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|Formal Language for Business Communication|
This page is dedicated to the FLBC and its associated message management system (i.e., MMS). Probably the best introduction to this topic is found in a statement I wrote for a workshop. Briefly, the FLBC can be seen as a "competitor" to KQML. FLBC is a formal language that can be used for automated electronic communication (e.g., EDI or agent communications). The FLBC language and the MMS both exploit linguistics throughout their design; it is this depth of integration, this usage of a wide range of influencing concepts, that is the real contribution of this system.
Designing the system in accordance with the principles gleaned from linguistics has resulted in a system that is highly modular. In the design of a language, in current systems messages are handled as a whole: either a system knows how to handle an ANSI X.12 message or it does not. The module is at the level of the message for EDI systems. The FLBC breaks a message up into three major parts (the force, the content, and the context); the
Finally, the XML DTD for this language is available on the Web.
- "Categorizing automated messages," Scott A. Moore, accepted by Decision Support Systems in August 1997. This paper discusses an empirical study that investigates the relationship between a linguistic theory called speech act theory (SAT) and automated electronic messages. The results reveal that standards for electronic data interchange (EDI) and inter-application communication messages have the structure predicted by SAT. This provides some evidence supporting the move to create computerized systems based on SAT. The benefits of such systems are that they would be more capable and easier to construct and support.
- "On Automated Message Processing in Electronic Commerce and Work Support Systems: Speech Act Theory and Expressive Felicity," Steven O. Kimbrough and Scott A. Moore, Transactions on Information Systems, 15:4 (October 1997), 321-367. Electronic messaging---whether in an office environment or for electronic commerce---is normally carried out in natural language, even when supported by information systems. For a variety of reasons it would be useful if electronic messaging systems could have semantic access to, i.e., have access to the meanings and contents of, the messages they process. Given that natural language understanding is not a practicable alternative, there remain three approaches to delivering systems with semantic access: electronic data interchange (EDI), tagged messages, and the development of a formal language for business communication (FLBC). We favor the latter approach. In this paper we compare and contrast these three approaches, present a theoretical basis for an FLBC (using speech act theory), and describe a prototype implementation.
- "Message management systems at work: Prototypes for business communication," Scott A. Moore and Steven O. Kimbrough, Journal of Organizational Computing, 5:2 (1995), 83-100. In this article, we describe two applications based on a system for office communication that is more flexible and expressive than other systems. This system allows the computerization of tasks that previously required manual intervention because of each task's complexity. The applications, one automating office tasks and the other simulating a bicycle industry, highlight the system's ability to accomodate changes to the communication language. They also highlight the utility of both the formal language used by the system and the inferential model of communications used to interpret the messages.
- "Message Management Systems: Concepts, Motivations, and Strategic Effects," Steven O. Kimbrough and Scott A. Moore, Journal of Management Information Systems, 9:2 (Fall 1992), 29-52. Basically a non-technical paper we wrote to answer the question "who cares?". An extension of the January 1992 HICSS paper.
- "Position statement for a workshop": Although I wrote this for a workshop, it provides a good general explanation of what the FLBC and MMS are and why they matter.
- "A foundation for flexible automated electronic communication." In this paper I describe a formal language for communication based on linguistics---more specifically, a theory of natural language communication and models of natural language conversations. The language has a small number of general message types which are formally defined by their intended effects on the recipient. For each message type I define a standard method of responding that depends only on the message type and is independent of the message's content. For more complex conversations I provide methods for responding that do depend on the content. In this system, a message's sender constructs and sends a message knowing that he cannot know, but can only predict, how it will be interpreted. The message's recipient receives the message, interprets it, and then uses it as a basis for inferring how he should respond. The message interpretation mechanism for this language is reusable, modular and shared by all applications. The benefit of this communication system is that it makes the communication infrastructure more flexible, easier to modify, easier to expand, and more capable. (Under review.)
- "Translating KQML messages into the FLBC." This is a work in progress.
- "Responding to KQML messages using the FLBC and MMS." This is a work in progress.
