Title:
Generating unique virtual identifiers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method, apparatus, system, and signal-bearing medium that, in an embodiment, generate virtual user identifiers that represents users, where the virtual user identifiers are unique to their viewers. Further, virtual event identifiers that represent events are generated, where the virtual event identifiers are unique to their viewers. The virtual user identifiers representing the users and the virtual event identifiers representing the events are presented to viewers. In various embodiments, the event may be a game or an auction. In this way, in an embodiment, collaboration between users is more difficult.



Inventors:
Branson, Michael John (Rochester, MN, US)
Hintermeister, Gregory Richard (Rochester, MN, US)
Application Number:
11/106001
Publication Date:
11/02/2006
Filing Date:
04/14/2005
Assignee:
INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORPORATION (ARMONK, NY, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
HOEL, MATTHEW D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
IBM CORPORATION (ROCHESTER, MN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method comprising: generating a first plurality of virtual user identifiers for a user, wherein the user participates in a first event, and wherein each of the first plurality of virtual user identifiers is unique to each of a first plurality of respective viewers of the virtual user identifiers.

2. The method of claim 1, further comprising: generating a first plurality of virtual event identifiers for the first event, wherein each of the first plurality of virtual event identifiers is unique to the first plurality of viewers of the first plurality of virtual event identifiers.

3. The method of claim 2, further comprising: generating a second plurality of virtual user identifiers for the user, wherein the user participates in a second event, and wherein each of the second plurality of virtual user identifiers is unique to each of a second plurality of viewers of the virtual user identifiers, and wherein each of the second plurality of virtual user identifiers is different from each of the first plurality of virtual user identifiers.

4. The method of claim 3, further comprising: generating a second plurality of virtual event identifiers for -the second event, wherein each of the second plurality of virtual event identifiers is unique to the second plurality of viewers of the second plurality of virtual event identifiers, and wherein each of the second plurality of virtual event identifiers is different from each of the first plurality of virtual event identifiers.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the first event comprises a game.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein the first event comprises an auction.

7. The method of claim 2, further comprising: presenting the first plurality of virtual user identifiers to the first plurality of respective viewers.

8. A signal-bearing medium encoded with instructions, wherein the instructions when executed comprise: generating a first plurality of virtual user identifiers for a user, wherein the user participates in a first event, and wherein each of the first plurality of virtual user identifiers is unique to each of a first plurality of viewers of the virtual user identifiers; and generating a first plurality of virtual event identifiers for the first event, wherein each of the first plurality of virtual event identifiers is unique to the first plurality of viewers of the first plurality of virtual event identifiers.

9. The signal-bearing medium of claim 8, further comprising: generating a second plurality of virtual user identifiers for the user, wherein the user participates in a second event, and wherein each of the second plurality of virtual user identifiers is unique to each of a second plurality of viewers of the virtual user identifiers, and wherein each of the second plurality of virtual user identifiers is different from each of the first plurality of virtual user identifiers.

10. The signal-bearing medium of claim 9, further comprising: generating a second plurality of virtual event identifiers for the second event, wherein each of the second plurality of virtual event identifiers is unique to the second plurality of viewers of the second plurality of virtual event identifiers, and wherein each of the second plurality of virtual event identifiers is different from each of the first plurality of virtual event identifiers.

11. The signal-bearing medium of claim 8, wherein the first event comprises a game.

12. The signal-bearing medium of claim 8, wherein the first event comprises an auction.

13. The signal-bearing medium of claim 8, further comprising: presenting the first plurality of virtual user identifiers to the first plurality of respective viewers.

14. The signal-bearing medium of claim 9, further comprising: presenting the second plurality of virtual user identifiers to the second plurality of respective viewers.

15. A method for configuring a computer, comprising: configuring the computer to generate a first plurality of virtual user identifiers for a user, wherein the user participates in a first event, and wherein each of the first plurality of virtual user identifiers is unique to each of a first plurality of viewers of the virtual user identifiers; configuring the computer to generate a first plurality of virtual event identifiers for the first event, wherein each of the first plurality of virtual event identifiers is unique to the first plurality of viewers of the first plurality of virtual event identifiers; and configuring the computer to generate a second plurality of virtual user identifiers for the user, wherein the user participates in a second event, and wherein each of the second plurality of virtual user identifiers is unique to each of a second plurality of viewers of the virtual user identifiers, and wherein each of the second plurality of virtual user identifiers is different from each of the first plurality of virtual user identifiers.

