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Editorial pointers

Editorial Pointers


Just as physical cities emerged over the centuries by creating environments that fostered inhabitants to share and consume a multitude of services, so too are "infohabitants" being drawn to urban life in the virtual world. The roots of these emerging information cities may not be as deep as their physical counterparts, but economic and social environments are once again beginning to sprout.

Today, consumers and businesses in swelling numbers congregate and engage in socioeconomic activities over the Net, transforming vast complex portals into bustling trading centers drawing them to access information, pool knowledge, and form networks reflecting their personal interests and needs. Yes, these "infocities" mirror the magnetism of real-world cities, but sometimes on a scale of global proportions.

This month's special section spotlights the working models, technological foundations, and design challenges inspired by this movement toward information cities. Guest editors Jakka Sairamesh, Alison Lee, and Loretta Anania envision a future where the boundaries between the physical and virtual worlds vanish or exist in harmony, thus creating a new kind of urbanization. These articles give us a sense of what it will be like to live there.

Also this month, von Ahn, Blum, and Langford examine many examples of CAPTCHAs—the Automated Turing Test software that can (ironically) generate and grade tests it cannot pass—used by a growing number of Web sites to prevent automated registrations. Lichtenstein analyzes 17 contracts in three companies to predict how they should reflect a project's risk and customer-specific investment.

Albrecht finds the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) may be the primary mechanism for Web services architecture, but may also find itself under scrutiny by security personnel. Kishore et al. explore how the Helix-Spindle model offers an effective way of thinking about ontological engineering. And Brereton considers the curious relationship between software customers and suppliers, tracing how that relationship changes over time and commitment.

"Practical Programmer" Robert Glass returns to open source terrain, this time studying the economic benefits and pitfalls associated with the open source movement. Pamela Samuelson wonders if there is balance to be found between copyright holders and technology developers. And Lauren Weinstein examines the implications and "Inside Risks" of the global outsourcing phenomenon.

Diane Crawford,
Editor


©2004 ACM  0002-0782/04/0200  $5.00

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