Home Reinforcement Learning and Artificial Intelligence (RLAI)
The idea of open web pages
--Rich Sutton, ~Sep 7 2004
An open web page is a web page that can be authored by many people, in a variety of ways, without constraints on its appearance or interconnection with other pages.  The RLAI group at the University of Alberta has created an open page server---hardware and software that supports open page presentation and authoring.

Warning: the open pages system is no longer being maintained.

The ambition of open web pages is be a step toward realizing the long-standing vision of using the internet to nurture and sustain collaborative authoring, of communities of people exchanging and jointly developing ideas.  The current of open web page infrastructure was designed to facilitate collaboration among a group of artificial intelligence researchers working at different geographic locations.  Open web pages combine, perhaps for the first time, four key features:
  1. The metaphor of editing the web.  Rather than editing files and transferring them to the web, web pages are directly edited, in place.  Browsing the web, if you come to a page that needs editing, you just edit it right then and there, immediately writing it back to wherever it came from.  There is no need to think of files and directories. Instead of files there are web pages; instead of file directories there are pages with links; instead of a file system there is the internet.  File names are replaced by URLs and the "find file by content" function is replaced by google. You think directly in terms of editing the web rather than of editing the files that generate the web.
  1. Collaborative authoring.  Open web pages can be changed by multiple people, often by anyone with a web browser (or access can be controlled by password).  Despite the potential for abuse, this works surprisingly well, as has been found with wikis. Like wikis, open web pages have versioning and archiving, enabling one to edit freely. Open pages differ from wikis primarily in having the next two features below.
  1. Openness to multiple ways of authoring. Open pages can be edited using a range of software tools, including text entry from a browser, convenient WYSIWYG authoring in Mozilla, and support for whatever other tools an author may prefer or be more familiar with.
  1. Unconstrained appearance and interconnection pattern.  This is really an anti-feature in the sense that ordinary internet pages are unconstrained, but many systems with features 1 and 2 introduce constraints on appearance and interconnection pattern.  For example, wikis are typically site based and encourage a uniform look and feel within the site.  This has advantages, but constrains page content.  Similarly, a site-based pattern of interconnecting the pages is encouraged in wikis.  It is always clear which pages are in the wiki and which are outside it.  In contrast, open web pages are explicitly pages interconnected arbitrarily (not sites), and are almost unconstrained in their appearance.  Open pages are very slightly constrained in their appearance in that they have two lines of links across the bottom, are restricted to plain html (and images), and in that there are explicitly recommended ways to structure them to facilitate productive collaboration.
Open web pages can be thought of as a simpler, less constrained wiki, retaining more of the freedom and diversity of the unconstrained internet.  Another way of thinking about the differences is that open pages are more accommodating of authors.  In open pages authors are given their choice of tools and near complete control of the appearance of their pages.
Extend this Page   How to edit   Style   Subscribe   Notify   Suggest   Help   This open web page hosted at the University of Alberta.   Terms of use  6376/4