16. The method of claim 15, further comprising: configuring the computer to generate a second plurality of virtual event identifiers for the second event, wherein each of the second plurality of virtual event identifiers is unique to the second plurality of viewers of the second plurality of virtual event identifiers, and wherein each of the second plurality of virtual event identifiers is different from each of the first plurality of virtual event identifiers.

17. The method of claim 15, wherein the first event comprises a game.

18. The method of claim 15, wherein the first event comprises an auction.

19. The method of claim 15, further comprising: configuring the computer to present the first plurality of virtual user identifiers to the first plurality of respective viewers.

20. The method of claim 15, further comprising: configuring the computer to present the second plurality of virtual user identifiers to the second plurality of respective viewers.

Description:

FIELD

This invention generally relates to computers and more specifically relates generating unique virtual event and user identifiers.

BACKGROUND

The development of the EDVAC computer system of 1948 is often cited as the beginning of the computer era. Since that time, computer systems have evolved into extremely sophisticated devices, and computer systems may be found in many different settings. Computer systems typically include a combination of hardware, such as semiconductors and circuit boards, and software, also known as computer programs.

Years ago, computer systems were stand-alone devices that did not communicate with each other. But, today, computer systems are increasingly connected to each other via networks, and one computer system, often called a client, may request operations or functions from another computer, which is often called a server. Some uses of networked systems are online services that clients may use to participate in game tournaments or auctions. Two problems that these services can suffer from are unauthorized collaboration between participants and loss confidentiality. The possibility of collaboration and loss of confidentiality undermines the confidence that the participants have in the online service, and therefore limits customer participation.

One example of collaboration is when participants communicate with each other outside of the game unbeknownst to the other participants, for example via telephone or instant messaging. This communication may share information regarding game strategy, position, or knowledge learned from playing the game, which enables the collaborators to coordinate their actions, essentially allowing the collaborators to secretly act as a team against other participants and gain an unfair advantage.

Another example of collaboration is when a seller in an auction and a false bidder coordinate. The false bidder has no intention of actually purchasing the item for sale; instead, the bidder enters the false bids to generate competition with other bidders, in order to raise the eventual selling price.

An example of loss of confidentiality in an auction occurs when a seller notices a pattern of buying from a particular buyer. For example, sellers may notice that one buyer is attempting to buy a complete set of items (e.g., all nine baseball cards of a championship team), or a series of adjoining lots of land. A buyer who is only missing one item from a complete set is probably highly motivated to purchase the last item, and knowledge of this fact gives potential sellers valuable information regarding the price that the buyer might be willing to pay. The buyer, of course, does not want potential sellers to know this information. Thus, buyers may be reluctant to join auctions where their confidentiality is not preserved.

Hence, without a better way to thwart collaboration and loss of confidentiality, users will suffer from a lack of confidence in online services.

SUMMARY

A method, apparatus, system, and signal-bearing medium are provided that, in an embodiment, generate virtual user identifiers that represents users, where the virtual user identifiers are unique to their viewers. Further, virtual event identifiers that represent events are generated, where the virtual event identifiers are unique to their viewers. The virtual user identifiers representing the users and the virtual event identifiers representing the events are presented to viewers. In various embodiments, the event may be a game or an auction. In this way, in an embodiment, collaboration between users is more difficult.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Various embodiments of the present invention are hereinafter described in conjunction with the appended drawings:

FIG. 1 depicts a high-level block diagram of an example system for implementing an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 depicts a block diagram of an example data structure for event data, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 3 depicts a block diagram of an example data structure for user data, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 4A depicts a block diagram of an example user interface for events viewed by a viewer, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 4B depicts a block diagram of an example user interface for events viewed by another viewer, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 4C depicts a block diagram of an example user interface for events viewed by yet another viewer, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 5 depicts a flowchart of example processing for adding events to the event data, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 6 depicts a flowchart of further example processing for adding a user to an event, according to an embodiment of the invention.

