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Researchers Submit Patent Application, "Online System and Method for Enabling Social Search and Structured Communications among Social Networks", for...

August 21, 2014

Researchers Submit Patent Application, "Online System and Method for Enabling Social Search and Structured Communications among Social Networks", for Approval

By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Politics & Government Week -- From Washington, D.C., VerticalNews journalists report that a patent application by the inventors Payne, John M. (Laguna Beach, CA); Tung, Douglas W. (Santa Monica, CA), filed on March 31, 2014, was made available online on August 7, 2014.

The patent's assignee is CircleUp, Inc.

News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Fundamentally, people have an innate desire to survive and prosper. Because an individual does not have the relative capacity to survive and prosper independently, it is highly desirable that people be able to communicate effectively with each other. This is done by exchanging messages in the form of signals (e.g., voice, written text, etc.) These messages typically consist of the message content, its context, the time to deliver and the cost to send the message. The effectiveness of the message to a specific audience is a function of these factors. The value of the message itself to the sender is its relative utility (the contribution the sending of the message makes to their perception of well being). This value is based largely on actions taken (or not taken) by the recipient of the message. Enormous effort has been directed to maximizing the value of this function, which we refer to as the messaging value function.

"Individual success is often based on the ability for the individual to transact in its social network (the marketplace) in order to trade cooperation, information, favors, goods and services to survive and prosper economically. This ability is highly dependent on this messaging value function.

"As technology has evolved, the range of parameters (the space of possibilities) for this function has changed greatly. For example, with written communication such as e-mail and instant messaging, time and cost to send a message have decreased towards zero. On the other hand, the relative return of value of the message itself has changed by a much lesser degree. However, context, i.e., the environment in which the message is received, has increased in entropy. The number and variety of messages have altered the perception of the recipient and the cost of processing of each message. In many cases listeners are more distrustful, busy and jaded which reduces the relative value of the message content, time and cost being equal.

"Spoken language, writing, mail, printing, telegraph, telephone, television, electronic mail and the Internet have derived their immense value and impact to their ability to affect this messaging value function. What each of these did was primarily reduce the time and cost of the distribution of the message. With the exception of language each has had a far less significant impact on the message content and its context.

"Furthermore, in many cases, individual messages have been considered in isolation. Messages in typical cases occur in a network and the have a cumulative and interactive effect. Reductions in messaging cost and time have resulted in an increase in messages. The increase of messages has resulted in competition amongst messages for time and action on behalf of the recipient. As the number of messages has increased, the time potentially available for a recipient to react to each one decreased. Many messages are disseminated to a group of recipients at a time. This one to many communication multiplies the effect of the average message processing time.

"The net effect is that while cost and time of distribution has gone toward zero, the relative value of the content of the message has gone down. In addition, the influence of the environment of the message has largely been negative as it relates to the volume of messages, excluding consideration in the trust and receptiveness aspect of the environment which has increased globally.

"The area of marginal value for improvements in the messaging value function is primarily in the message and the environment, not in the cost or time of distribution. This is due to the much larger inefficiencies and range in the message itself and the environment, compared to cost and time improvements.

"In addition, the network effect also may alter the message processing time. A recipient has a finite amount of time available to read and process messages. The more messages recipients receive, on average, the lesser amount of time they have to give attention to individual messages. Recipients then typically develop screening strategies to focus their energy on the more important messages. If one can reduce the overall number of messages a recipient receives, the messaging value function may increase. If messages stand out from others to be screened by the recipient as more important, the value of the messaging value function may increase.

"By way of example, many decisions in an individual's daily life are ones for which advice, opinions, or direction from others is useful or necessary. When choosing what college is best for a child, a person may benefit from the advice of parents whose children are in college. When moving a design into production, an engineer may need the approval of several managers. A disk jockey preparing for a wedding may seek input from wedding participants and guests on what songs should be played at the wedding. In these situations, seeking advice or approval from others individually can be time-consuming, inefficient, and often inexact.

"Using e-mail or instant messaging, a person may send out a question to a large number of potential responders at once. By writing about a question on a blog, or posting a question to a web service such as Yahoo.RTM. Answers, a person may enable the public to respond in comments posted to the blog or to the web service. Yahoo.RTM. is a registered trademark of Yahoo! Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif. Search engines allow a user to search for opinions relevant to his or her decision. All of these approaches have flaws, however. All require manual aggregation of the responses. In the case of blog comments, web services such as Yahoo.RTM. Answers, or search engine results, the trustworthiness of the information returned may be difficult to assess, in part because the respondents self-select, and because they may not self-select on the basis of expertise. Only e-mail and instant messaging allow the user to target a particular set of recipients with his or her question. As mentioned, however, both e-mail and instant messaging currently represent an overwhelming torrent of user-generated content and communications that is unstructured and qualitative. A focus on trust and collaboration is desirable in social networks as lives move online.

"Another drawback of current systems is that they may require users who wish to collaborate in many cases to register, download, or share in advance a software module. This condition precedent may be inefficient in that it adds a step to the collaboration process, and may discourage some from interacting.

"Further, in order to ask follow-up questions, a user must often generate new questions without the benefit of the context of the prior questions.

