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Response to [A context-based infrastructure… ] by Anind et al.

One Sentence

This paper introduces a software infrastructure that enables handling context similarly to handling input from a smart environment.

Key Points

  • Context: any information that can be used to characterize the situation of an entity, where an entity can be a person, place, or physical or computational object;
  • Context-aware: applications that use context to provide task-relevant information and/or services to a user.
  • The infrastructure:
    • Context widgets encapsulate a single piece of context and abstract away the details of how the context is sensed;
    • Context servers are used to collect all the context about a particular entity;
    • Context interpreter interprets context (i.e., makes sense of it).
  • The important difference between input handling and context handling:
    • Source – ‘the source of user input is a single machine’ while context usually comes from multiple sources;
    • Abstraction – input handling requires more abstraction as the ‘raw form’ is usually not what the applications want;
    • Independence of widgets – with user input widgets inhabit applications while context widgets are independent of applications;


For writing and presentation:

  • “We describe the benefits of our infrastructure through applications that we have built” -> If an idea is used in a familiar scenario, people will question “why bother”, “is it really any better”; but if it is used in an unfamiliar scenario, i.e., creating new experience, people will try to accept it as ‘novel stuff’ (as opposed to improvements)
  • “Application developers choose the technique that is easiest to implement, at the expense of generality and reuse” -> a lightweight way of saying ‘Xis best for something and worst for something else’
  • “Analogy of Input Handling to Context Handling” -> a good way to say A is similar to B
  • “It is important to note that the infrastructure provides scaffolding for context-aware computing. By this we mean that it contains important abstractions and mechanisms for dealing with context, but it is not a complete solution, nor is it meant to be.” -> a good way to say, our system illustrate ideas, or simply provide mechanics, etc.

Other thoughts:

  • How about the other way round: analogy of context handling to input handling?
  • Learn the concept of ‘notifying’ and ‘polling’:
    • With ‘notifying’, an independent notifier is responsible for observing meaningful input events / context information and notify the application accordingly;
    • With ‘polling’, the application is responsible for requesting anything it wants.

About Xiang 'Anthony' Chen

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