Caucus Conference Organizer "How To"
Last revised: 18 September 1999
This "How To" guide describes the details of how a Caucus conference organizer administers a conference. For more general information about the whys of conference management, see the companion Guide for Conference Organizers.
When the Caucus manager creates a conference, he or she also assigns someone to be the primary organizer -- the person in charge of the conference. Caucus gives this person special abilities.
The primary organizer may in turn give other people these special abilities in order to share the power and responsibility of managing the conference.
2. Starting a Conference
Conferences must be created by a Caucus manager, from the manager options page. The manager creates an empty conference with no items, a primary organizer, and an optional list of other organizers.
The manager may also chose to make the conference "closed" (no-one else may join until the organizer(s) decide what to do) or "open" (anyone may join, immediately).
Conference names may be up to 80 characters long, and may contain letters, numbers, blanks, underscores, dashes, or dots. (Underscores are treated as blanks).
A new conference has a default INTRODUCTION and GREETING. (These terms are defined below.) The organizer should join the new conference as soon as is convenient to prepare the conference for its participants.
3. Customizing a Conference
Caucus gives organizers of a conference special abilities to assist with setting up and maintaining a conference. Many of these abilities, such as controlling who can join a conference, are provided by the customize link in the conference home page. Only organizers can use this link.
Pressing the customize link brings up a page with links for customizing:
- Users -- who they are and what they can do
- Conference Information -- information about the conference for others to see (such as the one-line conference description and the introduction for new would-be members).
- Colors -- for controlling the colors of pages and parts of pages for this conference
- Home Page Options -- to control precisely what appears on the conference home page.
- E-mail Notification -- control the e-mail notification feature
4. Customize users
While each page is provided with on-line help and instructions, the Users page is important enough to warrant additional description. This is especially true since it's the first thing that new conference organizers will have to work with.
Note: it may be helpful to print out this page, and then keep it in hand while working with the customize pages in Caucus.
The first two parts of the Users page control Conference Membership and User Capabilities -- in other words, who can join the conference, and what they can do while they're there.) 4.1 Conference Membership
This section contains four (or more) text boxes with a pull-down menu at the top of each box. Use the pull-down menus to select which kind of membership access people should have:
- organizer (can do anything, including control membership and edit any item or response)
- include (regular membership)
- readonly (may view but can not add their own responses)
- exclude (no access).
Then, in the matching text box, type in the userids of the people.
4.2 User Capabilities
This section provides finer-grained control over what users can do in your conference.
- Allow users to edit their responses?
Use this pull-down menu to control when users may edit the text of responses they wrote. Normally users may always edit their responses -- typically to clean up spelling, etc. In some circumstances, if there is a concern that users may "go back and change history", you can restrict how long responses can be changed after they've been entered.
- Allow users to add new items?
When this box is checked, it means that any member may start a new item. When cleared, only organizers may start new items.
It's usually a good idea to allow anyone in the conference to start new items. Sometimes, if the conference is highly structured, or if the members are new to Caucus, it may be useful to turn this capability off at first. Then later, when the members have gotten used to the structure or to Caucus, you can turn it back on.
- Allow item creator to Freeze, Delete, and Rename Item?
Item creators have certain abilities to control the item as a whole. Normally they can freeze the item, rename it (change the title), or even completely delete the item and all of its responses.
If those abilities should be reserved to the organizers, clear this box.
- Make the conference name visible to non-members?
If checked, this means your conference can appear in the lists of conferences at the Caucus Center page -- even to someone who is not allowed to join your conference.
If cleared, your conference name will only appear to people who can join the conference.
- Allow HTML text in items?
When a user enters the text of a response into Caucus, they are offered several choices as to how to treat this text. One choice treats the text as "raw" HTML, so that any HTML codes in the text get interpreted as if they were part of a web page.
This can be a very powerful way to liven up the presentation of information, for users who either know HTML or can cut and paste from an HTML document. In rare cases, that same power can be abused to create annoyances, or to mess up the rest of the display of an item. Clearing this checkbox disallows the entry or display of HTML responses. (You may also wish to see the Prohibted Tags section, further down the Customize Users page. This provides a finer-grained control of HTML tags, and lets you prohibit only certain parts of HTML.)
- Allow CML text in items?
CML is the Caucus Markup Language; it extends HTML with a variety of Caucus-specific functions. Otherwise this question is similar to the previous one. (It is probably best to disallow this capability unless there is a specific need for it.)
- Allow copying responses in (and into) this conference?
At the bottom of each item, near the response box, is a link labelled Act on checked responses. From this link, users may copy responses from one item to another, or even from an item in another conference to an item in this conference.
Mostly this is very useful, especially to keep discussions "on track" by moving responses that are "drifting" to a new topic, to a new item of their own. It can also be used to archive or prune just the "important" responses in a long discussion to a new "summary" item.
Sometimes, however, it is better if only the organizer has this power. So you can use this switch to turn off this ability for regular members.
- Allow selected items to have anonymous responses?
Sometimes it is useful to have truly anonymous discussions. Turning this switch "on" (checked) means that item creators have the choice of allowing anonymous or or the usual "signed" responses. The item creator or an organizer may switch the item back and forth between anonymous or "signed" (but anonymous responses always stay anonymous).
- Allow members to set their own e-mail notification schedules?
If e-mail notification of new material has been enabled for your conference, you will also see this choice. Normally you, the organizer, get to set the e-mail notification schedule (how often all members receive e-mail summarizing new material in the conference).
With this switch, you may also allow individual members to set their own notification schedules, which can override the schedule that you set up.
5. Other Functions of the Organizer
The primary responsibility of an organizer is to keep the conference running smoothly. The conference participants expect the organizer to answer questions, monitor the progress of the conference, assist in any communications difficulties, and in general help keep the conference well structured.
As organizer, you may want to structure the first few items of the conference. For example, Item 1 could explain the intents and purposes of the conference, Item 2 could be a place to discuss questions about Caucus, and Item 3 could be reserved for special bulletins or other timely announcements, such as "Class registration begins tomorrow, June 17, at 8:30 am".
The organizer also has the ability to change the text of any item or response in the conference, regardless of who entered it. This ability, however, should be used sparingly. A typical example would be helping a user make the text of his or her item more readable. If an interpersonal problem occurs in a discussion on the conference, as organizer you can intervene or even censor parts of the discussion. Fortunately, such problems are rare.
To change the text of an item or response, simply click on the edit button next to that text. Normally this button only appears next to responses that you wrote; but since you are an organizer, it appears next to all items and responses.
If your computer system hosts many different conferences with several organizers, you may want to start a conference specifically for organizers. This is a good way to share information and ideas about how to best set up and maintain a conference.