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Participating in a Conference

Seeing New Material

Items and responses are the heart and soul of computer conferencing. Participating in a conference means reading the new items and responses on a regular basis and adding your own comments when appropriate. And all of this can be done at your own convenience!

Telling Caucus to show you new material is very straightforward. At the "AND NOW?" prompt, type SHOW NEW. You also can rearrange (SHOW NEW RESPONSES) or abbreviate (SH NE R) this command. This command displays all new responses to items you have already read. For each item with new responses Caucus displays:

The title and number of the item

The date, time, author, and author's userid for each new response

The text of each new response

If the new response has an attachment, Caucus asks if you want to see it

When you have seen all the new responses to an item, Caucus asks if you want to add a response of your own. After you have seen all new responses on all the items, (or if you interrupt Caucus by pressing the <CANCEL> key), Caucus returns to the "AND NOW?" prompt and waits for your next command.

If new items have been added to discuss new topics, you may want to see them as well. At the "AND NOW?" prompt, type SHOW NEW (or SHOW NEW ITEMS or SH NE I). For each new item, Caucus displays:

1. The title and number of the item

2. The date, time, and author of the item

3. The text of the item introduction

4. If the new item has an attachment, Caucus asks if you want to see it

5. Any responses to the item

Caucus then asks if you want to add your own response to the item. After you have seen all the new items (or interrupted the process by pressing the <CANCEL> key), Caucus returns you to the "AND NOW?" prompt.

Your Turn to Speak

Whenever you SHOW items or responses, Caucus asks if you would like to add a response. For example, suppose there are new responses to Item 1, and, at "AND NOW?", you typed SHOW NEW S. Caucus displays all of the new responses to Item 1 followed by the prompt:

ITEM 1...RESPOND, PASS, or ? for options: (pass)

This is your opportunity to add a response of your own to Item 1. Note what each piece of this prompt tells you:

ITEM 1 You are looking at Item 1 and its responses.

RESPOND You can type RESPOND (or just R) to add your own response to the item.

PASS You can PASS on this item and go on. In this example, you would then see the next set of new responses.

? for options The prompt includes the two most common actions, RESPOND and PASS. You can also type ? or HELP to learn about other options. After showing you what options are available, Caucus returns you to the original prompt.

(pass) When a prompt has a word at the end in parentheses, it means that this is what Caucus does if you just press <RETURN>. In this example, pressing <RETURN> is the same as typing PASS. Usually, the choice shown in parenthesis is the most common one.

If you know the number of a response which you would like to see, you may type that number at this prompt. Caucus will then display that numbered response to the item you have just seen. The item text is response number "0".

If you do not want to add a response and do not want to PASS and see the rest of the new responses, press the <CANCEL> key. Caucus will return to the "AND NOW?" prompt. (This is true at any time while you are using Caucus. If you press <CANCEL> several times, you will always return to the "AND NOW?" prompt.)


Continuing the previous example, if you choose to RESPOND to Item 1, Caucus prompts you to enter your comment by displaying a ">" at the beginning of each line. Type as much as you like; a response can be up to 9999 lines long. Be sure to press <RETURN> at the end of each line of text.

If you make a mistake while typing, you can edit your text. To do so, type the word "edit" at the beginning of a line. Caucus starts up your default text editor with the text you have typed so far. To learn more about the default text editor, see the SET EDITOR command in Chapter 9.

If you want to use a particular text editor on your computer system, you can also type the word "edit" followed by the name of the text editor at the beginning of a line.

When you are through entering your response, type a dot (period) at the start of a new line. This is the same as typing a completely blank line and tells Caucus that you are finished with your response. (If you would rather type something else to tell Caucus that you are finished, see the SET EOT command in Chapter 9.) Caucus then adds your response to the end of Item 1 and prompts you again with:

ITEM 1...RESPOND, PASS, or ? for options: (pass)

If you decide not to add a response after typing RESPOND, press the <CANCEL> key at the ">" prompt.

You now know everything you need to be an active participant in a conference. SHOW NEW RESPONSES, SHOW NEW ITEMS, and RESPOND are the basic tools you need to keep up with a conference and express your own thoughts and opinions.

