Strategies & Technologies

Summer 2003


Location:          Warren Weaver Hall room 101

Lectures:          Tuesdays from 6:00 to 8:20

Instructor:         Michael Lewis

Office:              Warren Weaver Hall room 401

Hours:              Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 4:30 to 5:30,

                        And by appointment


Course Prerequisites – students are expected to have prior coursework and/or experience in database systems, networking, and web programming.

Course Context – The popular image of eCommerce is that of a splashy web page, full of products and advertisements.  In fact, that web page is the public façade of a remarkable system that connects front-end presentation of products and services, personalized to user preferences, to a back-end of databases used to manage product inventories, customer profiles, transaction histories, payments, and more.  eCommerce is alive and well, and growing rapidly, in spite of the “dot com” market phenomenon of too much money chasing too few financial opportunities.
Commerce was not a design goal or even a remote consideration of the early Internet.  We have moved from an environment that emphasized casual communication and file sharing to one that supports the electronic transfer of funds, and the expectations have changed accordingly.  What we are observing is a fascinating, historic high-stakes technical re-tooling of the underlying protocols and practices of the Internet to support robust and secure digital transactions, and their use within routine human activities in business, government, education, and beyond.
There is now a demand for technologies that support comprehensive user authentication, encrypted communication, and digital certification that provably connects people to on-line actions.  The subsequent need to balance the required security with an acceptable level of privacy remains as a challenge.  How much privacy are users willing to sacrifice in exchange for security and convenience features?
The global scope of the Internet, readily crossing national boundaries, exacerbates such issues.  How can uniform standards and governing legislation be enacted and enforced?  This is particularly nettlesome, given the relatively anarchic early governing structure of the Internet.  While the technical issues of the protocol transformations are challenging, the political issues can be even more difficult to manage.  We will restrict ourselves, for the most part, to the more comprehensible technical issues, pointing out social, legal, or political problems that hinder development along the way.
The permeation of Information Technologies throughout the eCommerce transaction and the internal business practices of the organization have become more generally known as eBusiness.  The evolution of these technologies, ranging from integrity checks and fraud detection to information extraction, will be investigated in this course.

Grading Policy – The course grades will be based upon a combination of homework assignments, quizzes, and projects, in equal measure.  There is a tremendous amount of supplementary material available on the web, and we will make extensive use of these resources, but it is a requirement that students submit original work.  Any written text or code that is not original, such as a quotation or a library function, must be properly cited – when in doubt, check it out with the instructor or teaching assistant.  Any submission found to have violated the policy will receive a grade of ‘F’ and the student will be subject to departmental disciplinary procedures that could include suspension or possibly expulsion from the program. 


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Course Materials – We will use a variety of on-line materials, primary sources, and a textbook currently under development with John Wiley & Sons.  The chapters will be distributed in printed and/or digital form.