WO2001022194A2 - A method and system for facilitating research of electronically stored information on a network - Google Patents

A method and system for facilitating research of electronically stored information on a network Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2001022194A2
WO2001022194A2 PCT/US2000/025949 US0025949W WO0122194A2 WO 2001022194 A2 WO2001022194 A2 WO 2001022194A2 US 0025949 W US0025949 W US 0025949W WO 0122194 A2 WO0122194 A2 WO 0122194A2
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
information
file
identifier
object
pointer
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2000/025949
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French (fr)
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WO2001022194A3 (en
WO2001022194A9 (en
Inventor
Judy A. Breck
Richard S. Flynn
Original Assignee
Homeworkcentral.Com, Inc.
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Priority to US40067299A priority Critical
Priority to US09/400,672 priority
Application filed by Homeworkcentral.Com, Inc. filed Critical Homeworkcentral.Com, Inc.
Publication of WO2001022194A2 publication Critical patent/WO2001022194A2/en
Publication of WO2001022194A9 publication Critical patent/WO2001022194A9/en
Publication of WO2001022194A3 publication Critical patent/WO2001022194A3/en

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    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06FELECTRIC DIGITAL DATA PROCESSING
    • G06F16/00Information retrieval; Database structures therefor; File system structures therefor
    • G06F16/40Information retrieval; Database structures therefor; File system structures therefor of multimedia data, e.g. slideshows comprising image and additional audio data
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06FELECTRIC DIGITAL DATA PROCESSING
    • G06F16/00Information retrieval; Database structures therefor; File system structures therefor
    • G06F16/80Information retrieval; Database structures therefor; File system structures therefor of semi-structured data, e.g. markup language structured data such as SGML, XML or HTML
    • G06F16/84Mapping; Conversion
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06FELECTRIC DIGITAL DATA PROCESSING
    • G06F16/00Information retrieval; Database structures therefor; File system structures therefor
    • G06F16/90Details of database functions independent of the retrieved data types
    • G06F16/95Retrieval from the web
    • G06F16/955Retrieval from the web using information identifiers, e.g. uniform resource locators [URL]
    • G06F16/9566URL specific, e.g. using aliases, detecting broken or misspelled links

Abstract

A data structure for representing cognitive information (405) content is defined, referred to herein as a cognitive information object (405). A cognitive information object (405) serves as a modular building block for representing a user defined cognitive concept. Each cognitive information object (405) may be linked to one or more information file (407A-407C) pointers that respectively point to information files that may be distributed throughout a computer network. Information files may comprise any number of multimedia formats such as HTML files, graphic files, sound files, text files, etc.

Description

A METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR FACILITATING RESEARCH OF ELECTRONICALLY STORED INFORMATION ON A NETWORK

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to the field of information technology and computer networks In particular, the present invention pertains to a method and system for facilitating research of electronically stored information on a network

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Structuring, cataloging and classifying knowledge is an essential function of libraries and other information archives The Dewey Decimal Classification system (the "DDC") is a conventional general knowledge organization tool that is continuously revised to keep pace with knowledge In the DDC, a set of basic classes are organized by disciplines or fields of study, thus, it is generally hierarchical At the most general level, the DDC is divided into ten main classes that are intended to cover the entire world of knowledge Each main class is further divided into ten divisions, and each division into ten sections (not all the numbers for the divisions and sections have been used) The DDC utilizes a numeric code to classify and structure knowledge categories A decimal point follows the third digit in a class number, after which division by ten continues to the specific degree of classification needed

In the DDC, a three digit number is used to represent ten main classes of knowledge The first digit in each three-digit number represents the main class For example, 500 represents natural sciences and mathematics The second digit in each three-digit number indicates the division For example, 500 is used for general works on the sciences, 510 for mathematics, 520 for astronomy, 530 for physics The third digit in each three-digit number indicates the section Thus, for example, 530 is used for general works on physics, 531 for classical mechanics, 532 for fluid mechanics and 533 for gas mechanics

The DDC allows for a subject to appear in more than one discipline For example, the subject "clothing" has aspects that fall under several disciplines The psychological influence of clothing is classified under 155 95 as part of the discipline of psychology, customs associated with clothing are classified under 391 as part of the discipline of customs; and clothing in the sense of fashion design is classified under 746.92 as part of the discipline of the arts.

Hierarchy in the DDC is expressed through structure and notation. Structural hierarchy means that all topics (aside from the ten main classes) are part of the broader topics above them. Thus, any note regarding the nature of a class holds true for all its subordinate classes, including logically subordinate topics classed at coordinate numbers.

Notational hierarchy is expressed by length of notation. Numbers at any given level are usually subordinate to a class whose notation is one digit shorter; coordinate with a class whose notation has the same number of significant digits; and superordinate to a class with numbers one or more digits longer. The underlined digits in the following example demonstrate the notational hierarchy of the DDC:

600 Technology (Applied sciences) 630 Agriculture and related technologies

636 Animal husbandry

636.7 Dogs

636.8 Cats

"Dogs" and "Cats" are more specific than (i.e., are subordinate to) "Animal husbandry" and are equally specific as (i.e., are coordinate with) each other. "Animal husbandry" is less specific than (i.e., is superordinate to) "Dogs" and "Cats." Sometimes, other devices must be used to express the hierarchy when it is not possible or desirable to do so through the notation. Relationships among topics that violate notational hierarchy are indicated by special types of headings, notes, and entries.

Many types of information traditionally archived in hardcopy or paper format are now being archived electronically on private networks and public networks such as the Internet and the World Wide Web ("WWW"). The electronic archival of information content offers the advantages of rapid retrieval via computer networks, full text searching and flexible linking. The migration of paper-based information content to electronic format is inevitable due to ubiquity of computers and electronic data storage. Reliance on distributed electronic information systems such as the Internet and WWW will continue to grow as technologies for visual displays approach the resolution and optical characteπstics of the printed page

The WWW is a set of software systems that use the Internet to distπbute information Originally designed for dissemination of information within the high- energy physics community, the WWW is an Internet client-server hypertext distributed information retπeval system The WWW project merges the techniques of information retrieval and a concept known as hypertext to make an easy but powerful global information system In particular, the Internet has promoted the website as a primary digital repository The accessibility of the Internet has motivated universities, government bodies and agencies, research institutions, libraries, corporations, etc to provide electronic information online via websites For example, NASA hosts a website that contains thousands of pages of knowledge about space and astronomy, all specifically designed for the WWW

The WWW is unique in the way it allows one document to embed multiple links to other documents This concept is often referred to as hypertext or hyperlinks

A hyperlink is simply a graphic icon, a text icon or an image map that references the address of an object such as a document The referenced object itself may contain any number of its own hyperlinks, each providing references to other objects These links between objects form a web-like data structure The hyperlink information architecture relies upon a graphical user interface ("GUI") through which the user selects a hyperlink by pointing and clicking a cursor over a graphic icon, a text icon or an image map depicting the hyperlink This icon may be composed of graphics, text or a combination of both Typically, a mouse or trackball is employed for the process of selecting a hyperlink In the context of the Internet, a hyperlink is a segment of text (word or phrase), or an inline image (an image displayed as part of the document) that refers to another document (text, sound, image, movie) elsewhere on the WWW Hypertext has attracted significant interest in user support, resource discovery and collaborative work areas It is currently the most advanced information system deployed on the Internet