- "Replying to messages in the MMS". This is a work in progress.
- Description of the FL-SAS. This is an excerpt from A foundation for flexible automated electronic communication.
- Standard effects. This is an excerpt from A foundation for flexible automated electronic communication.
- Illocutionary forces. This is an excerpt from A foundation for flexible automated electronic communication.
- Learning new terms.
- "KQML & FLBC: Contrasting agent communication languages", Scott A. Moore, to appear in HICSS-32. Communication languages for agents and otherwise have been designed to minimize the size of the message and to function more as a data-passing protocol. Little emphasis has been placed on whether the meaning of the message is transparent. KQML is used as the exemplar of agent communication languages. The author analyzes the recently defined formal semantics of KQML. Based on this, he then specifies an FLBC message whose effects would be more or less equivalent. The purpose of this is to compare a sparse language (KQML) with one that more directly represents the meaning of the message. The results indicate that the latter type of language makes message composition more powerful, message decomposition feasible, and has the by-product of instantly defining many more possibly useful messages. (A longer version containing translations of all KQML performatives. The PowerPoint slides, in PDF form, of the presentation I made at the conference.)
- "On the spanning hypothesis for EDI semantics", Steven O. Kimbrough and Scott A. Moore, to appear in HICSS-32. What EDI needs is a good semantics, that is, a workable formal theory of what EDI messages mean. As is widely recognized, the point applies to electronic commerce and to communications by artificial agents in general. Some progress has been made in this direction, but very much work remains to be done. In this paper we introduce and discuss the spanning hypothesis for agent (EDI, electronic commerce, ...) communication languages. The spanning hypothesis is a claim about the semantics for a given communication language, and we think it represents a necessary condition for truly successful artificial communication in electronic commerce. After discussing and clarifying the hypothesis, and how it might be confirmed, we present evidence in its favor from an analysis of several EDIFACT transaction sets. (This is a longer version containing translations of one more EDIFACT message.The PowerPoint slides, in PDF form, of the presentation I made at the conference.)
- "Testing Speech Act Theory and its Applicability to EDI & Other Computer-Processable Messages," Scott A. Moore, Proceedings of the Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences 1996 Volume II, January 1996, Maui, Hawaii, IEEE Computer Society Press, pp. 30-38. This paper discusses a small empirical study that investigates the relationship between electronic commerce and a linguistic theory called speech act theory (SAT). The study reveals that electronic data interchange messages and inter-application communication messages have the structure predicted by SAT. This should encourage information systems (IS) researchers to continue investigating SAT, IS practitioners to consider basing message structures on a SAT framework, and speech act theorists who support this theory.
- "A Communication Framework for Applications," Scott A. Moore, Proceedings of the Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences 1996 Volume III, January 1995, Maui, Hawaii, IEEE Computer Society Press, pp. 330-341. The author proposes a communication framework for applications that is reusable and extensible. An existing recursively defined language is modified so that the message interpretation scheme can determine whether the message is meant to be interpreted literally or not. This makes it possible for the system to take advantage of its foundations in speech act theory with a minimum of inferential overhead. It is also extended to incorporate discourse management information. The author recommends that discourse be represented in a general planning language such as Petri nets. Actual discourse is allowed to deviate from these plans in unexpected ways so applications get the benefit of automated message management but without the inflexibility this usually requires.
- "On Obligation, Time and Defeasibility in Systems for Electronic Commerce," Steve Kimbrough & Scott Moore, Proceedings of the Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences 1995 Volume III, January 1993, Kauai, Hawaii, IEEE Computer Society Press, pp. 493-502. We propose a logical system for storing and reasoning about business messages. This system is envisioned to have mechanisms for reasoning defeasibly, reasoning about time, and reasoning about obligation. We describe how these capabilities allow us to ask interesting questions that could otherwise not be asked about a message database. Further research opportunities are described.
- "Saying and doing: Uses of formal languages in the conduct of business", Scott Alan Moore, University of Pennsylvania, 1993. (UMI Order Number 9413880.)