Direct manipulation interfaces have greatly extended the class of casual
computer users and encouraged them to conceptualize the system through
metaphors. They have not, however, successfully incorporated facilities
for end-user programming without breaking out of the direct manipulation
This thesis supports the contention that "teaching" provides an appropriate
metaphor for programming in such an environment. It presents a system for
inducing procedures that enables users of a graphics editor to teach it
routine tasks by working through example traces. A central problem in the
design is to meet the requirements for instructibility without imposing
excessive demands on the teacher.
A key component of the system is its teaching metaphor, a graphical
apprentice called Metamouse. Metamouse is the target of the teacher's
demonstrations. It is an eager learner designed to encourage constructive
methods, clarify ambiguous situations, reduce errors and extraneous
activity, and discourage free variation in teaching. Its behaviour is
expected to be understood by users at a metaphorical, intentional level
rather than from a precise specification.
Metamouse has been fully designed but not yet fully implemented. However,
a pilot system has induced procedures with variables, generalized actions,
conditional branches and loops. Its ability to reduce errors and extraneous
activity by prediction, and to identify underspecification, has been
demonstrated. Tests showed that the metaphor is easily understood.
Consequently the thesis argues that it is feasible for a system to induce
procedures interactively from casual users. This significantly broadens
the scope of application of machine learning techniques and opens new
areas of research in knowledge acquisition. It facilitates the
investigation of intelligent user interfaces and, last but not least,
benefits the many users of interactive graphics systems.
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