Hyperlinks in a document are indicated in some way, e g in a graphical interface, by color and underlining for text, or by a colored border for an image When a hyperlink is selected (by mouse click in a GUI, or entering the given number at a prompt in a text interface), the referenced document is fetched from the Internet, and is displayed appropriate' y On the WWW, all media (documents, image files, sound files, etc ) are represented to the user as a hypertext (hypermedia) object in HTML ("Hypertext Markup Language") format HTML is a scripting language that encompasses the hyperlink architecture and provides authors and content providers capabilities for formatting and structuring electronic information

Links between documents on the WWW take the form of URLs ("Uniform Resource Locators") A URL is the global address of documents and other resources on the WWW URLs can refer to local or remote resources accessible via several different network protocols apart from the basic HTTP ("Hypertext Transport

Protocol") protocol used to transfer hypertext documents Typically, a URL references the address of a server at a website that serves electronically stored information to clients connected to the server The first part of a URL address indicates what network protocol to use, and the second part specifies the IP ("Internet Protocol") address or the domain name where the resource is located For example, the two URLs below point to two different files at the domain "home com " The first specifies an executable file that should be fetched using FTP ("File Transfer Protocol"), the second specifies a Web page that should be fetched using the HTTP protocol

• ftp //www home com/stuff exe

• http //www home co /index html

In order to access the WWW, users typically use a program known as a browser A browser (e g Netscape, Internet Explorer, Mosaic, Opera, etc ) runs on the client's computer and provides two basic navigation operations to fellow a link or to send a query to a server Browser programs typically communicate with servers using HTTP which is a stateless protocol Most clients and servers also support "forms" which allow the user to enter arbitrary text as well as selecting options from customizable menus and on/off switches

The electronic archival of information and in particular the hyperlink methodology has resulted in an evolution in the concept of an information structure from a single self-contained entity such as a book into a distributed concept of a collection of information files that may reside across multiple servers throughout the world The hyperlink architecture provides an environment in which information structures are defined virtually and therefore can be redefined at will depending upon the desired cognitive knowledge to be communicated Thus, the concept of authorship has been extended beyond the creator of a single work to the structuring, classification and presentation of the distributed information Furthermore, the notion of information has evolved from text and pictoπal representations into a multimedia object-oπented concept that includes text, images (stored using any variety of formats), sound clips (stored using any vaπety of formats), animation files, three- dimensional renderings of objects There is even the notion of delivering tactile information electronically

Archiving information on distributed information networks such as the Internet raises significant challenges for research and organization of the media content stored on the network Conventional hierarchical methods for classifying information such as the DDC are not well suited for the virtual, non-hierarchical environment of the WWW Linear or hierarchical databases such as the DDC are limited both from a cognitive perspective as well as an information technology perspective In particular, classification systems like the DDC are inherently hierarchical, which is inconsistent with modem notions of data structures that permit information objects to be embedded in non-hierarchical structures

Systems have been developed in order to provide research and retrieval capabilities for WWW users Search engines are the most prominent example of these research systems on the WWW Today, for example, Internet users have at their disposal a multitude of search engines such as Yahoo®, Excite®, Lycos®, Alta Vista®, etc in order to locate information content on the WWW Typically, a user communicates with a search engine site by providing a search query string using any number of available Boolean operators The search engine then parses the search query and searches a database to generate a list of URLs that are determined to contain information content relevant to the search query This is typically accomplished using either a full text search or a keyword search of known URLs using statistical methods

FIG 1 , which is prior art, is a block diagram depicting the relationship between a search engine site and a client on the WWW Client 105 uses personal computer 1 12 and modem 1 15 to communicate with search engine site 1 10 via POTS ("Plain Old Telephone System") telephone line 1 17, Internet service provider 120, Tl line 130a, Internet 1 14, Tl line 130b and client gateway server 140 Gateway server 140 provides a GUI to allow client 105 to enter search queries to search engine 1 10, and serves Web pages to client 105 containing search results Search engine 1 10 references a stored database 150 of websites previously collected Typically search engines 1 10 updates website information periodically (e.g. on a daily or a weekly basis) by querying servers attached to Internet 1 14

Search engine 1 10 executes a process known as a robot 155 (sometimes referred to as "Web wanderers", "Web crawlers" or "spiders"), which is a program that traverses the WWW information space to discover, gather and index documents and links to be included in database 150 Robot 155 is typically a separate process executed on a separate server (not shown) Robot 155 utilizes native HTTP to retrieve documents from servers on the WWW. Robot 155 may utilize any number of strategies as it traverses the WWW Typically, robot 155 starts from a historical list of URLs, especially the documents with many links such as server lists, "What's new" pages and the most popular sites and constantly scans Internet 1 14, automatically tracking new documents that appear and deleting documents that are duplicated or discarded The strategy utilized by robot 155 as it traverses the WWW determines the quality and quantity of information it accesses and retrieves for database 150

Database 150 is an indexed collection of information gathered by robot 155 Robot 155 records all indexed information in database 150, which may include Web addresses, titles, headers, words, first lines, abstracts, sizes or even full texts of documents Typically, database 150 stores from a few thousand to millions of WWW pages Many search engines utilize more than one database

FIG 2a is a block diagram of a conventional data structure for storing website data at a conventional search engine The data structure depicted in FIG 2a is typical of the structure of information stored in database 150 at search engine 1 10 A separate record is stored for each website Each website record 205 includes URL field 210, general description field 220 and keywords field 230 URL field 210 stores the URL for a website General description field 220 stores text data regarding the general nature of the website having the URL stored in URL field 210 Keywords field 230 is used for searching purposes and stores any number of keyword terms that appear on or are related to the website with the URL stored in URL field 210 Website record 205 might also contain other fields (not shown) that attempt to categorize or classify the information contained on a website so that users can search based on category rather than using a keyword search Yahoo® provides a search engine using this method

Agent 160 is a separate process (typically running on a dedicated server) that searches database 150 catalog in response to a user query and presents a sorted list of "hits" in order of relevance to the query Agent 160 may use any number of techniques such as Boolean searching, natural language searches, statistical searches, etc in order to generate results Typically, agent 160 orders the hits based upon some statistical metric such as the frequency of occurrence of search terms or among items of the same relevance, the popularity of the Web site Agent 160 generates a virtual document containing links to the documents found, which is displayed via the HTTP and browser to client 105 Generally, a user of search engine site 1 10 provides a query via a GUI to search engine site 1 10 Search engine site 1 10 searches database 150 and in particular keywords field 230 via agent 160 to find those records that most closely match the keyword query (generally in order of statistical significance) Note that each website record 205 pertains to a single WWW page and does not provide any functionality for linking media distributed throughout multiple WWW pages on different servers

FIG 2b is a block diagram depicting a conventional display result provided by a search engine Window 205, which is displayed by browser software running on personal computer 1 12, shows search results 207a-207f, each including category identifier 210, URL hyperlink 220 and short descriptor 230 Category identifier (1 e ,

210a-210f) is an identifier of a general information category that is associated with a particular search result URL hyperlink (I e , 220a-220f) is a hyperlink to a WWW page associated with the search result Typically, URL hyperlink field 220 displays a hyperlink for a URL stored in URL field 210 Short descriptor (l e , 230a-230f) displays a short description for each search result

