ECRA co-editors' introduction for volume 7, issue 4

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Journal Article

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This issue of Electronic Commerce Research and Applications includes a new ‘research directions’ article that was developed out of a panel discussion and debate at the 2007 International Conference on Electronic Commerce.1. Research directionsThe opening article for the issue, by Haluk Demirkan, Robert J. Kauffman, Jamshid Vayghan, Hans-Georg Fill, Dimitris Karagiannis and Paul P. Maglio, is entitled ‘Service-Oriented Technology and Management: Perspectives on Research and Practice for the Coming Decade. The author group includes two leading IT services industry professionals from IBM Corporation, two European service technology researchers from the University of Vienna in Austria, and two North American information systems researchers from Arizona State University in the United States. They discuss opportunities for joint academic and industry research in the emerging area of service science. The global view of the authors provides an interesting backdrop for the reader to learn about recent trends and industry developments, the emergence of service-oriented technology and management, technology-based and process-focused changes, and strategy, economic and financial issues. The core perspective that is communicated in this article emphasizes research directions to make service-oriented technology and management practice more effective. The authors offer a number of different thoughts on research directions for practice and managerial guidelines to deal with some of the topical issues. For example, service-oriented architecture investments should not be viewed as ‘stand-alone’ investments by managers. Instead, large investments in key complementary assets are also required to provide a basis to ensure the appropriation of business value. The authors note that IT services can be assessed and evaluated using methods from economics and finance, as a means to bring the practice of service science in line with the disciplines of financial planning and project investment within the organization.The authors also call for a new emphasis on studying the cross-functional governance of service-oriented technology and architecture efforts within the organization. They make the case that organizations will need ‘service centers of excellence’, as a means to build a shared based of knowledge about service-oriented technologies, in order to be most effective. They also advocate corporate-level monitoring and guidance, and the development of new metrics that are tuned into assessing the performance of service-oriented technology and management. They suggest that it may be possible to think of service-oriented systems as a ‘portfolio’ of technology-based organizational capabilities, and that greater value can be produced when each of the ‘portfolio assets’ is subject to review by business unit-level architecture and standards committees. A final suggestion points to the importance of common, agreed upon business semantics that provide a basis for shared definitions of IT services across the enterprise. They also point to a number of likely pitfalls that organizations can avoid by understanding the likely ‘value trajectory’ for service-oriented technology and management in organizations, and how effective governance can produce the desired results.The service science, management and engineering (SSME) area is one that we expect to become of vital interest to the editorial goals of Electronic Commerce Research and Applications in the coming years. For this reason, we encourage the submission of industry and academic research on this topic for review to this journal. There are a number of new members of the editorial board who have expertise in this body of knowledge, and are committed to shaping its development to create high impacts in the parallel worlds of technology and management practice.2. Regular papersThis remainder of this issue consists of regular submissions to the journal, reflecting acceptances based on the development efforts of past Coordinating Editors-in-Chief, Jae-Kyu Lee and Norman Sadeh, as well as under the current editorial team’s responsibility.The first article among the regular papers is by Jon T.S. Quah of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and Vincent L.H. Seet of Singapore Telecommunication Ltd., entitled ‘Adaptive WAP Portals’. Wireless application protocols make it possible for consumers to use wireless phones as their interface to the Internet, to search for information, send e-mail messages, and visit websites to make purchases. The difficulties that arise in use are due to limitations in the manner in which the information can be accessed via such a small screen. Most designers have used a hierarchical approach to providing access, but this puts an unnecessary burden on the user who would like support to navigate efficiently. The authors propose the idea of an ‘adaptive WAP portal’, which permits the user’s navigation behavior to be evaluated and leveraged so that an appropriate organization of links and shortcuts can be put into place to support the user better. Their approach also supports the dynamic construction of WAP navigation functionality, since wireless phone users can be expected to have navigational preferences that will change with the passage of time. They also present and evaluate a prototype adaptive WAP portal called ‘Intelliportal’. Their evaluation approach involves two experiments. One checks to see what the total ‘click distance’ is without and with navigation shortcuts. The second analyzes how much scrolling is required before and after link sorting is implemented. The results show the efficacy of the authors’ innovation, and further suggest the need for additional research on how to make wireless phone-based access to the Internet more effective.The next two articles deal with word-of-mouth effects in electronic commerce. The second regular paper is by Do-Hyung Park of LG Electronics and Jumin Lee of Kyung Hee Cyber University of South Korea, who have written an article on ‘electronic word-of-mouth’ for this issue. Their article is called ‘eWOM Overload and Its Effect on Consumer Behavioral Intention Depending on Consumer Involvement’. The authors discuss the dual roles of online consumer reviews of products