Creating a virtual database
If you look at the 'Example' in the menubar, it looks like a straightforward database application as illustrated in the following diagram.
However, with a stigmergic system, the Web site has to continuously change in response to user interaction. This is no problem if it is just the content that is changing, but with a biological strategy the configuration of the database has to be changeable as well. This is not easy to automate.
Even if this could be arranged, there would be another problem: safeguarding the system against mischievous hackers.
The solution is to create a virtual database using agents.
Agents can be given memories that effectively categorize the information they carry. If these agents are grouped together in such a way as to simulate a relational database, this virtual database can be reconfigured and changed at will simply by altering the structure of the agent memories. This arrangement is illustrated in the following diagram.
Creating a virtual database with agents removes to responsibility of having to maintain a serverside database. All these responsibilities can be transferred to the prototype creator program, leaving the site manager free to concentrate only on what is happening on the Web site.
This is particularly useful for running the research project because no databases have to be installed and no special training is required. Every participant will have their own dedicated virtual database, which cannot conflict with any of the others. This arrangement is illustrated in the following diagram.
Besides using agents as a means to create a virtual database, they can also be treated as independent entities and be given functions that go way beyond the possibilities of records in a database. This functionality is covered in other articles.