It is to be noted, however, that the appended drawings illustrate only example embodiments of the invention, and are therefore not considered limiting of its scope, for the invention may admit to other equally effective embodiments.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

In an embodiment, an event controller generates virtual user identifiers that represents users, where the virtual user identifiers are unique to their viewers. The event controller further generates virtual event identifiers that represent events, where the virtual event identifiers are unique to their viewers. The event controller presents the virtual user identifiers representing the users and the virtual event identifiers representing the events to viewers. Thus, viewers are users who participate in the events and are capable of viewing the virtual user identifiers and the virtual event identifiers. In various embodiments, the event may be a game or an auction.

In this way, the virtual event identifiers and the virtual user identifiers are unique values that only one viewer receives. Further, the virtual event identifiers remain consistent for the viewer throughout that viewer's session, allowing users to move from event to event, and return to events where they have participated earlier in the session. Multiple users viewing the same events view different set of virtual event identifiers and different sets of virtual user identifiers. Thus, users are hampered from making arrangements to participate in the same event or searching all events for each other's virtual user identifiers because different users view the same event by different virtual event identifiers, and the virtual user identifier that they know themselves by is not displayed to other viewers.

Referring to the Drawings, wherein like numbers denote like parts throughout the several views, FIG. 1 depicts a high-level block diagram representation of a computer system 100 connected to a client 132 via a network 130, according to an embodiment of the present invention. In an embodiment, the hardware components of the computer system 100 may be implemented by an eServer iSeries computer system available from International Business Machines of Armonk, N.Y. However, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the mechanisms and apparatus of embodiments of the present invention apply equally to any appropriate computing system.

The major components of the computer system 100 include one or more processors 101, a main memory 102, a terminal interface 111, a storage interface 112, an I/O (Input/Output) device interface 113, and communications/network interfaces 114, all of which are coupled for inter-component communication via a memory bus 103, an I/O bus 104, and an I/O bus interface unit 105.

The computer system 100 contains one or more general-purpose programmable central processing units (CPUs) 101A, 101B, 101C, and 101D, herein generically referred to as the processor 101. In an embodiment, the computer system 100 contains multiple processors typical of a relatively large system; however, in another embodiment the computer system 100 may alternatively be a single CPU system. Each processor 101 executes instructions stored in the main memory 102 and may include one or more levels of on-board cache.

The main memory 102 is a random-access semiconductor memory for storing data and programs. In another embodiment, the main memory 102 represents the entire virtual memory of the computer system 100, and may also include the virtual memory of other computer systems coupled to the computer system 100 or connected via the network 130. The main memory 102 is conceptually a single monolithic entity, but in other embodiments the main memory 102 is a more complex arrangement, such as a hierarchy of caches and other memory devices. For example, memory may exist in multiple levels of caches, and these caches may be further divided by function, so that one cache holds instructions while another holds non-instruction data, which is used by the processor or processors. Memory may be further distributed and associated with different CPUs or sets of CPUs, as is known in any of various so-called non-uniform memory access (NUMA) computer architectures.

The memory 102 includes an event controller 136, event data 144, user data 146, and a page 148. Although the event controller 136, the event data 144, the user data 146, and the page 148 are illustrated as being contained within the memory 102 in the computer system 100, in other embodiments some or all of them may be on different computer systems and may be accessed remotely, e.g., via the network 130. The computer system 100 may use virtual addressing mechanisms that allow the programs of the computer system 100 to behave as if they only have access to a large, single storage entity instead of access to multiple, smaller storage entities. Thus, while the event controller 136, the event data 144, the user data 146, and the page 148 are illustrated as being contained within the main memory 102, these elements are not necessarily all completely contained in the same storage device at the same time. Further, although the event controller 136, the event data 144, the user data 146, and the page 148 are illustrated as being separate entities, in other embodiments some of them, or portions of some of them, may be packaged together.

The event data 144 represents an event or events. In an embodiment, an event may be a game or a station or table for a game. Examples of games include card games, video games, or any other type of game or competition. In another embodiment, an event may be an auction, sale, license, rent, or lease of real estate, goods, commodities, services, intellectual property, or intangible property, regardless of whether users bid or whether the price is fixed. In another embodiment, an event may be any type of event in which users participate, regardless of whether the event is competitive, non-competitive, or whether money, a prize, or nothing of value is involved. In various embodiments, participation by a user may be active or passive and may involve viewing, playing, bidding, buying, selling, receiving information, inputting information, or any other appropriate type of participation. The event data 144 is further described below with reference to FIG. 2.