"Based on the foregoing, it would be highly desirable to improve the relative value of the message content and its environment. By way of one example only, it would be advantageous to be a system that builds upon prior questions and suggests follow-up questions based on prior questions in a thread, and allows a user to share questions and receive answers in an efficient, prescribed format within a trusted circle or group of recipients."

As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "According to one exemplary embodiment, one benefit of the present invention is that it provides a person the ability to frame a question in a manner that will lead to meaningful answers instead of searching through documents for information that the documents may or may not contain. The exemplary system according to one embodiment allows a person to create a message, also referred to as a query, that may include a question and may include answer options and other attributes, and send the query to a set of correspondents. The correspondents, also referred to as recipients, are then given an opportunity to answer the question, add comments, and provide various other types of feedback. The recipients may also have the option of forwarding the query to additional recipients. In this manner, the question is directed to a user community, based on a network of contacts and resources, as a type of broader communications task.

"The system then may automatically route, collect, and aggregate the responses in order to produce a collaborative recommendation for the author of the query. Other users may also be able to view the aggregated query responses. Query responses may be syndicated, and, for example, may be viewable by subscribing to a Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed. The system may provide visualizations of query responses that show the status and evolving state and maturity of the query.

"In another aspect, the system provides loosely structured questions in order to enable easy access for users. User-generated information is organized into a slightly-structured, somewhat quantified form.

"In another aspect, the system includes a Question Markup Language (QML), a language for representing questions. For example, using an embodiment of the online system in accordance with the system allows a user to represent questions as a form of communications including content workflow as an extensible markup language and ontology that supports rendering, response collection, aggregation and life cycle, thereby allowing incremental and evolutionary refinement.


"These and other aspects of the invention will be more readily comprehended in view of the discussion herein and accompanying drawings.

"The patent or application file contains at least one drawing executed in color. Copies of the patent or patent application publication with color drawings will be provided by the Office upon request and payment of the necessary fee.

"FIG. 1 is a representation of the principal functional elements of the exemplary system;

"FIG. 2 is a schematic block diagram of an online system in one embodiment in accordance with the present invention;

"FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram of the creation and propagation of a query;

"FIG. 4a is a screen shot of the main tab of an exemplary profile Graphical User Interface (GUI);

"FIG. 4b is a screen shot of an exemplary profile with comments;

"FIG. 4c is an alternate embodiment of a user profile GUI;

"FIG. 5a is a screen shot of an exemplary correspondent management GUI;

"FIG. 5b is a screen shot of an exemplary correspondent management GUI showing a translucent mouseover which displays a list of correspondent names;

"FIG. 5c is a screen shot of several exemplary icons used to represent correspondents in the correspondent management GUI;

"FIG. 5d is a screen shot of an alternate embodiment of a GUI for representing circles Or groups;

"FIG. 5e is a GUI showing details of a circle or group;

"FIG. 6 is a screen shot of an exemplary GUI used to prompt a query author for instant messaging screen names and passwords;

"FIG. 7 is a schematic diagram illustrating several exemplary messaging networks;

"FIG. 8 is a screen shot of an exemplary system toolbar GUI for creating a query;

"FIG. 9a is a screen shot of an exemplary query creation GUI in which answer options are specified;

"FIG. 9b is a screen shot of an exemplary circle selection GUI in which all or certain members of circles are specified;

"FIG. 10 is a screen shot of an exemplary toolbar alert GUI;

"FIG. 11 is a screen shot of an exemplary query list GUI, with the 'my questions ' list expanded;

"FIG. 12 is a screen shot of an exemplary query GUI, showing an exemplary mode of on-screen appearance of the query GUI;

"FIG. 13a is a screen shot of another exemplary query GUI;

"FIG. 13b shows screen shots of three other exemplary query GUIs;

"FIG. 14a is a screen shot of an exemplary social network mapping display for a query;

"FIG. 14b is a screen shot of an exemplary geo-visualization display for a query;

"FIG. 14c is a screen shot of an exemplary flow mapping display for a query;

"FIG. 15a is a screen shot of an exemplary results page showing local output and export options, the query result in the form of a social network mapping display, and a user profile;

"FIG. 15b is a screen shot of an exemplary results page showing local output and export options, the query result in the form of a tabular display, and a user profile;

"FIG. 15c is a screen shot of an exemplary results page showing local output and export options, the query result in the form of a geo-visualization display, and a user profile;

"FIG. 15d is a screen shot of another embodiment of an exemplary results page showing the query, response choices, individual responses, and members who have not yet replied;

"FIG. 16 is a screen shot of an exemplary server home page;

"FIG. 17 is a screen shot of an exemplary list of tags;

"FIG. 18 is a screen shot of an exemplary embedding of GUIs into instant messaging interfaces;

"FIG. 19 is a screen shot illustrating examples of questions that a user or the system may specify for rapidly retrieval and use.

"FIG. 20 is a screen shot of an exemplary integration of GUIs into Microsoft Live and Yahoo.RTM.;

"FIG. 21 is a screen shot showing examples of the integration of advertising into various GUIs."

For additional information on this patent application, see: Payne, John M.; Tung, Douglas W. Online System and Method for Enabling Social Search and Structured Communications among Social Networks. Filed March 31, 2014 and posted August 7, 2014. Patent URL:

Keywords for this news article include: CircleUp Inc.

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Source: Politics & Government Week

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