Other Ways to SHOW ITEMS

SHOW RESPONSES NEW and SHOW ITEMS NEW keep you up-to-date with what happens in a conference, but a conference is more than just what's new since yesterday. A conference is also a history of all the individual discussions.

To review this history, you use SHOW ITEMS in a different way. The general form of the SHOW ITEMS command is:

SHOW ITEMS instance

The instance selects the particular items that you want to see. An instance can specify an item or items in several ways. The following paragraphs and sample commands describe increasingly complex methods for selecting the items you want to read.

Item Numbers

The simplest kind of instance is an item number, or numbers. You can combine the numbers in any way or in any order you like. Caucus shows you the list of items you selected in that order. For example:

SHOW ITEM 5 displays Item 5 with responses

SHOW ITEM 1, 17, 3 displays Item 1, 17, and 3 in that order with their responses

SHOW ITEMS 3-6 displays the Items 3, 4, 5, and 6 in that order with their responses

SHOW ITEMS 17, 4-6, 2, 1 displays Items 17, 4, 5, 6, 2, and 1 in that order with their responses

Item Keywords

Another kind of instance is a keyword that represents a set of items. These keywords are ALL, LAST, THIS, NEW, FRESH, and UNSEEN. ALL selects every item in the conference, LAST refers to the highest numbered item in the conference, and THIS refers to the item you were just looking at.

SHOW ITEMS ALL displays every item in the conference

SHOW ITEM LAST displays the last item in the conference

SHOW ITEM THIS displays the most recent item you saw

The keywords NEW, FRESH, and UNSEEN are more complex and are best explained by example. Suppose you join a conference called ECONOMICS for the first time. ECONOMICS has 10 items. Since you have just become a participant of the conference, all of the items are NEW. At "AND NOW?" you type SHOW ITEM 5 to read Item 5 and its responses. At this point:

Items 1-4 are UNSEEN

Item 5 is marked as seen

Items 6-10 are still NEW

Items 1-10 are still FRESH

The highest numbered item you have seen is item 5. The NEW items are the items after (higher than) the highest item you have seen. The UNSEEN items are items that you have not seen, but are not new. FRESH items are the items that were NEW when you started this session. If you leave the conference and come back tomorrow, only items 6-10 will be FRESH.

SHOW ITEMS NEW displays all new items

SHOW ITEMS UNSEEN displays items that you have not seen

SHOW ITEMS FRESH displays items that were new when you started your session


Another instance is the keyword FROZEN. This instance reduces the list of items you've specified to just those which have been frozen. (FORGET and FREEZE command.) To use this modifier, add the word "frozen" to your command line, e.g.:




Named Ranges (Author, Title, Osubject or Psubject)

A more powerful kind of instance lets you select an item or items by AUTHOR, TITLE, OSUBJECT, or PSUBJECT. If you think of a conference as a library and items as books, then the AUTHOR, TITLE, OSUBJECT and PSUBJECT instances are like a library card catalog. The OSUBJECT listings are maintained by the conference organizer. You maintain your own PSUBJECT (personal subject) listings. (See Chapter 7 for more information on OSUBJECTs and PSUBJECTs.)

All four instances work in a similar fashion. SHOW ITEMS AUTHOR "SMITH" displays all of the items added to the conference by anyone with the word "SMITH" in their name. SHOW ITEMS AUTHOR "JOHN SMITH" would show only the items added by John Smith. These "card catalog" instances provide a very powerful way to retrieve information from a conference. A conference is as much a library or database of information as it is a series of ongoing discussions!


displays items added by participants named SMITH


displays items whose titles include the word FEDERAL


displays items which the organizer catalogued under the subject MICROCOMPUTERS


displays items which you have personally catalogued as IMPORTANT

Any of the keywords shown in the instances can be abbreviated to just the first two letters. For example, "AL" is short for "ALL", and "PS" is short for "PSUBJECT".

Caucus even marks items and responses that you enter as NEW, so that you can see exactly how they look. If you do not wish to see your own text as NEW, see SET MYTEXT.