A conventional search engine 1 10 returns search results (e g , 207a-207f) without any consideration of cognitive context Typically search results (e g , 207a- 207f) are arranged hierarchically according to a computed relevance metric that is based upon a statistical measure of the frequency of occurrence of keywords contained in the search query Note that search results 207a-207f are displayed in a hierarchical linear fashion within window 205 The user often must search through many pages of these results in order to find desired information Conventional methods for conducting research over the WWW or other distributed information networks, such as search engine technology are deficient for providing robust research functionality for users of the WWW First, search engine technology does not provide any capability for structuring, archiving or linking information content distπbuted throughout the WWW on multiple servers In particular, search engines 1 10 do not provide the capability of linking multimedia files distributed across multiple web sites into a single cognitive information entity Search engine technology also has limited ability to treat media content on the WWW at the file level The fundamental unit of information for a search engine is typically a website or HTML page, not a specific media file Second, search engines do not offer any significant capability for retrieving information in a cognitive context Search results are typically not organized except upon a statistical analysis of a blind text search of the database using the search query For example, a student searching for information about George Washington might typically retrieve a Mount Vernon link in the same search result for links to the trip schedule for the Mount Washington cog train and the reservations page for the

Martha Washington Hotel In fact, typically search engines provide search results based upon a blind statistical search of keywords linked or contained in HTML documents Although some search engines do attempt to categorize websites by category, this is effected using a hierarchical structure and does not offer any capability for collecting cognitive information distributed across multiple web sites in a single object

In addition, search engines return search results in a linear and/or hierarchical GUI that makes navigation of the returned data cumbersome A search engine user typically has to navigate screen after screen of search results in order to locate those sites that are relevant to the search query

In order to provide useful research functionality for electronically archived information content on a distπbuted information network, new methods are necessary to structure, organize, navigate and display the research information content Thus, an object of the present invention is to provide a system and method to facilitate the research of electronically stored information on a distπbuted information network The research system includes tools for structuring and organizing distπbuted information content, tools for archiving and storing research sessions customized to individual user preferences and a GUI for navigating research sessions A related object of the present invention is to provide a novel data structure for representing cognitive information stored on a distributed network that encompasses the conception of multimedia hyperlmked information

SUMMARY

The present invention provides a method and system for facilitating research of electronic information archived on a distπbuted information network such as the Internet and WWW In order to facilitate research functionality, the present invention provides a method and system for structuring, retrieving and displaying computer based information content A novel data structure for representing cognitive information content is defined, referred to herein as a cognitive information object A cognitive information object serves as a modular building block for representing a user defined cognitive concept Each cognitive information object may be linked to one or more information file pointers that respectively point to information files that may be distributed throughout a network Information files may comprise any number of multimedia formats such as HTML files, graphics files, sound files, text files, etc Cognitive information objects may be linked together in an arbitrary fashion to generate a metastructure or cognitive information matrix to represent information structures (1 e , a structured knowledge base) The information matrix defines any number of paths for traversing the cognitive information objects to facilitate research of the knowledge base A menu-driven GUI is provided that facilitates navigation through the knowledge base by graphically displaying identifiers for cognitive information objects and/or file pointers according to predetermined display attributes According to one example embodiment, the present invention is applied to a public distributed information network such as the Internet and the WWW A cognitive information organizing/research site archives a database of Web links (URLs) referencing information files A second database stores a collection of cognitive information objects, each potentially linked to one or more Web URLs stored in the first database The second database of cognitive information objects is organized according to a metastructure or an information matrix defined by links between the cognitive information objects The organizing/research site structures a knowledge base by constructing information objects according to preferred cognitive structures using a software tool The software tool allows cognitive information objects to be created, linked to one another and to information file pointers This software tool provides managers of electronic information research sites the ability to dynamically restructure the knowledge base

Each cognitive information object and information file pointer is associated with a display attribute that defines a column location for the display of an identifier associated with that cognitive information object or information file pointer to be displayed to a client using the organizing/research site The cognitive information organizing/library site provides functionality for customizing the site to individual user research needs The organizing/research site stores a filter parameter for each client of the site to filter research results that fall outside of preselected categories In addition, for each client the research site stores a set of identifiers of cognitive information objects that are frequently researched by that client

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG 1 is a block diagram depicting a conventional relationship between a search engine site and a client on the WWW FIG 2a is a block diagram of a conventional data structure for storing website data at a conventional search engine

FIG 2b is a block diagram depicting the conventional display result provided by a conventional search engine

FIG 3 is a block diagram of a network architecture that illustrates the relationship between a cognitive information organizing site and a client according to one embodiment of the present invention

FIG 4a is a block diagram that illustrates a schema for structuπng distributed electronically stored information according to one embodiment of the present invention

FIG 4b is a block diagram that illustrates an exemplary information matrix for structuring electronically stored information according to one embodiment of the present invention FIG 4c is a block diagram that illustrates a set of cognitive information objects according to one embodiment of the present invention

FIG 5 is a block diagram depicting a data structure for storing a cognitive information object according to one embodiment of the present invention

FIG 6 is a block diagram depicting a data structure for storing a cognitive information file pointer according to one embodiment of the present invention

FIG 7 depicts an exemplary GUI for two-dimensional research navigation at a research/organizing site according to one embodiment of the present invention

FIGS 8a-8e depicts an example of two-dimensional navigation through an information matπx according to one embodiment of the present invention FIG 9 is a flowchart that depicts a seπes of steps for updating a search result pane according to one embodiment of the present invention

FIG 10 depicts a data structure for representing client data that allows clients to customize research sessions at a research/organizing site according to one embodiment of the present invention FIG 1 la depicts a data structure for representing custom research topics for particular clients according to one embodiment of the present invention

FIG 1 lb depicts a data structure for representing a customized research menu object according to one embodiment of the present invention

FIG 1 lc depicts a data structure for encapsulating a cognitive information object in order to generate a custom menu according to one embodiment of the present invention

FIG 12 is a flowchart depicting a set of steps for displaying a custom menu according to one embodiment of the present invention

FIG 13 is a flowchart that depicts a set of steps for the operation of a GUI software tool for creating and establishing links between CIOs and EFPs according to one embodiment of the present invention DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Although the embodiments descπbed herein relate to the structuπng and retπeval of information distπbuted on the Internet and WWW, the present invention is compatible with any system or network that includes electronically stored data and thus the embodiments described herein are not intended to limit the scope of the claims appended hereto For example, the present invention may be implemented on a private Intranet or any network regardless of network protocol The present invention may be implemented using any network connection, or even using locally cached data Thus, the present invention could be implemented using a pπvate

Intranet, local area network (LAN), metropolitan area network (MAN), wide area network (WAN) or even a wireless network

FIG 3 is a block diagram of a network architecture that illustrates the relationship between a cognitive information organizing/research site and a client according to one embodiment of the present invention Cognitive information research/organizing site 319 provides a number of functions for facilitating the research of distributed information content on a network such as the Internet 1 14 including structuring and organizing the information content according to cognitive concepts as well as providing research functionality and a GUI for conducting research sessions

In the embodiment illustrated in FIG 3, client 105 communicates with cognitive information organizing/research site 319 via personal computer 1 12, modem 1 15, POTS telephone line 1 17, Internet service provider 120, Tl line 130a, Internet 1 14, Tl line 130b and gateway server 140 Client 105 may also communicate with cognitive information organizing/research site 319 via a dedicated connection (such as a Tl connection, DSL ("Digital Subscriber Line") rr ISDN ("Integrated Services Digital Network") connection rather than a dial-up connection as depicted in FIG 3 Client gateway server 140 performs a number of functions for facilitating research sessions including structuring and organizing content including serving HTML content to client 105 based on research queries submitted to information organizing/research site 319

Research/organizing site 319 includes client gateway server 340, CIO database 310a, EFP database 310b and client database 310c CIO database 310 stores a set of defined cognitive information objects (defined below) that pertain to particular information concepts or categories IFP database 310b stores a set of information file pointers that point to vaπous information files on a network such as Internet 114 For example, IFP database 310b may store pointers that point to information files on websites 335a-335c Client database 310c stores vaπous information for clients that utilize research/organizing site 319 Note that CIOs and IFPs are archived on a single site, research organizing site 319