The user data 146 represents users at the clients 132 who participate in the event. The user data 146 is further described below with reference to FIG. 3. A user may be a player, a viewer, a bidder, a buyer, a seller, an agent, or any other appropriate type of user.

The page 148 represents the status of the event and the status of the user's participation in the event. The page 148 may include data, data and control tags, statements, interpretable code, and/or executable code, and may be implemented via HTML, XML, style sheets, JavaScript, or any other appropriate technology. The page 148, as interpreted, executed, and/or presented at the client 132, is further described below with reference to FIGS. 4A, 4B, and 4C.

The event controller 136 processes the event data 144 and the user data 146 to create the page 148, which represents the status of the participation of the users in the event. The event controller 136 may further receive input from the clients 132, which represents the participation of the users and update the page 148 to reflect the status of the participation. In an embodiment, the event controller 136 includes instructions capable of executing on the processor 101 or statements capable of being interpreted by instructions executing on the processor 101 to perform the functions as further described below with reference to FIGS. 5 and 6. In another embodiment, the event controller 136 may be implemented in microcode. In another embodiment, the event controller 136 may be implemented in hardware via logic gates and/or other appropriate hardware techniques.

The memory bus 103 provides a data communication path for transferring data among the processor 101, the main memory 102, and the I/O bus interface unit 105. The I/O bus interface unit 105 is further coupled to the system I/O bus 104 for transferring data to and from the various I/O units. The I/O bus interface unit 105 communicates with multiple I/O interface units 111, 112, 113, and 114, which are also known as I/O processors (IOPs) or I/O adapters (IOAs), through the system I/O bus 104. The system I/O bus 104 may be, e.g., an industry standard PCI bus, or any other appropriate bus technology.

The I/O interface units support communication with a variety of storage and I/O devices. For example, the terminal interface unit 111 supports the attachment of one or more user terminals 121, 122, 123, and 124. The storage interface unit 112 supports the attachment of one or more direct access storage devices (DASD) 125, 126, and 127 (which are typically rotating magnetic disk drive storage devices, although they could alternatively be other devices, including arrays of disk drives configured to appear as a single large storage device to a host). The contents of the main memory 102 may be stored to and retrieved from the direct access storage devices 125, 126, and 127, as needed.

The I/O and other device interface 113 provides an interface to any of various other input/output devices or devices of other types. Two such devices, the printer 128 and the fax machine 129, are shown in the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 1, but in other embodiment many other such devices may exist, which may be of differing types. The network interface 114 provides one or more communications paths from the computer system 100 to other digital devices and computer systems; such paths may include, e.g., one or more networks 130.

Although the memory bus 103 is shown in FIG. 1 as a relatively simple, single bus structure providing a direct communication path among the processors 101, the main memory 102, and the I/O bus interface 105, in fact the memory bus 103 may comprise multiple different buses or communication paths, which may be arranged in any of various forms, such as point-to-point links in hierarchical, star or web configurations, multiple hierarchical buses, parallel and redundant paths, or any other appropriate type of configuration. Furthermore, while the I/O bus interface 105 and the I/O bus 104 are shown as single respective units, the computer system 100 may in fact contain multiple I/O bus interface units 105 and/or multiple I/O buses 104. While multiple I/O interface units are shown, which separate the system I/O bus 104 from various communications paths running to the various I/O devices, in other embodiments some or all of the I/O devices are connected directly to one or more system I/O buses.

The computer system 100 depicted in FIG. 1 has multiple attached terminals 121, 122, 123, and 124, such as might be typical of a multi-user “mainframe” computer system. Typically, in such a case the actual number of attached devices is greater than those shown in FIG. 1, although the present invention is not limited to systems of any particular size. The computer system 100 may alternatively be a single-user system, typically containing only a single user display and keyboard input, or might be a server or similar device which has little or no direct user interface, but receives requests from other computer systems (clients). In other embodiments, the computer system 100 may be implemented as a personal computer, portable computer, laptop or notebook computer, PDA (Personal Digital Assistant), tablet computer, pocket computer, telephone, pager, automobile, teleconferencing system, appliance, or any other appropriate type of electronic device.

