The term community refers to a location where people with common interests gather to share experiences, ask questions, or collaborate. As they are present in the same locality, members can meet easily to learn from each other by sharing their explicit knowledge and revealing information about their successes and failures. Also people who share a common interest, such as members of a profession, can join to form a wider community. Such communities have a deeper reservoir of knowledge, but they meet only occasionally at periodic events like conferences and seminars which serve as forums for exchanging knowledge and ideas.
Professional communities offer obvious advantages. Members benefit from asking questions and sharing their explicit knowledge with one another. This knowledge sharing provides a more effective way of learning because it avoids duplicating the current or past efforts of other members. Similarly, e-communities provide the advantage of connecting geographically disparate groups. These communities use Web technology as a vehicle for disseminating knowledge and information more quickly and inexpensively as well as for global communication and collaboration. Like traditional communities, e-communities act as knowledge repositories for their members, but the real value lies in the fact that e-communities can store a larger amount of vital information and data.Challenges Ahead
An e-community has to achieve at least two functionalities:
An e-community site must offer services that maximize the information benefits to its members while controlling information overload, promoting member interaction, and maintaining community involvement for the benefit of all members. E-community sites must regulate the amount of communication and information flow intelligently so that the burdens of membership do not become greater than its benefits. Members should have access to all the information they want without feeling overloaded. To foster community spirit, e-community members should be able to locate and be informed about other like-minded members, and the community should announce important community-wide news and events to interested members.
An e-community can include functionality that lets members disseminate information more easily to the correct people. Further, community members can use various technologies to personalize information and regulate its routing automatically.Conclusion
Ideally intelligent software agents can fulfill the real and hard challenges for establishing e-community sites. As intelligent and smart agents have all the relevant capabilities for achieving all the functionality of an e-community, agent technology has become a critical factor in this new and emerging field. BTexact Technologies, a division of British Telecommunication (BT), has come out with a portfolio of software agents for its e-community site. It contains a central profile manager agent, and a host of other application, intelligent, smart and personal agents to facilitating several dynamic, proactive, interacting, invoking, facilitating, filtering, updating, and collaborating tasks.
In the recent past, Extensible Markup Language (XML) has emerged as a platform-independent message format for data transmission over the networks. Thus smart and personal agents along with XML message format can meet the exciting challenges of developing and managing an useful and performing e-community site that serves not only as a knowledge base but also sharing the correct and personalized information to the community members.