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Enabling Semantic eMail: Design and Implementation of a Prototype

Student name: 
none so far

Nowaday, almost everyone is using eMail as a tool for communication and collaboration everyday. Especially in a business setting eMail became extremely important and a major means for information exchange as well as distibution of tasks within an organization. Further, eMail overload is a common problem of people in companies.
In order to improve the support of tools for helping people to deal with  eMail, semantic descriptions about eMails and their elements is a generic means to help tools to understand message context and provide therefore automated and smart support for humans.
Semantics in eMails can be used at least for two independent elements of an eMail:

  • Semantic eMail Adresses (see [1])
  • Semantic eMail Content   (see [2])

Both aspects have been proposed and studied recently to some extent.
The purpose of this project is to explore and demonstrate the benefit of semantics in eMail.
This includes:

  • Getting familiar with Semantic eMails and Semantic eMail Adressing
  • Getting familar with eMail technologies (such as protocol) and tools (clients and eMail servers)
  • Design of a solution that allows to inject semantic eMail into an enterprise. Important here is the requirement that both, people using semantic eMails and people not using semantic eMails will coexist in a company and must be able to communicate and that the existing non-semantic infrastruture can not replace in general. The result is an interesting concrete software enginnering task.
  • Implementation of the designed solution. This includes both server-side as well as client-side infrastructure. The task is to extend existing, popular tools instead of the development of toy tools, i.e. the Thunderbird eMail client
  • Showchasing of the use of Semantics in eMails by design of a small use-case scenario and implementation in form of a specifc extension of an eMail client.

The project requires motivation and dedication to the project, the ability to learn about real-world (widely used) technologies, programming skills and creativity. Candidates will have to develop the design of the solution themselves (under guidance of the tutor).
In return the project is a nice software engineering problem, that covers many practical skills that are needed in industry. Hence, a perfect training for an everyday problem  of software engineers.  At the same time, it is concerned with a topic at the edge of Web development that has not reached industry yet, but has significant potential to be picked up by industry.
The propsed work will be carried out within the Semantic Engineering Support Environment project (SEnSE)  and will be actually be used in the context of this project.
[1] Michael Kassoff, Charles Petrie, Lee-Ming Zen, and Michael Genesereth:
"Semantic Email Addressing: Sending
Email to People, Not Strings,"
AAAI 2006 Fall Symposium on Integrating Reasoning into Everyday Applications.

[2] Luke McDowell, Oren Etzioni, Alon Halevy, and Henry Levy: "Semantic EMail". Thirteen International World Wide Web Conference (WWW2004), May 2004.