The network 130 may be any suitable network or combination of networks and may support any appropriate protocol suitable for communication of data and/or code to/from the computer system 100. In various embodiments, the network 130 may represent a storage device or a combination of storage devices, either connected directly or indirectly to the computer system 100. In an embodiment, the network 130 may support Infiniband. In another embodiment, the network 130 may support wireless communications. In another embodiment, the network 130 may support hard-wired communications, such as a telephone line or cable. In another embodiment, the network 130 may support the Ethernet IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) 802.3x specification. In another embodiment, the network 130 may be the Internet and may support IP (Internet Protocol).

In another embodiment, the network 130 may be a local area network (LAN) or a wide area network (WAN). In another embodiment, the network 130 may be a hotspot service provider network. In another embodiment, the network 130 may be an intranet. In another embodiment, the network 130 may be a GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) network. In another embodiment, the network 130 may be a FRS (Family Radio Service) network. In another embodiment, the network 130 may be any appropriate cellular data network or cell-based radio network technology. In another embodiment, the network 130 may be an IEEE 802.11B wireless network. In still another embodiment, the network 130 may be any suitable network or combination of networks. Although one network 130 is shown, in other embodiments any number (including zero) of networks (of the same or different types) may be present.

The client 132 includes a browser 133, which the client uses to participate in or view the event. In another embodiment, the browser 133 is not present or not used, and the client 132 may use any appropriate mechanism to participate in the event. The client 132 may further include some or all of the hardware and/or software mechanisms previously described for the computer system 100. Although the client 132 is illustrated as being separate from the computer system 100 and connected via the network 132, in other embodiments the client 132 may be connected directly to the computer system 132 or may be a part of the computer system 132.

It should be understood that FIG. 1 is intended to depict the representative major components of the computer system 100, the network 130, and the client 132 at a high level, that individual components may have greater complexity than represented in FIG. 1, that components other than or in addition to those shown in FIG. 1 may be present, and that the number, type, and configuration of such components may vary. Several particular examples of such additional complexity or additional variations are disclosed herein; it being understood that these are by way of example only and are not necessarily the only such variations.

The various software components illustrated in FIG. 1 and implementing various embodiments of the invention may be implemented in a number of manners, including using various computer software applications, routines, components, programs, objects, modules, data structures, etc., referred to hereinafter as “computer programs,” or simply “programs.” The computer programs typically comprise one or more instructions that are resident at various times in various memory and storage devices in the computer system 100, and that, when read and executed by one or more processors 101 in the computer system 100, cause the computer system 100 to perform the steps necessary to execute steps or elements comprising the various aspects of an embodiment of the invention.

Moreover, while embodiments of the invention have and hereinafter will be described in the context of fully-functioning computer systems, the various embodiments of the invention are capable of being distributed as a program product in a variety of forms, and the invention applies equally regardless of the particular type of signal-bearing medium used to actually carry out the distribution. The programs defining the functions of this embodiment may be delivered to the computer system 100 via a variety of signal-bearing media, which include, but are not limited to:

(1) information permanently stored on a non-rewriteable storage medium, e.g., a read-only memory device attached to or within a computer system, such as a CD-ROM, DVD-R, or DVD+R;

(2) alterable information stored on a rewriteable storage medium, e.g., a hard disk drive (e.g., the DASD 125, 126, or 127), CD-RW, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD-RAM, or diskette; or

(3) information conveyed by a communications medium, such as through a computer or a telephone network, e.g., the network 130, including wireless communications.

Such signal-bearing media, when carrying machine-readable instructions that direct the functions of the present invention, represent embodiments of the present invention.

Embodiments of the present invention may also be delivered as part of a service engagement with a client corporation, nonprofit organization, government entity, internal organizational structure, or the like. Aspects of these embodiments may include configuring a computer system to perform, and deploying software systems and web services that implement, some or all of the methods described herein. Aspects of these embodiments may also include analyzing the client company, creating recommendations responsive to the analysis, generating software to implement portions of the recommendations, integrating the software into existing processes and infrastructure, metering use of the methods and systems described herein, allocating expenses to users, and billing users for their use of these methods and systems.