According to one embodiment client 105 utilizes personal computer 1 12 to navigate Internet/World-Wide-Web (WWW) 114 via browser software (not shown) and display device (not shown) Personal computer/client 1 12 is coupled to and transmits digital signals representing digital data to modem 1 15 Typically, personal computer 1 12 assembles this data for transmission over Internet 1 14 in the form of digital IP (Internet Protocol) packets Personal computer 1 12 also receives digital signals from Internet 1 14 through modem 115 As m the case of data for transmission over Internet 1 14, data received from Internet 1 14 is typically in the form of IP packets

Personal computer 1 12 communicates with Internet service provider (ISP) 120 through dial-up connection from modem 1 15, through POTS line 1 17 to a central office (not shown) and the public switched telephone network (""PSTN"") (not shown) Typically, the transmission path from modem 1 15 through POTS line 1 17 to the central office is analog At the central office, signals are sampled for digital transmission through the "PSTN" to ISP 120 Due to the analog nature of the transmission path from modem 1 15, POTS line 1 17 to the central office, modem 1 15 performs modulation of digital signals generated by personal computer 112 onto an analog carrier signal for transmission to the central office Modem 1 15 also performs demodulation of signals received over local lines (e g , 1 17) from the central office, extracting digital byte codes from a modulated analog carrier

ISP 120 is connected to the "PSTN" through modem bank (not shown), which converts an analog modulated signal to a digital signal Digital IP packets are then transmitted via Internet 1 14 and various routers (not shown) and to WWW servers (e g ,

140) EP packets are also transmitted in the reverse direction from WWW server 140 to personal computer 1 12 via a path through Internet 1 14 and other routers, through ISP 120, modem bank, "PSTN" , central office and modem 1 15 According to one embodiment of the present invention, personal computer 1 12 runs browser software (not shown) for navigation of the WWW using HTTP at the application layer (discussed below) The browser software permits navigation between various file servers connected to Internet 1 14, including client gateway server 140 The browser software also provides functionality for rendering of files distributed on the

Internet (i.e., through plug-ins or Active X controls).

Network protocols and the network protocol stack in relationship to the OSI ("Open System Interconnection") for communication over the Internet and WWW are well known According to one embodiment of the present invention, the browser software uses HTTP to retrieve a particular hypertext WWW page assigned a particular

URL on the WWW. Each HTTP interaction consists of one ASCII ("American Standard Code for Information Interchange") request followed by one RFC ("Request For Comments") 822 MIME ("Multipurpose InternetMail Extensions") response TheHTTP connection is conducted over transmission control protocol (TCP) network layer. The TCP layer provides for a reliable stream-oriented connection between a server (e g, 140) and personal computer 1 12 by resending data if necessary due to network overloads or malfunctions Typically both personal computer 1 12 and client gateway server 140 run a TCP process that manages TCP streams and interfaces to an IP (Internetwork Protocol) layer. The TCP entity accepts user data streams from local processes, breaks them into segments and sends each piece as a separate EP datagram On the other hand, when EP datagrams containing TCP data arrive at a machine, they are passed to the TCP process for reconstruction of the original byte streams

The IP protocol at the network layer provides an addressing mode for sending packetized data from personal computer 1 12 to WWW server 140 and vice versa Point to point protocol ("PPP") at the data link layer primarily provides a framing method for sending data to the physical layer PPP also allows IP addresses to be negotiated at connection time The PPP protocol encodes the EP/TCP/HTTP packets and transmits them to modem 315 and the physical layer The physical layer is the actual physical medium through which communications occur, e.g, twisted pair, coaxial cable, optical fiber, etc

Although according to the embodiment described herein, HTTP communication between personal computer 1 12 and server 140 is conducted over a TCP/IP connection, other communication protocols are possible and this example is not intended to limit the claims appended hereto For example, a UDP ("User Datagram Protocol") implementation is possible

Example websites 335a-335c are also connected to Internet 1 14 and contain information files that are related to single information concept It is assumed, for example, that example websites 335a-335c contain information content that may be collectively related to a single cognitive concept Research/organizing site 319 provides functionality for structuring and organizing information distributed across websites 335a- 335c into a single cognitive information object 405 Although FIG 3 only displays three websites (335a-335c), it is understood that research/organizing site 319 structures and organizes information content that may be distπbuted over any arbitrary number of websites

FIG 4a is a block diagram that illustrates a schema for structuπng distributed electronically stored information according to one embodiment of the present invention A novel data structure referred to as a cognitive information object ("CIO") 405 may reference one or more information file pointers ("IFPs") (e g , 410a-410c) that respectively point to a particular information file (i e , 407a-407c) Each cognitive information object 405 corresponds to a discrete user-definable information or cognitive concept For example, cognitive information object 405 could be used to construct a cognitive object for the country Germany The Germany CIO 405 may be linked via an IFP 410 to an MP3 ("Moving Picture Experts Group 1 layer 3") file (e g , 407a) located on a WWW server that contains the German national anthem, via a second EFP to an HTML file that contains text and graphical data describing basic facts about Germany (e g , 407b) and via third IFP to a JPEG ("Joint Photographic Experts Group") file (e g , 407c) containing one or more images of various German sites As shown in FIG 4a, information files 407a-407c are distπbuted across various

Web sites (335a-335c respectively) Note that FIG 4a depicts cognitive information object 405 as referencing three cognitive information files 407a-407c stored on a respective network node storage device 415a-415c This is merely illustrative and a cognitive information object may reference any number of cognitive information files stored at any number of WWW sites or none at all According to one embodiment implemented for use on the WWW, each information file pointer (e g , 410a-410c) is a URL However, this is merely illustrative and each information file pointer may be any pointer data structure for referencing a file on a computer or computer network (e g , a simple DOS path or utilizing a distπbuted information architecture such as CORBA ("Common Object Request B- ker Architecture")) Each information file stores digital information that may assume any number of multimedia formats For example, information files may be HTML files, sound files (such as WAV, AIFF ("Audio Interchange File Format"), Real Audio or MP3 files), digital image files (e g , JPEG, GIF

("Graphics Interchange Format") files), text files, word processing documents, PDF ("Portable Document File") files, animation files, etc

A collection of CIOs may be structured according to a non-hierarchical information matπx to form a structured knowledge base FIG 4b is a block diagram that illustrates an exemplary information matrix for structuring electronically stored information according to one embodiment of the present invention An information matrix or knowledge base structure 402 is defined by establishing a set of links between CIOs (e g , 405(1 )-405(41 )) and IFPs (e g , 410(a)-410(g)) Each CIO may be linked to one more other CIOs (as indicated by arrows between CIOs) For example, CIO 405(1) is linked to CIOs 405(5), 405(12) and 405(13) FIG 4b also illustrates certain CIOs linked to one or more IFPs 410 For example, CIO 405(22) is linked to IFP 410(c), CIO 405(18) is linked to IFP 410b, CIO 405(17) is linked to IFP 410a, CIO 405(36) is linked to IFP 41 Od, CIO 405(35) is linked to IFP 410e and CIO 405(38) is linked to IFP 410(g) Each IFP is pointer to a file that is stored on a network that is related to the associated CIO

Building an information matπx 402 by linking together multiple CIOs 405 and IFPs 410 allows the structuring of distπbuted archived electronically stored information on a network This information structure may be used to facilitate research operations on the distributed information and to generate a menu-driven GUI for conducting research In particular, the link structure between CIOs defines one or more paths for traversing the CIOs for research purposes