that are sold via the Internet as ‘informant’ and ‘recommender’ for those who read them. The authors ask the question: What happens when consumers face a very large number of online reviews though? They posit that there will be a confounding of a negative effect from the glut of opinions being less informative due to consumers’ inability to read them and process the information they offer, and a positive effect from the weight and consistency of consumer views about a product’s popularity. They introduce the concept of a ‘review valence’, as the extent to which all of the reviews create a positive impression or a negative impression overall. They build new theory and conduct an experiment which resulted in four key findings: (1) a higher number of online consumer reviews increases product popularity, and the number and different types of reviews enhance their collective informativeness; (2) information overload can also occur in the presence of a large number of reviews; (3) the consequence of information overload isn’t necessarily bad; and (4) high-involvement consumers tend to be more committed information processors, with the result that they take away more information from online consumer reviews.Another article by Do-Hyung Park of LG Electronics includes coauthor Sara Kim of the University of Chicago, who explore a related topic: ‘The Effects of Consumer Knowledge on Message Processing of Electronic Word-of-Mouth via Online Consumer Reviews’. The authors focus on the type and number of online consumer reviews. They explain that the type of reviews moderates how the expertise of the consumer influences the extent to which word-of-mouth effects play a role in the diffusion of information about products. The authors use the ‘elaboration likelihood model’ to investigate the effects. This model suggests that less experienced consumers will tend to draw conclusions about a product’s quality on the basis of the number of consumer reviews that have been filed, as opposed to the consistency of the contents and alignment of the contents. The paper’s research methodology employs an experimental design to explore the multiple effects and interactions of cognitive fit, purchase intention, and the effect of the number of reviews. For a related article on consumer reviews on the Internet, the interested reader should see Volume 7, Issue 2, which includes: J. Lee, D.H. Park and I. Han, “The Effect of Negative Online Consumer Reviews on Product Attitudes: An Information Processing View”.The fourth of this issue’s regular papers discusses ethical behavior on the Internet in the face of recent developments in peer-to-peer file-sharing technology innovations, with special reference to the online music industry. In spite of the increasingly global recognition that unauthorized downloading of copyrighted music files from the Internet should be viewed as inappropriate and unethical use, the authors, Yu-Chen Chen, Rong-An Shang and An-Kai Lin of Soochow University in Taiwan, offer a different interpretation in their article, ‘The Intention to Download Music Files in a P2P Environment: Consumption Value, Fashion, and Ethical Decision Perspectives’. They suggest that P2P file-sharing of music can be viewed as value-maximizing behavior, wherein users make some conscious tradeoffs between appropriate and inappropriate downloading, in light of their understanding of the moral and legal consequences of their actions. They also suggest another aspect as well, namely that there are people who download music via Internet file-sharing to participate in a sort of fashionable activity, and that the music itself is related to fashion. The authors test several hypotheses related to the perceived value of downloading, buying vs. downloading music, the user’s moral reasoning ability and involvement with current fashion, and perceptions of epistemic and social value. Data were collected from a P2P file-sharing community called Kuro in Taiwan that no longer is able to offer music sharing services due to a lawsuit involving the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which permitted the authors to conduct factor analysis and test the hypotheses. The results suggest that P2P file-sharing and downloading, consistent with the authors’ proposed theory, may not be viewed by their users in moral or ethical terms, but instead in terms of economic and fashion-seeking behavior. Although the authors’ findings are troubling relative to the message that they send to people who own or hope to profit from intellectual property, they nevertheless offer a number of useful suggestions to the managers of firms who have the capacity to make music available on physical CDs and for legal download via the Internet. The next paper is by Xun Liang of Beijing University and Stanford University, Yangbo He from Beijing University, Rong-Chang Chen from the National Taichung Institute of Technology, and Jian Yang also of Beijing University. They study the IT service pricing problem that occurs when an organization rents an Internet search engine from an external vendor for local use within the organization. The vendor’s problem is to balance its pricing choice so as to achieve the largest margin for individual clients or lessees relative to pricing effectively to maximize market share and still achieve strong profitability across its customer base. Through the use of an economic model for pricing, the authors are able to distill information about the optimal duration for local search engine rental. They also evaluate various solutions for maximizing profit by conducting experiments that help them to conduct sensitivity analysis for the best outcomes. They further discuss two specific strategies that organizations may wish to consider. One is using initial ‘lock-in’ periods and the other involves giving lessees ‘price reduction coupons’ so they can waive a portion of the fees they are asked to pay in the first period. The authors also present a number of theorems, corollaries and algorithms that develop out of the modeling solution methods they apply. This work is innovative, and suggestive of the emerging ‘services science’ paradigm that cuts across Computer Science, Information Systems, Economics, Marketing and Logistics Management, and Supply Chain Management. Developing appropriate prices for IT services is a problem of broad and high interest of late.The final article of the regular