In addition, various programs described hereinafter may be identified based upon the application for which they are implemented in a specific embodiment of the invention. But, any particular program nomenclature that follows is used merely for convenience, and thus embodiments of the invention should not be limited to use solely in any specific application identified and/or implied by such nomenclature.

The exemplary environments illustrated in FIG. 1 are not intended to limit the present invention. Indeed, other alternative hardware and/or software environments may be used without departing from the scope of the invention.

FIG. 2 depicts a block diagram of an example data structure for the event data 144, according to an embodiment of the invention. The event data 144 includes records 205, 210, 215, 220, 225, and 230, but in other embodiments any number of records with any appropriate data may be present. Each of the records includes an event identifier field 235, a virtual event identifier field 240, and a viewer field 245. The event identifier field 235 identifies an event in which users may participate. In an embodiment, an event may be a game or a station or table for a game. Examples of games include card games, video games, or any other type of game or competition. In another embodiment, an event may be an auction or sale of goods or services, regardless of whether users bid on the goods or services or whether the price is fixed. In another embodiment, an event may be any type of event in which users participate, regardless of whether the event is competitive or whether money or prizes are involved. In various embodiments, participation by a user may be active or passive and may involve viewing, playing, bidding, buying, selling, receiving information, inputting information, or any other appropriate type of participation.

The virtual event identifier field 240 identifies the event 235 to the viewer 245, who does not receive the event identifier 235. In an embodiment, the event controller 136 may generate the virtual event identifier 240 randomly via any appropriate technique. The virtual event identifiers 240 are different for each viewer 245. A viewer 245 is a user who participates in the event 235 and who may view the virtual event identifier 240, which represents the event 235. In various embodiments, the viewer 245 may view identifiers via any appropriate mechanism, including visual, audio, tactile, or any other appropriate identifier presentation mechanism.

Thus, each of the records 205, 210, 215, 220, 225, and 230 represents the virtual event identifier 240 that the event controller 136 presents to the viewer 245 to represent the event identifier 235 when the viewer 245 participates in the event 235. For example, record 205 illustrates that if “user C” participates in “event A,” then “event A” is presented to “user C” as “vevent U.” Similarly, record 210 illustrates that if “user D” participates in “event A,” then “event A” is presented to “user D” as “vevent V.” Similarly, record 215 illustrates that if “user E” participates in “event A,” then “event A” is presented to “user E” as “vevent W.” Similarly, record 220 illustrates that if “user C” participates in “event B,” then “event B” is presented to “user C” as “vevent X.” Similarly, record 225 illustrates that if “user D” participates in “event B,” then “event B” is presented to “user E” as “vevent Y.” Similarly, record 230 illustrates that if “user E” participates in “event B,” then “event B” is presented to “user E” as “vevent Z.”

FIG. 3 depicts a block diagram of an example data structure for the user data 146, according to an embodiment of the invention. The user data 146 includes records 305, 310, 315, 320, 325, 330, 335, 340, 345, and 350, but in other embodiments any number of records with any appropriate data may be present. Each of the records includes an event identifier field 360, a user identifier field 365, a virtual user identifier field 370, and a viewer field 375.

The event identifier field 360 identifies an event in which users may participate. The user identifier field 365 identifies a user who participates in the event 360. The virtual user identifier field 370 identifies the user 365 to the viewer 375, who does not receive the user identifier 365. The virtual user identifiers 370 are unique to the viewers 375 and are also unique to the events 360. Thus, the user 365 has a different virtual user identifier 370 when viewed by each viewer 375 and also has a different virtual user identifier 370 when the user 365 participates in a different event 360, for each viewer 375. The viewer 375 is a user who participates in the event 360 and may be the same or different from the user 365.