A particular CIO 405 represents a discrete cognitive concept that may be inserted anywhere in the information matrix (e g , 402) Because CIOs 405 are objects, restructuring of the information matrix may be accomplished dynamically merely by modifying pointers Thus, the information matrix (e g , 402) may be modified by changing the link structure between CIOs 405 and/or IFPs 410 Note that CIOs 405 may be organized non-hierarchically with respect to one another Thus, the particular placement of a CIO 405 within an information matrix 402 does not imply any particular hierarchical relationship with respect to other CIOs 405 or impose a particular level of specificity as a function of the placement of the CIO 405 within the information matrix (e g , 402) This non-hierarchical object oπented structure facilities the structuπng of electronically stored information in a natural cognitive context and takes advantage of modern object oπented design for storage of electronic information Note, for example, one may arπve at CIO 405(17) by traversing six different routes

FIG 4c is a block diagram that illustrates a set of cognitive information objects that are structured according to the matrix shown in FIG 4b according to one embodiment of the present invention Information matrix 402 illustrates the potential for structuπng of information in a non-hierarchical fashion For example, the CIO entitled "Shakespeare's Globe" may be reached via six different routes through contexts within "Biography", "Arts", "Literature" and "History" FIG 4c also illustrates a number of exemplary cognitive information file pointers (410a-41 Of) that are linked to particular cognitive information objects For example, CIO 405 entitled "Painting" is linked to a JPEG image of a painting via IFP 410d, CIO entitled "Music" is linked to an MP3 music

Figure imgf000018_0001

FIG 5 is a block diagram depicting a data structure for storing a cognitive information object according to one embodiment of the present invention The data structure shown in FIG 5 is used to store a CIO object 505 in cognitive information object database 310a Each CIO object 505 includes elements 510-580 that may be, for example, member variables in a class structure for a CIO object class Each instance of a cognitive information object 505 includes CIO identifier 510, linked CIOs 520, CIO name 530, linked IFPs 540, inheritance pointer 550, CIO category 560, display attribute 570 and CIO classifications 580 CIO identifier 510 stores a 32-bit integer representing a unique identifier for a

CIO 405 Upon definition, a CIO is assigned a unique identifier that is stored in CIO identifier 510 The unique identifier provides an unambiguous method for referring to any particular CIO 405 For example, a first CIO 405 might be assigned the identifier 1, a second CIO 405 might be assigned the identifier 2, a third CIO 405 might be assigned the identifier 3 and so on

Linked CIOs 520 stores a pointer to a linked list of CIOs 405 that are linked to the CIO 405 having the CIO identifier 520 The linked CIOs 405 are defined by an information matrix (e g , 402) The set of CIOs 405 referenced in linked CIOs 520 is determined by an information matrix (e g , 402) For example, referπng to FIG 4a, CIO 405(24) would store a pointer in a linked list of CIOs 520 including CIO 405(14), 405(25), 405(40) and 405(41)

CIO name 530 stores a 64 byte character name of the CIO 405 with identifier 510 According to one embodiment, CIO name 530 is used for purposes of displaying an identifier on a display device to refer to the CIO with identifier 510 This allows display of CIO identifiers on a display device in order to facilitate selection of a particular CIO using a GUI and pointing device such as a mouse

Linked EFPs 540 stores a pointer to a linked list of pointers to cognitive information files that are linked to the CIO 405 with identifier 510 For example, referπng to information matrix 402 of FIG 4b, CIO 405(38) stores a pointer to a linked list including a single element pointing to IFP 410(g)

Inheritance pointer 550 stores an optional pointer to a CIO 405 for which the CIO 405 with identifier 510 inherits its attributes Inheritance pointer 550 may be used to avoid the necessity of copying a CIO 405 that has a desirable structure Instead, inheritance pointer 550 may be used to point to a desired CIO 405

CIO category 560 stores a 32-bit integer value referencing a category associated with the CIO with identifier 510 CIO category 560 is typically utilized internally by research/organizing site 319 in order to group CIOs 405 pertaining to particular topics Display attribute stores a 32-bit integer value that represents various display attribute parameters for display of a graphical or text identifier for the CIO 405 with identifier 510 For example, according to one embodiment, display attribute 570 stores, among other parameters, a value that indicates a column identifier that determines the display of a text identifier on a menu to represent the CIO 405 with identifier 510 Display attribute 570 may also store other information such as an associated text color to be used to display a text identifier representing the CIO 405

CIO classifications 580 stores a pointer to an array of classification data associated with the CIO 405 As discussed below, according to one embodiment, classification data determines whether a client that may access the CIO 405 while conducting research at organizing research site 319 based upon client selected research parameters According to one embodiment, each CIO 405 is assigned one or more classifications to describe the appropriate education level of a viewer who might wish to view the CIO such as pre-school, elementary school, high school, college, etc Each client 105 of research/organizing site 319 selects a filter parameter describing the client' s educational level The filter parameter is compared with all classifications referenced by 560 in order to determine whether a particular client 105 should have access to the CIO 405 FIG 6 is a block diagram depicting a data structure for stoπng an information file pointer according to one embodiment of the present invention Each instance of an IFP object 605 includes IFP identifier 610, short descπption 620, file pointer 630, detailed description 640, category 650, display attribute 660 and classifications 670 IFP identifier 610 stores a 32-bit integer value of a unique identifier for the EFP Short descπption 620 stores a 128 byte character array describing the content of the file pointed to by the EFP with identifier 610 Upon definition, an FP is assigned a unique identifier that is stored in EFP identifier 610 The unique identifier provides an unambiguous method for referπng to any particular EFP 410 For example, a first EFP 410 might be assigned the identifier 1 , a second EFP 410 might be assigned the identifier 2, a third EFP 410 might be assigned the identifier 3 and so on

Short description 620 stores a 128 byte character array that describes the file pointed to by EFP with identifier 610 Short description 620 provides a convenient mechanism for organizing/research site 319 to quickly ascertain the content of a particular information file 407 without actually viewing it File pointer 630 stores a pointer value that points to the actual location of the file

407 (I e , network address) for the IFP with identifier 610 Typically, file pointer 630 stores a network address where the file is located For example, according to one embodiment for implementation on the WWW, file pointer 630 stores the URL where the file is located Detailed description 640 stores a pointer to an ASCII text file describing the information file pointed to by file pointer 630 This detailed description is an extension of the short descπption 620

EFP category 650 stores a 32-bit integer value referencing a category associated with the EFP with identifier 610 EFP category 650 is typically utilized internally by research/organizing site 319 in order to group IFPs 410 pertaining to particular topics

Display attribute 660 stores a 32-bit integer value that represents various display attribute parameters for display of a graphical or text identifier for the IFP with identifier 610 For example, according to one embodiment, display attribute 660 stores, among other parameters, a value that indicates a column that a text identifier should be displayed on a display device to represent the EFP Display attribute field 660 may also store other information such as an associated text color to be used to display a text identifier representing the EFP EFP classifications 670 stores a pointer to an array of classification data associated with the EFP with identifier 610 As discussed below, according to one embodiment, the classification data determine whether a client that may access the EFP while conducting research at organizing research site 319 based upon client selected research parameters According to one embodiment, each IFP 410 is assigned one or more classifications to describe the appropriate education level of a viewer who might wish to view the file pointed to by the EFP such as pre-school, elementary school, high school, college, etc Each client 105 of research/organizing site 319 selects a filter parameter descπbing the client's educational level The filter parameter is compared with all classifications referenced by 670 m order to determine whether a particular client 105 should have access to the IFP 410

