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Web services communicating in the language of their user community

Final Report Summary - WS-TALK (Web services communicating in the language of their user community)

The objective of WS-TALK was to develop an instrument that enables the human experts in business processes rather than the information technologies (IT) expert to define business processes. And the expert uses just natural language for the definition or description of processes. These natural language descriptions were transformed into statements which were executable by computers. The transformation process, in turn, resorted to semantic web meta-information which was designed by the IT experts.

To achieve this vision, the activities of the WS-TALK consortium were focused on:
- development of interpreter features with advanced text / content analysis capabilities;
- development of a service designer that supports the user in writing storybooks;
- development of a Service execution engine (SEE) that inclines to established standards of web service choreography. The SEE executes the storybooks;
- development of a controlled vocabulary designer which supports IT personnel to set up ontologies about the terminology used in the respective business process context;
- installation of reference sites with pilot users.

The WS-TALK features and products were developed in a close cooperation among partners from academia and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) active in software development.

WS-TALK's framework for service composition and orchestration was based on the Language action perspective (LAP) and speech act theory which provided means to develop the necessary communicative orientation for HCI with a strong and feasible emphasis on natural language. LAP contributed to a number of models for the coordination of work.

Speech act theory connected the content of the message with the speaker's intention. There were different intentions: assertions (statements about real-world situations), expressions (attitudes and emotional states), and directives (instructions to get the hearer to act). The context of the communication act could be considered as an extension of the content of a message. The intention and thus the communication act are reflected by the wording used in the speaker's statement.

In the context of the WS-TALK methodology, the productive act was called Production act (P-Act) and the communicative act was called Coordination act (C-Act). A transaction thus is a combination of a C-Act with one or more P-Acts. Each P-Act leads to a result, i.e. produces a P-fact. The combination of transaction and fact(s) was called an atomic building block of a business process.

WS-TALK was not targeting a broad mass-consumer market. Nevertheless, the market for WS-TALK products is a broad one and determined by technology providers for content management systems, support management systems, enterprise search engines, and enterprise application / service integration systems. For all these systems, WS-TALK provides a technology that raises the efficiency of their information logistics.

Communication within the consortium was primarily informal. There were a number of bilateral meetings, but the main communication instrument was email and the WS-TALK forum. If a partner had an interest in developing a certain feature for the WS-TALK products, it informed the consortium or the project manager about its intention. If project management approved that this idea was in line with the objectives of the project, the respective partner continued with the development and stored afterwards the results at the WS-TALK forum where all partners had the opportunity to criticise the result and trigger an iterative circle of software improvements. Scientific publications were in general submitted in accordance with the project manager's approval.

In general, the Research and technological development (RTD) partners always stood at the beginning of the production chain. They selected a suitable approach for a given problem of the SME partner. They developed a first prototypical solution to demonstrate the feasibility of their approach.

SME partners took up these prototypes and developed robust software modules that can be involved in the respective WS-TALK product.

The major role of the SME partners was to identify the commercial potential of the WS-TALK technology and to assess it correctly through close cooperation with a number of dedicated external companies acting as pilot users.

The first pilot users in WS-TALK contributed their data in order to set company-specific controlled vocabularies. They cooperated with the respective partners of the consortium to assess the applicability of the WS-TALK technology within the context of their organisation and to co-develop an application that was based on WS-TALK results.