Thus, each of the records 305, 310, 315, 320, 325, 330, 335, 340, 345, and 350 represents the virtual user identifier 370 that is to be presented to the viewer 375 to represent the user identifier 365 when participating in the event 360. For example, the record 305 illustrates that if “user C” participates in “event A,” then “user C” is presented to “user C” as “vuser L.” Similarly, record 310 illustrates that if “user C” participates in “event A,” then “user C” is presented to “user D” as “vuser M.” Similarly, record 315 illustrates that if “user C” participates in “event A,” then “user C” is presented to “user E” as “vuser N.” Similarly, record 320 illustrates that if “user D” participates in “event A,” then “user D” is presented to “user C” as “vuser R.” Similarly, record 325 illustrates that if “user D” participates in “event A,” then “user D” is presented to “user D” as “vuser S.” Similarly, record 330 illustrates that if “user D” participates in “event A,” then “user D” is presented to “user E” as “vuser T.” Similarly, record 335 illustrates that if “user E” participates in “event A,” then “user E” is presented to “user C” as “vuser W.” Similarly, record 340 illustrates that if “user E” participates in “event A,” then “user E” is presented to “user D” as “vuser X.” Similarly, record 345 illustrates that if “user E” participates in “event A,” then “user E” is presented to “user E” as “vuser Y.” Similarly, record 350 illustrates that if “user C” participates in “event B,” then “user C” is presented to “user C” as “vuser Z.”

FIGS. 4A, 4B, and 4C depict blocks diagrams of example user interfaces 401, 402, and 403, respectively, for the same event (“event A” of FIGS. 2 and 3) in which “user C,” “user D,” and “user E” participate, as viewed by different viewers: “user C,” “user D,” and “user E,” respectively, as illustrated in the examples of FIGS. 2 and 3.

FIG. 4A depicts a block diagram of an example user interface 401 for “Event A,” in which “user C,” “user D,” and “user E” participate, where “user C” is the viewer 375 of the user interface 401, according to an embodiment of the invention. In the example user interface 401, the event 235 of “event A” is presented to the viewer 375 (“user C”) as virtual event “vevent U” 412, as represented in record 205 of the event data 144. The user 365 of “user C” is presented to the viewer 375 (“user C”) as the virtual user vuser L 410, as represented in record 305 of the user data 146. The user 365 of “user D” is presented to the viewer 375 (“user C”) as the virtual user vuser R 415, as represented in record 320 of the user data 146. The user 365 of “user E” is presented to the viewer 375 (“user C”) as the virtual user vuser W 420, as represented in record 335 of the user data 146. The event identifier 235 (“event A”) and the user identifiers 365 (“user C,” “user D,” and “user E”) are not presented in the user interface 401; instead, the virtual event identifiers 240 (FIG. 2) and virtual user identifiers 370 (FIG. 3) are presented to the viewer 375 (“user C”).

FIG. 4B depicts a block diagram of an example user interface 402 for “Event A,” in which “user C,” “user D,” and “user E” participate, where “user D” is the viewer 375 of the user interface 402, according to an embodiment of the invention. In the example user interface 402, the event 235 of “event A” is presented to the viewer “user D” as virtual event “vevent V” 422, as represented in record 210 of the event data 144. The user 365 of “user C” is presented to the viewer “user D” as the virtual user vuser M 425, as represented in record 310 of the user data 146. The user 365 of “user D” is presented to the viewer “user D” as the virtual user vuser S 430, as represented in record 325 of the user data 146. The user 365 of “user E” is presented to the viewer “user D” as the virtual user vuser X 435, as represented in record 340 of the user data 146. The event identifier 235 (“event A”) and the user identifiers 365 (“user C,” “user D,” and “user E”) are not presented in the user interface 402; instead, the virtual event identifiers 240 (FIG. 2) and virtual user identifiers 370 (FIG. 3) are presented to the viewer 375 (“user D”).

FIG. 4C depicts a block diagram of an example user interface 403 for “Event A,” in which “user C,” “user D,” and “user E” participate, where “user E” is the viewer 375 of the user interface 403, according to an embodiment of the invention. In the example user interface 403, the event 235 of “event A” is presented to the viewer “user E” as virtual event “vevent W” 432, as represented in record 215 of the event data 144. The user 365 of “user C” is presented to the viewer “user E” as the virtual user vuser N 440, as represented in record 315 of the user data 146. The user 365 of “user D” is presented to the viewer “user E” as the virtual user vuser T 445, as represented in record 330 of the user data 146. The user 365 of “user E” is presented to the viewer “user E” as the virtual user vuser Y 450, as represented in record 345 of the user data 146. The event identifier 235 (“event A”) and the user identifiers 365 (“user C,” “user D,” and “user E”) are not presented in the user interface 403; instead, the virtual event identifiers 240 (FIG. 2) and virtual user identifiers 370 (FIG. 3) are presented to the viewer 375 (“user E”).