FIG 7 depicts an exemplary GUI for navigating and conducting research at an organizing/research site according to one embodiment of the present invention The GUI includes search result pane 705, object path pane 707, title pane 719, vertical scroll arrows 714a and 714b, horizontal scroll arrows 721 a and 721 b, horizontal scroll bar 716, vertical scroll bar 719 and resize control 718 The GUI provides two-dimensional navigation via search result pane 705 by simultaneously displaying within search result pane 705 a first set of identifiers of CIOs 710 as well as one or more second sets of CIO or EFP identifiers 720 linked respectively to each of the first set of CIOs According to one embodiment, CIO and EFP identifiers (710, 720) are generated from CIO identifier 510 and EFP identifier 610 respectively Each CIO or IFP identifiei (710, 720) comprises a hyperlink that a client may select, which either results m the display of a new search menu within search result pane 705 or the retπeval of an information file from Internet 1 14 Thus, search result pane 705 provides a menu system for traversing an information matrix (e g , 402) In particular, search result pane 705 displays a research menu consisting of any number of first identifiers 710, each corresponding respectively to either a CIO 405 or IFP 410 Below each first identifier 710 search result pane displays a set of second identifiers 720 for all CIOs or EFPs linked to the CIO 405 identified by the first identifier 710 Each of the first and second identifiers (710, 720) is a hyperlink, that when selected result in a new research menu being displayed within search result pane 705 For each first CIO identifier (I e , 710a-710v), identifiers for all linked CIOs (1 e , linked CIOs 520) and/or EFPs (I e , linked EFPs 530) 720 are displayed immediately below the corresponding CIO identifier 710 Thus, for example, CIOs identified by 720(1 )-720(5) are linked to the CIO identified by 710(a)

Although FIG 7 shows an exemplary four column display for search result pane 705, search result pane 705 may display CIO identifiers and cognitive EFP identifiers (710, 720) using any number of user defined columns depending upon preference According to one embodiment, each CIO 405 and EFP 420 is associated with a display attribute that determines a column location for display of the identifier for the CIO or EFP (l e , display attributes 570 and 660 respectively)

FIG 7 also shows CIO identifier 731 and traversal path identifier 715 displayed within object path pane 707 and title pane 719 respectively CIO identifier pane 731 displays an identifier of a CIO for which CIOs and EFPs identified in search result pane

705 are linked Traversal path identifier 715 records a history of a user's movement through an information matrix 402 to indicate which CIOs the user has previously viewed

FIGS 8a-8e depicts an example of two-dimensional navigation through a cognitive information matrix using a menu-driven GUI according to one embodiment of the present invention FIGS 8a-8e represent a particular example of the GUI depicted in FIG 7 FIG 8a shows an example of an initial research menu relating to general categories of knowledge such as "Arts", "Math", "Science", etc that have been structured by a organizing/research 319 site according to one embodiment of the present invention For example, an identifier for a "LITERATURE" CIO 405 is displayed below which identifiers for CIOs 405 linked to the "LITERATURE" CIO 405 are displayed (I e , "Authors and Poets", "American Literature", etc ) According to this example, a user selects the "LITERATURE" identifier by clicking the hyperlink using a mouse Upon this selection, a new research menu is displayed in FIG 8b Note that research result pane in FIG 8b shows identifiers for CIOs 405 linked to the "LITERATURE" CIO 405 that was selected in step 8a (I e , "Authors and Poets", "American Literature", etc ) Maintaining the two-dimensional view as shown in FIG 8a, below each identifier of each CIO 405 are displayed identifiers for CIOs linked to the CIO (e g , for "American Literature", "Authors", "Literature by Period", etc are displayed) It is assumed in step 8b that a user selects the BRITISH LITERATURE CIO Thus, step 8c shows a new research menu in which identifiers for CIOs linked to the "BRITISH LITERATURE" CIO are displayed along with identifier for the selected CIO displayed FIGS 8d and 8e show similar traversal steps with respect to CIOs for " 15th & 18th Century" and

"Shakespeare, William "

Also note in FIG 8e that the identifier "Shakespeare's Globe" may correspond to an IFP 410 (I e , a URL) that links to an information file related to the Shakespeare Globe Theater When selected, for example, this IFP identifier might result in retrieving an image or HTML page related to the Shakespeare Globe Theater

The GUI shown in FIGS 7 and 8a-8e also provides two additional functional features In particular, according to one embodiment, CIO identifiers and IFP identifiers (710, 720) are displayed within search pane 705 within certain columns that are associated with each respective CIO 405 and IFP 410 (e g , using display attributes 570 and 660 respectively)

In addition, information displayed in search pane 705 may be filtered so that certain clients may only be able to access certain CIOs 405 or IFPs 410 According to one embodiment of the present invention, each EFP 410 is associated with one or more classification parameters For example, CIOs 405 and EFPs 410 may be associated with certain education levels such as pre-school, elementary school, high school, college, etc

Typically, research/organizing site 319 establishes classifications for all CIOs 405 and IFPs 410 based upon an analysis of content A client of organizing/research site 319 selects a filter parameter upon logging onto the system that determines which CIOs 405 and/or EFPs 410 the client may access based upon the chosen filter parameter and the classification data assigned to each CIO 405 and EFP 410 In the alternative, the filter parameter may be permanently stored in client database 310c For example, a client 105 may select a filter parameter "college" that allows the client to view only CIOs 405 and IFPs 410 that have been assigned the classification level "college "

According to one embodiment of the present invention, a process is run to assign classifications parameters to all CIOs 405 based upon EFPs 410 that are directly or indirectly linked to the CIO 405 According to this embodiment, each EFP 410 is initially assigned at least one classification Then, all CIOs 405 are assigned all classifications corresponding to EFPs 410 that may be reached via a traversal path from the CIO 405 In effect, a CIO 405 inherits classifications for all IFPs 410 that are directly or indirectly linked to it

The following pseudocode descπbes a recursive algoπthm for assigning links to a set of CIOs structured according to an information matrix (e g , 402) assuming that all EFPs 410 linked to the CIOs 405 have been assigned a classification

Psuedocode do while all objects have not been classified set classification (next_object), linked st set_classιficatιon[object *the_object] { if theobject lmkedCIOs==NIL

Add classifications for all linked IFP, else

For all linked CIOs (theobject ImkedCIOs) Add classifications for al linked EFPs (linked EFPs) + set_classιficatιon(lιnked

CIOs)

}

FIG 9 is a flowchart that depicts a seπes of steps for updating a search result pane according to one embodiment of the present invention The procedure is initiated in step 905 Typically, the procedure would be initiated upon a user selecting a hyperlink displayed in search pane 705 (1 e , either a CIO identifier or a IFP identifier) If the user has selected an IFP identifier ('yes' branch of step 915), the information file pointed to by the IFP 410 is retrieved from the network and presented to the user in step 917 For example, if the EFP 410 points to an HTML page located a server, the HTML page is retrieved from the server and displayed to the user According to one embodiment, the HTML data is displayed in a subordinate pane so that the client remains connected with the research/organizing site If the IFP points to another type of media file such as an MP3 file, an appropriate application file for rendering or playing the file is launched on client's computer 1 12 This function is typically handled by the browser software running on the client's computer For example, the player may be a Netscape plug-in or Microsoft Active X application

If the user has not selected an IFP identifier ('no' branch of step 915), all CIOs linked to the selected CIO 405 are determined in step 920 The linked CIOs 405 are determined from linked CIOs field 520 In step 930, it is determined whether all CIOs 405 linked to the selected CIO have been considered If not ('no' branch of step 930), the current CIO is set to be equal to the next CIO (I e , the next CIO in the linked list of CIOs) In step 935 it is determined whether the current CIO meets the filter cπteπa According to one embodiment, when a user logs on to research/organizing site 319, the user selects a filter parameter that determines the CIOs and IFPs that they may access In step 935, the selected filter parameter is compared with the classifications assigned to the current CIO If the filter parameter does not match one of the assigned classifications for the current CIO ('no' branch of step 935), the next CIO is considered (steps 930 and 932)

