CS395T: Agent-Based Electronic Commerce -- Fall 2003

CS395T: Agent-Based Electronic Commerce -- Fall 2003

Instructor: Peter Stone
Department of Computer Sciences

Tuesday, Thursday 2-3:15pm
TAY 3.144

Jump to the assignments page.
Jump to the resources page.

Instructor Contact Information

office hours: by appointment
office: TAY 4.122
phone: 471-9796
fax: 471-8885
email: pstone@cs.utexas.edu

Course Description

Have you ever dreamt of creating an autonomous intelligent agent to plan your vacation for you? One that would choose your flights, make your hotel reservation, and even buy entertainment tickets, all in an effort to match your stated preferences as closely as possible while minimizing cost? That was the challenge addressed by entrants in the first Trading Agent Competition, introduced in 2000 by researchers at the University of Michigan.

This course will enable you to program agents that address such challenges. It will focus on topics at the intersection of Computer Science (including multiagent systems and machine learning), Economics, and Game Theory. In particular, it will explore economic mechanisms of exchange suitable for use by automated intelligent agents. It will begin with the relatively traditional approaches in game theory and mechanism design in which economic mechanisms are evaluated and analyzed with simple, straightforward agent bidding strategies. Extensive attention will then be paid to the comparatively new emphasis on the creation of sophisticated bidding strategies given a fixed mechanism.

The course is an informal graduate seminar. There will be some assigned readings and discussions. The exact content of the course will be guided in part by the interests of the students. It will cover at least:

  • Auctions, including some auction theory
  • Game theory and mechanism design
  • Autonomous bidding agents
  • There will be a programming component to the course in the form of a trading agent competition using one of the frameworks linked below. Students will be expected to be proficient in C, C++, and/or Java (depending on the platform we use).


    Some background in artificial intelligence and strong programming skills are recommended.


    The course textbook is:
    Agent-Mediated Electronic Commerce IV, Designing Mechanisms and Systems, AAMAS 2002 Workshop on Agent Mediated Electronic Commerce.
    Edited by Julian A. Padget, Onn Shehory, David C. Parkes, Norman M. Sadeh, William E. Walsh.
    Springer-Verlag, 2002. ISBN#: 3-540-00327-4.
    Note that the book is available on-line from within UT.


    Reading, written, and programming assignments will be updated on the assignments page. A tentative schedule for the entire semester is posted. But the readings and exercises may change up until the Tuesday of the week before they are due (1 week in advance).


    Slides from class and other relevnat links and information are on the resources page. If you find something that should be added there, please email it to me.

    Mailing List

    Please subscribe to the class mailing list. The listname is "cs395t-pstone-fall03".
    Once you have subscribed to the list, you can send mail to the class at cs395t-pstone-fall03@lists.cc.utexas.edu.
    Important class information may be sent to this list. It is the student's responsibility to be subscribed.

    Course Requirements

    Grades will be based on:

    Written responses to the readings (20%):
    By midnight on the night before class, everyone must submit a brief question or comment about the readings as an email in plain ascii text. I prefer that is be sent in the body of the email, rather than as an attachment. Please use the subject line "class readings for [due date]". In some cases, specific questions may be posted along with the readings. But in general, it is free form. Credit will be based on evidence that you have done the readings carefully. Acceptable responses include (but are not limited to):
  • Insightful questions;
  • Clarification questions about ambiguities;
  • Comments about the relation of the reading to previous readings;
  • Critiques;
  • Thoughts on what you would like to learn about in more detail;
  • Possible extensions or related studies;
  • Thoughts on the paper's importance; and
  • Summaries of the most important things you learned.
  • Class participation (30%):
    Students are expected to be present in class having completed the readings and participate actively in the discussions.

    Oral presentation/discussion moderation (10%):
    Each student will be expected to lead a discussion on one of the readings. The discussion can begin with a brief summary/overview of the important points in the readings, but the assumption is to be that everyone has already completed the readings. The student may either present material related to the readings (perhaps from an outside source) or moderate a class discussion about the readings. In the latter case, the student must be prepared to keep the conversation flowing. Here are some tips on leading a discussion.

    Programming project (20%):
    About halfway through the semester, we will choose, as a class, one or more domains for an end-of-class trading agent tournament. Each student will be required to implement an agent for this tournament. Depending on the domain and the interests of the students, pair programming may be allowed. In rare instances, students may be permitted to propose alternative programming projects as their based on particular interests/questions that have arisen from the readings. Details of the programming project will be announced by about week 6 of the class. The project will be due before the last week of class.

    Final report (20%):
    To accompany the programming project, a written report will be due on the last day of class describing the approach taken and relating it to the readings from the class. The report should be roughly equivalent to a conference paper in format, length, and style. Where possible, empirical results should be included to evaluate the approach. Please place a copies of your agent code, your final report, and any other relevant data in a directory under /projects/agents2/class/final-project by Friday, December 5th.

    Trading Agent Competitions

  • University of Michigan Trading Agent Competition (TAC)
  • SICS Trading Agent Competition (TAC)
  • The Penn-Lehmann Automated Trading Project

  • Related Courses Elsewhere

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