Editor’s Introduction 9(4)

Vladimir Zwass
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 9, Number 4, Summer 2005, pp. 5.

The broad deployment of the Internet-Web compound has given rise to a number of bottom-up phenomena that have emerged on the various platforms that support them. The actions of many users/customers cause aggregate results to surface, often in real time. Auctions serve to discover prices. Collaborative filtering serves to discover the preferences of emerging segments of users. Peer-to-peer network applications can be deployed to discover matches of stock trades without human intervention (and thus allow anonymous trading of large blocks of stock on Liquidnet), or to share distributed digital products without a central directory under a variety of regimes, some of them legal. Indeed, “giving rise” is the proper trope here. Instead of a centralized control, we have a lower-level infrastructural network-based platform, and a number-in some cases, very large, in others, vetted and limited-of real-time participants who may be represented by software agents. Considering the importance of these emergent, bottom-up phenomena in electronic commerce, we need to study them closely.

The first paper in the issue addresses one of the limitations of collaborative filtering (CF). Seeking privacy through deception, many customers provide false information to sites that deploy CF. Because CF aims to predict a user’s preference for a purchase or another activity based on the preferences of other users whom the CF system considers like-minded, this false information affects the quality of recommendations. On the other hand, offering users anonymity may limit the quality of data in other ways (consider authors trying to boost the preferences for their books). The writers of the paper you will read here, Huseyin Polat and Wenliang Du, present a CF scheme that offers privacy to its users in the framework of a central server-based site like the one deployed by Amazon.com. With the use of randomized perturbation of the users’ data, the scheme is able to offer prediction accuracy close to what is obtained with the original data. The potential to achieve privacy without anonymity by algorithmic techniques is once again nicely pointed out.

The sharing of files with digital content is a form of culture consumption that in many cases transgresses the boundaries of legal behavior in various countries. This fact appears to have prevented a disciplined analysis of this consumer behavior. However, widespread illegal consumption needs to be studied, if only to cause business models to surface that would create a real consumer in a restructured marketplace. Here, Chun-Yao Huang marshals multiple theoretical perspectives to model consumer behavior in music sharing. Those who engage in unauthorized sharing in violation of copyright offer various justifications for their activities. Some of these, such as the claim that sharing is a way to social networking, may lead to new business models. Practical conclusions could be drawn from this paper, which will certainly be built upon in the future. For example, fledgling firms entering the podcasting space, such as Odeo, may be interested in expanding their business models in this direction.

Supply-chain management with e-commerce techniques has led to taut supply chains and webs, with meager buffer stocks and narrow delivery windows. This makes for a highly efficient use of resources. It also makes the supply chains highly vulnerable. Enter supply-chain event management (SCEM): systems that do real-time monitoring of supply chains, to enable immediate reactions in response to events, according to business rules. In their work presented here, Freimut Bodendorf and Roland Zimmermann show the implementation of proactive SCEM, which displays a measure of autonomous behavior by predicting events and acting to avert undesirable effects. The software-agent paradigm is used in system implementation. The authors include a quantitative assessment of the prototype deployment by a logistics provider.

The performance of supply chains is, to a large degree, conditioned by the extent of collaboration among the participants. Collaboration, in turn, depends on trust. Fu-ren Lin, Yu-wei Sung, and Yi-pong Lo study the dependence of supply-chain performance on participant trust. Participant trust behavior is modeled with a simulation platform built on the multi-agent paradigm. Positive results are predicted for supply-chain performance with the increase in trust-at certain costs. This indicates the trade-offs available to practitioners. The trust mechanisms operationalized in the study will be of interest to researchers building on this work.

Web site traffic is a prerequisite to transactions in e-tail. If a broader, relationship-oriented view of e-commerce is adopted, Web site traffic is also vital to maintaining a long-term relationship between sellers and potential or actual buyers. Ralitza Nikolaeva uses data on top retailers to estimate the influence of various factors enhancing site visibility. The results are highly interesting-media advertising and early entry into the marketplace do not influence traffic significantly; publicity and product assortment do. Among other outcomes, the study opens an important area requiring study in an e-commerce context: promotion via public relations.

As we complete the ninth volume of IJEC, it is my privilege and distinct pleasure to thank our readers, our authors, and the members of our Editorial Board. It is particularly important to thank our referees, the primary guarantors of quality. Here are the referees of the International Journal of Electronic Commerce.

It is with great sadness that I write about the untimely passing of Claudio Ciborra, a member of our Editorial Board and chaired professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science. But it is with joy and deep respect that I remember the insight, scholarship, erudition, and playfulness that he brought to our field. Reading The Labyrinths of Information rewards you with the colorful perspectives, originality, freshness, and joy of improvisation. Every one of his papers enlarged me. We will miss Claudio. We will have his work.