If one of the assigned classifications matches the filter parameter ('yes' branch of step 935), the current object may be viewed by the user and the identifier for the current CIO is rendered as a graphical object The rendering process takes into account the display attribute parameter assigned to the current CIO According to one embodiment, the display attribute parameter indicates a column to display an identifier for the CIO 405 or EFP 410 For example, according to one embodiment of the present invention, the rendering process is accomplished using JavaScript and ASP ("Active Server Page") to produce an HTML page However, in an alternative embodiment a CGI ("Common Gateway Interface") script may be employed In step 945, all CIOs and IFPs linked to the current CIO are filtered using the filter parameter and rendered via Javascript and ASP According to one embodiment, the linked CIOs and IFPs are displayed in the same column as the current CIO below it However, alternative embodiments may employ a different layout format In step 950, all identifiers for non-filtered CIOs 405 and IFPs 410 linked to the current CIO are displayed The procedure then considers remaining CIOs (step 930)

When all CIOs linked to the selected CIO have been considered ('yes' branch of step 930), all EFPs linked to the selected CIO are filtered and rendered in step 955 The procedure ends in step 950

Research/organizing site 3 19 also provides functionality that allows clients to customize their interaction with research/organizing site In particular, according to one embodiment research/organizing site 319 allows clients to build and maintain an arbitrary number of customized research menus that include any CIO identifiers (710, 720) preselected by the user These customized research menus allow clients to build customized research interfaces that pertain to various research categoπes as a particular user wishes to define them

FIG 10 depicts a data structure for representing client data that allows clients to customize research sessions at a research/organizing site according to one embodiment of the present invention The data structure depicted in FIG 10 is used to represent information stored in client database 310c Each instance of a client profile object 1005 includes User_ED 1010, password 1015, custom_research_topιcs 1017 and custom_research_menus 1020 User D 101 stores a unique 32-bit integer value that is associated with a particular client Password 1015 stores a 16 byte character array of alphanumeric data corresponding to a client password Custom research topics 1015 stores a linked list of user-defined research topics (see FIG 1 la) for the user identified by user_ID 1010 This field allows a client to define a set of research topics that relate to research topics frequently researched by the client Custom research menus 1020 stores a linked list of custom research menus (see FIG 1 lb) that allow the client to design a custom GUI for conducting research on research/organizing site 319

FIG 1 1 a depicts a data structure for representing custom research topics for particular clients according to one embodiment of the present invention Each instance of a custom research topic object 1 105 includes topιc_ED 11 10, topιc_namel 1 15, date_created parameter 1 120 and modιfied_on parameter 1 125 Topιc_ιd 1 1 10 stores a 32-bit integer value representing a unique identifier for a user-defined topic

Topιc_name 1 1 15 stores a 128 byte character field corresponding to a user-defined name of the topic Date_created parameter 1 120 stores a date and time object that includes the date and time the topic was created by a client Modified on parameter 1 125 stores a date and time object that contains the date and time the topic was FIG 1 lb depicts a data structure for representing a customized research menu object according to one embodiment of the present invention Each instance of a custom research menu object 1135 includes menu_ιd 1 137, menu_name 1 140, topic id 1142, short_descπptιon 1 145, long_descπptιon 1 150, created_on parameter 1 150 and modιfied_on parameter 1 125 Menu_ιd stores a unique 32-bit integer value for each menu that is defined Menu_name 1 140 stores a 128 byte 'char' array of alphanumeric data regarding the custom menu Short_descπptιon 1 145 stores a 256 byte character array that contains alphanumeric data providing a short description of the custom menu Topic id 1 142 stores atopιc_FD 1 1 10 pertaining to the custom menu Long_descπptιon 1 150 stores a pointer to a text file providing detailed information about the custom menu Created_on parameter 1 150 modιfιed_on parameters 1 160 each store a date and time object pertaining to the date the custom menu was created and last modified respectively CIOs 1 165 stores a linked list of menu CIO objects (see FIG 1 lc) that the client has preselected for display on the custom menu

FIG l i e depicts a data structure for encapsulating a CIO object in order to generate a custom menu according to one embodiment of the present invention Each menu CIO object 1 167 includes ClO identifier 1 170 and dιsplay_attπbute 1 175 ClO identifier 1 170 stores a CIO_ιdentιfier of a CIO that a client desires to display on a custom menu Display attribute 1 175 stores a display attribute parameter for representing the CIO identifier According to one embodiment of the present invention, dιsplay_attπbute field 1 175 stores a value representing a column for display of the CIO identifier on a display device

FIG 12 is a flowchart depicting a set of steps for displaying a custom menu according to one embodiment of the present invention In step 1205, the process is initiated In step 1210, the name of a custom menu that a client desires to display is received According to one embodiment, research/organizing site 319 provides the user an input mechanism (e g , using forms and a CGI script) to receive the name of the desired menu According to an alternative embodiment, when a user first logs on to research/organizing site 319 a list of all custom menus designed by that client is displayed to the client The client may then select the desired menu for display by a point and click operation In step 1220, the menu_ιd corresponding to the menu_name is determined by searching all custom menu records 1 135 In step 1230, all CIO identifiers for the custom menu are displayed according to their respective display attribute 1 175 Content managers at research/organizing site 319 use a software tool to define CIOs 405, establish links between them, store and catalog IFPs 410 and create an information matrix (e g , 402) According to one embodiment of the present invention, the software tool provides a GUI for defining and establishing links between CIOs 405 and EFPs 410 The GUI provides drag and drop operation that automatically establishes links between CIOs 405 and IFPs 410

FIG 13 is a flowchart that depicts a set of steps for the operation of a GUI software tool for creating and establishing links between CIOs and IFPs according to one embodiment of the present invention The procedure is initiated in step 1305 In step 1310, it is determined whether the user desires to create a new CIO 405 If so ('yes' branch of step 1310), in step 1320, the name, display attribute parameter, a set of CIOs 405 linked to the new CIO 405, and a set of linked IFPs for the new CIO 405 are received This data is stored respectively in 530, 570, 520 and 540 respectively In step 1330, a unique identifier is generated for the new CIO 405 and stored in 510 According to one embodiment, this unique identifier is 32-bit integer that is software generated after a determination of identifiers that have been used

If the user does not desire to define a new CIO 405, in step 1335 it is determined whether the user desires to define a new IFP 410 If so ('yes' branch of step 1335), a short description, file pointer, display attribute and classification for the IFP 410 are received in step 1337 This data is stored respectively in 620, 630, 660 and 670 respectively In step 1340, a unique identifier is generated for the new IFP and stored in 610 According to one embodiment, this unique identifier is a 32-bit integer that is software generated after a determination of identifiers that have been used In step 1350, it is determined whether the user wishes to end the session If so

('yes' branch of step 1350), the procedure ends in step 1370 Ifnot ('no' branch of step 1350), the procedure determines whether the user wishes to define a new CIO (step 1310)