publications is by Shiu-li Huang from Ming Chuan Univesity and Fu-ren Lin of National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan contributed a work called “Using Temporal-Difference Learning for Multi-Agent Bargaining”. An important research area that has been represented in Electronic Commerce Research and Applications over the years involves agent-based computing. Huang and Lin’s design science work adds to this research by considering agent-based bargaining, through the design of software capabilities that support the capabilities of buyers and sellers to engage in bilateral bargaining online as a prelude to making exchange transactions. In the authors’ work, the agent-based bargaining process is represented as a Markov decision process. The software agent attempts to learn how to maximize the total rewards for the buyer or seller during the process. Underlying the authors’ research perspective is that software agents can figure out how to do this through a process of machine learning technique called ‘reinforcement learning’. This involves the agent having the capability to learn through its own experience, rather than through input that is given by a coordinator or supervisor its learning. It permits agents to learn how to determine actions for the various steps in the decision process in the presence of incomplete information. The authors note that ‘temporal difference-based reinforcement learning’ operates without a model of the decision-making environment’s dynamics. As a result, these methods can accomplish updates of their estimates by leveraging the prior learning they have accomplished to make successful current estimates. They do not need to wait and see what the actual outcomes are, and then compare the present decision against them, as is the case for other methods. The authors use an experimental approach to test an IT artifact that they constructed to illustrate the functionality of their automated bargaining agent. Through the use of metrics including ‘average payoff’ and ‘settlement rate’, they are able to provide preliminary evidence for the robustness and effectiveness of this approach to online bargaining and transaction-making.Regular issue papers are typically handled by a Co-Editor-in-Chief, and either subcontracted for the review process to an Associate Editor of Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, or sent directly to two or three reviewers by a Co-Editor, depending on the extent of the interdisciplinary contents and the perceptions we have about what it will take to obtain meaningful developmental input for the authors. The reviewers and AEs work in anonymity from the perspective of the authors of the papers they review, but the reviewers know who the authors are. We all share one key thing in common though: we work to help authors develop the strengths in their research articles for publication in ECRA. We do this once we determine that the research is interesting, the ideas have promise, the initial version of the submitted paper is well conceived and written, and the research is addressing an important problem on the technology, decision-making, business process, organizational, industry and market, or the market levels of analysis. Authors who are interested in expediting the development of their research toward publication should make an effort to identify the extent to which ECRA is interested in a given topic, based on evidence of a given stream of research in a prior issue or volume of the journal, or based on a discussion with a member of the senior editorial team. By the same token, authors should also recognize that we consciously screen out articles at the first review stage where there appears to be only a marginal contribution that looks like it can be made. Another reason that we screen out articles, for example, is when it appears that there is little technological innovation in a technical article involving Internet technologies, or little effort to bring theory to a managerial article on an e-commerce topic. ECRA also does not wish to publish articles that extend technologies, or that use theory that have been studied and applied extensively already.As we close out the seventh volume of ECRA and bid 2008 farewell, we look forward to what the coming year holds in store for new exploration in a variety of areas of e-commerce research. For example, some of our highly committed area editors and co-editors are currently working on special issues that will appear in 2009 and 2010. These represent both technical and managerial interests and include special issues on:•Software agents for supply chain management coordination and optimization.•New interdisciplinary directions in practice and research on Web 2.0 and social networks-related issues.•Recent advances in the area of Internet-based selling mechanisms, pricing, firm incentives and consumer behavior.•Emerging technical, managerial, strategic and economic issues in online markets and electronic market mechanisms.•Technological innovations, infotainment, and marketplace transformation with mobile commerce and nomadic computing. This journal is also continuing to work with the leadership of the annual International Conference on Electronic Commerce, which was held in 2008 in Innsbruck, Austria. A new association involves the industry and academic professionals who developed the IEEE Conference on E-Business Engineering, which was held in Xi’an, China in October 2008. ECRA seeks to work with the program chairs on the targeted publication of selected ‘best papers’ from leading academic, and joint industry-academic conferences on topics that are important to its editorial mission.We would like to take this opportunity to thank the AEs who have served ECRA during 2008 for their outstanding work, and look forward to the continuing commitment of others have worked with us for a while, or just recently signed on to the Editorial Board. In addition, we are indebted to the colleagues who so kindly contributed their time for peer reviewing of the submissions received by the journal. We wish you a happy, productive and healthy new year in 2009.


Computer Sciences

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Information Systems and Management


Electronic Commerce Research and Applications





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Elsevier B.V.

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