Computer systems are becoming increasingly complex. Active assistance
from the human-machine interface is required to exploit this growing
sophistication fully. Traditional methods of providing assistance
are inadequate in two ways. first, they are passive, requiring the
human to detect (perhaps implicit) problems and assuming the human
will make "appropriate queries". Secondly, they are static and so must explain
everything in great detail. Active assistants are required to recognize
what information is most important and make it prominent.
This thesis explores a small part of this problem. A computer coach
unobtrusively monitors user performance, attempts to recognize inefficient
use of unawareness of important facilities, then suggests alternatives.
Various design issues are discussed. The implementation of a prototype
coach built for the Emacs text editor is described. Informal evaluation
shows that the detection of unused concepts is a powerful yet easily
implemented technique for generating helpful advice. The recognition of
instances of pre-stored sub-optimal sequences of operations is shown to
be less prolific and more difficult to implement, but to provide a
greater degree of situation sensitivity.
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