Claims

What Is Claimed Is:
1 A method for structuring electronically stored information comprising the steps of storing a pointer for each of at least one information files, wherein each pointer is associated with a unique identifier; defining at least one information object, wherein each information object includes a unique identifier, a first pointer for pointing to at least one second information object and a second pointer for pointing to at least one information file, setting the first pointer of the at least one information object to point to at least one second information object to define an information matrix, wherein the information matrix defines at least one path for traversing the at least one information objects; and setting the second pointer of at least information object to point to at least one information file
2 The method according to claim 1, wherein each of the at least one information file is one of an HTML file, a graphics file, a sound file, a WAV file, an MP3 file, a text file, and a PDF ("Portable Document Format") file.
3 The method according to claim 1, wherein each of the at least one information file is stored on a respective storage device connected to a network
4 The method according to claim 3, wherein the network is a distributed information network
5 The method according to claim 4, wherein the network is the Internet
6 The method according to claim 5, wherein the pointer for each of the at least one information files is a URL ("Uniform Resource Locator") 7 The method according to claim 1, wherein the step of defining at least one information obj ect includes the step of storing the at least one information objects on a single server
8 A method for facilitating electronic research of information stored on a distπbuted information network comprising the steps of storing at least one information file pointer pointing to a respective information file, wherein each of the at least one pointer includes a unique identifier, defining and storing at least one information object, wherein each information object includes a unique identifier, a first pointer for pointing to at least one second information object and a second pointer for pointing to at least one information file stored on the information network, stoπng a link structure for the at least one information object, wherein the link structure defines at least one path for traversing the at least one information object, stoπng a link structure relating the at least one information object and the at least one information file pointer, displaying a research menu, wherein the research menu includes at least one of an identifier for an information object and an identifier for an information file, receiving an electronic signal indicating a selected identifier of a selected information object on the research menu, determining at least one second information object pointed to by the selected information object, and displaying a second research menu, wherein the second research menu includes at least one of an identifier for at least one of a second information object pointed to by the selected information object and an identifier for a second information file pointed to by the selected information object
9 The method according to claim 8, wherein the second research menu further includes at least one of an identifier of a third information ob|ect pointed to by a second information object and an identifier of a third information file pointer pointed to by the second information object
10 The method according to claim 8, further including the steps of receiving a filter parameter, and stoπng the filter parameter
1 1 The method according to claim 9, further including the step of storing a respective display parameter corresponding to each of the at least one information file pointer and the at least one information object
12 The method according to claim 11 , wherein the display parameter indicates a predefined column for display of an identifier on a display device
13 The method according to claim 12, wherein the step of displaying a research menu includes the step of displaying each of the at least one identifier for an information object and each of the at least identifier for an information file within a respective predefined column on a display device
14 The method according to claim 12, wherein the step of displaying a second research menu includes the step of displaying each of the at least one identifier for a second information object and each of the at least identifier for a second information file within a respective predefined column on a display device
15 The method according to claim 10, further including the step of storing at least one classification parameter for each of the at least one information file pointer and the at least one information object
16 The method according to claim 10, wherein the step of displaying a research menu includes the steps of for each information object and information file pointer, comparing the filter parameter to each of the at least one associated classification parameter, if the filter parameter matches at least one of the classification parameters, displaying an identifier for the information object, and if the filter parameter does not match at least one of the classification parameters, not displaying an identifier for the information object 17 The method according to claim 8, further including the step that if the selected identifier corresponds to a file pointer, retrieving and rendering the file
18 The method according to claim 8, wherein each of the identifiers is one of a hyperlink, a hypertext object and an extensible markup language (XML) object
19 The method according to claim 8, wherein each of the at least one pointer pointing to a respective information file is a URL
20 The method according to claim 8, further including the steps of storing at least one custom research menu object, wherein each of the at least one custom research menu objects includes at least one CIO identifier, receiving a request to display a selected custom research menu, displaying at least one CIO identifier associated with the selected custom research menu
21 The method according to claim 20, wherein the step of displaying the at least one CIO identifier includes the step of displaying the at least one CIO identifier in a predetermined column on a display device
22 A data structure for representing an information object in order to structure multimedia electronic information stored on a distributed information network, comprising a unique identifier, and at least one of a pointer to an information file on the network and a pointer to at least one instance of the data structure
23 The data structure according to claim 22, wherein the network is the Internet
24 The data structure according to claim 23, wherein the pointer to an information file on the network is a URL 25 The data structure according to claim 22, wherein the information file is one of an HTML file, a graphics file, a sound file, a WAV file, an MP3 file, a text file and a PDF file
26 A graphical user interface ("GUI") for conducting research of information stored on a distributed network comprising a research pane for displaying at least one hyperlink identifier representing one of a predefined first information object and an information file stored on the network, wherein the research pane further displays at least one hyperlink identifier of one of a second predefined information object and a second information file linked to the first information object
27 The GUI according to claim 26, wherein the GUI displays each hyperlink identifier in a column associated with the respective information object identified by the identifier
28 A system for facilitating research of electronically stored information on a distributed information network a network interface, a processor, wherein the processor is adapted to store at least one pointer pointing to a respective information file, wherein each of the at least one pointer is associated with a unique identifier, store at least one information object, wherein each information object includes a unique identifier, a first pointer for linking at least one second information object and a second pointer for linking at least one information file stored on the information network, store a link structure for the at least one information object, wherein the link structure defines at least one path for traversing the at least one information objects, store a link structure relating the at least one information object and the at least one information file pointer, display a research menu, wherein the initial research menu includes at least one of an identifier for an information object and an identifier for an information file, receive an electronic signal indicating a selected identifier of a selected information object on the research menu, determine at least one second information object pointed to by the selected information object, and display a second research menu, wherein the second research menu includes at least one of an identifier for at least one of a second information object pointed to by the selected information object and an identifier for a second information file pointed to by the selected information object
29 A system for organizing electronic information to facilitate electronic research, comprising information file pointers, each of the information file pointers pointing to a respective electronic information file stored on a respective server, first information objects pointing to information file pointers, and second information objects pointing to the first information pointers, the information file pointers, the first information objects and the second information objects forming a non-hierarchical information matrix
30 The system according to claim 29, wherein at least two of the second information objects point to a first one of the first information objects
31 The system according to claim 29, wherein the information file pointer includes a URL for the respective electronic information
32 The system according to claim 29, wherein the non-hierarchical information matrix is stored on a single server, the single server being different from the respective servers storing the respective electronic information
33 The system according to claim 29, wherein each of the first information objects includes a classification identifier
34 The system according to claim 29, wherein at least one of the second information objects includes a pointer to a linked list, the linked list including at least another one of the second information objects and at least one of the first information objects
A method for organizing electronic information to facilitate electronic research, comprising' providing information file pointers, each of the information file pointers pointing pective electronic information file stored on a respective server, providing first information objects, the first information objects pointing to the information file pointers, and providing second information objects, the second formation objects pointing to the first information objects, the information file pointers, the first information objects and the second information objects forming a non-hierarchical information matrix
The method according to claim 35, further comprising selecting, by a user, one of the information file pointers, retrieving from the respective server the respective electronic information file pointed to by the selected one of the information file pointers, and performing one of i) displaying the retrieved electronic information file, and ii) executing the retrieved electronic information file
The method according to claim 35, further comprising selecting, by a user, one of the second information objects, displaying to the user a representation of each of the first information objects pointed to by the selected one of the second information objects, selecting, by the user, one of the first information objects pointed to by the selected one of the second information objects, retrieving from the respective server, the respective electronic information file pointed to by the selected one of the information file pointers; and performing one of i) displaying the retrieved electronic information file, and ii) executing the retrieved electronic information file
8. The method according to claim 35, wherein the non-hierarchical information matrix is provided on a single server.
PCT/US2000/025949 1999-09-21 2000-09-21 A method and system for facilitating research of electronically stored information on a network WO2001022194A2 (en)

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