this challenge, we looked for practical ways of relating digital documents. Leveraging the fieldwork, we designed a mechanism captures the user’s activity across documents and reinterprets it as links between these docu¬ments. We implemented the mechanism as a running prototype to assess the feasibility of the concept, and in general gauge the opportunities to make better use of usage data – which are mostly gets ig¬nored in today’s computing platforms. Object to object relation building through usage data has three important advantages over most existing methods for automatically establishing relations: first, it is behaviorist, not relying on guesswork about the user’s intentions; second, it is media agnostic: text, images and sounds are all just objects and treated alike; it is the user’s handling of the objects that matter, and third, it is application agnostic: it does not rely on privileged access to specific applications.

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