In this way, the virtual event identifiers 240 and the virtual user identifiers 370 are unique values that only one viewer sees. Further, the virtual event identifiers 240 remain consistent for the viewer 245 throughout that user's session, allowing users to move from event to event, and return to events where they have participated earlier in the session. Another user views the same events, but with a different set of virtual event identifiers 240. Thus, users are hampered from making arrangements to both join the same event 235, since they know the same event by different virtual event identifiers 240. For example, if “user C” and “user D” both wish to join “event A” and collaborate, doing so is difficult because “user C” knows “event A” only as “vevent U” (FIG. 4A) while “user D” knows “event A” only as “vevent V” (FIG. 4B). Thus, if “user C” instructs “user D” to join “vevent U,” this information does not allow “user D” to find the event 235 in which “user C” participates.

In addition, “user C” and “user D” cannot search all events for each other's user identifiers 365 since “user C” is presented to “user C” as “vuser L” in “event A,” but “user C” is presented to “user D” as “vuser M” in “event A.” Thus, if “user C” instructs “user D” to join the event where “vuser L” is participating, “user D” will not find such a virtual user identifier 370.

FIG. 5 depicts a flowchart of example processing for adding events to the event data 144, according to an embodiment of the invention. Control begins at block 500. Control then continues to block 505 where the event controller 136 decides to add more events to the event data 144. The event controller 136 may make the determination at block 505 based on a request from a system administrator, based on a threshold being reached, based on a request from another program, or based on any other stimulus or criteria. Control then continues to block 505 where the event controller 136 generates additional records in the event data 144 for the new events 235 and virtual event identifiers 240 for users who may be potential viewers 245 of the new events 235. Thus, the event controller 136 generates virtual event identifiers 240 for the new event 235, where each of the virtual event identifiers 240 is unique to its associated viewer 245. Control then continues to block 599 where the logic of FIG. 5 returns.

FIG. 6 depicts a flowchart of further example processing for adding a user to an event, according to an embodiment of the invention. Control begins at block 600. Control then continues to block 605 where a user views or begins participating in an event 360. Control then continues to block 610 where the event controller 136 generates a virtual event identifier 240 for the viewer 245 and a new record in the event data 144 if the virtual event identifier 240 associated with the user does not already exist. The event controller 136 further generates a virtual user identifier 370 that represents the user 365 for all the viewers 375 participating in or viewing the event 360. Thus, the event controller 136 generates virtual user identifiers 370 associated with a user 365, each of the virtual user identifiers 370 identifies the user 365 (who is joining the event), and each of the virtual user identifiers 370 is unique both to its user 365 and to its viewer 375. In various embodiments, the event controller 136 may generate the virtual user identifiers 370 based on a function of the user identifier 365, based on generating a unique random number used as an index into a table of nicknames (which may be any type of name or other identifier), or based on any other appropriate technique.

Control then continues to block 615 where the event controller 136 presents selected virtual event identifiers 240 and selected virtual user identifiers 370 to selected viewers 375 of the event. In an embodiment, the event controller 136 performs the presentation by creating the page 148 and sending the page 148 to the client 132. Control then continues to block 699 where the logic of FIG. 6 returns.

In the previous detailed description of exemplary embodiments of the invention, reference was made to the accompanying drawings (where like numbers represent like elements), which form a part hereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration specific exemplary embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. These embodiments were described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention, but other embodiments may be utilized and logical, mechanical, electrical, and other changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention. Different instances of the word “embodiment” as used within this specification do not necessarily refer to the same embodiment, but they may. The previous detailed description is, therefore, not to be taken in a limiting sense, and the scope of the present invention is defined only by the appended claims.

In the previous description, numerous specific details were set forth to provide a thorough understanding of embodiments of the invention. But, the invention may be practiced without these specific details. In other instances, well-known circuits, structures, and techniques have not been shown in detail in order not to obscure the invention.