Another kind of instance selects items by date. You can use the "SINCE" keyword to select items that were added since (after) a particular date. For example:


displays the items that were added on or after May 23, 1992. You may type the date in several different ways:

mm/dd/yy ("5/23/92")

mm/dd ("5/23", assumes current year)

dd-mmm-yy ("23-MAY-92")

dd-mmm ("23-MAY", assumes current year)

-n ("-5", within the last five days)

Combining Instances

You may combine any or all of the previous instances. For example:


lists only the new items that contain "XYZ" in the title, and were entered in the last 10 days.

Combining instances "ands" them. In the above example, for an item to be listed, it must be NEW, and have the word "XYZ" in its title, and have been added in the last 10 days.


When you are reviewing the history of a conference, you may wish to see just the responses. That is what the SHOW S command is for.

SHOW RESPONSES has the same general form and list of instances as SHOW ITEMS:


displays the responses to the items selected by the instance. For example, SHOW RESPONSES 1 displays the responses to Item 1. SHOW RESPONSES AUTHOR "SMITH" displays the responses to any items added to the conference by anyone named SMITH.

Some instances have a slightly different meaning with responses. Two very important cases are the NEW and FRESH instances. SHOW RESPONSES NEW displays any new responses to the items you have already seen. It does not display the responses to new or unseen items. SHOW RESPONSES FRESH displays the responses that were NEW at the beginning of your Caucus session. When you look at something that is NEW, it ceases to be NEW. FRESH is the memory of what was new when you started your session.

The SINCE instance also works differently with responses. For example, SHOW RESPONSES 5 SINCE "-3", displays the responses to item 5 that were entered in the last three days. (It doesn't care when item 5 itself was added.) Similarly, SHOW RESPONSES SINCE "6/1/93", displays all responses in the conference that were added on or after June 1, 1993.

Combining Item and Response Instances

You may combine item and response instances to display specific responses. To do this, place a colon (":") between the item instance and the response instance. For example:

SHOW ITEM 1:5 displays response 5 to item 1

SHOW ITEM 2:6-12 displays responses 6 through 12 to item 2

SHOW 5:17 9:1 displays response 17 to item 5, and response 1 to item 9 (note that "ITEM" is optional).

SHOW 5-6:NEW displays the new responses on items 5 and 6

SHOW NEW:LAST displays the last response on all of the new items

SHOW SINCE "5/23/92" : SINCE "-5"

displays the responses entered in the last five days to all of the items that were entered since 23 May 1992.

The use of the colon to combine item and response instances is a powerful and precise way to select or display specific responses. Because this syntax is powerful, it also can be very confusing.

If you wish to use this syntax to write complicated Caucus commands, you should understand the following ru

TITLE "xyz" : NEW (new responses to items with title "xyz"

2. The item part of an "item:response" instance must be one of:

a single item

a range of items (separated by a single "-")

a single phrase (such as TITLE "xyz" or SINCE "5/23/92")

one of the keywords ALL, NEW, FRESH, UNSEEN, FROZEN, THIS, or LAST

This means, for example, that the command:

SHOW 1 5:7

displays two complete instances: all of item 1, and then response 7 to item 5 (rather than response 7 to items 1 and 5).

3. Any modifiers (such as NEW, SINCE, TITLE, and so on) that are not part of a combined item:response instance, apply to all of the instances. For example, in the command:

SHOW 100:5-12 TITLE "xyz" : LAST NEW

TITLE is part of an item:response instance, but NEW is not. So this command displays responses 5 through 12 of item 100 if item 100 is NEW, and the last response to all NEW items that contain "xyz" in their title.


When you are interested in the attachment to an item or response, you can ask to see just the attachment. For example:

SHOW 1 ATTACH displays just the attachment to item 1

SHOW 5:10 ATTACH displays just the attachment to item 5, response 10.

In both of these examples, Caucus will attempt to display the attachment in the way that makes the most sense for your terminal and the type of the attached file.

Alternately, you can copy an attachment into a file on the host computer, and later do whatever you like with that copy. For example:

SHOW 3:8 ATTACH >mycopy

puts a copy of the attachment to item 3, response 8 into a file called mycopy.


As noted in Your turn to Speak, whenever you SHOW items or responses Caucus prompts you to add a response of your own. This is the easiest and most common way that people add their responses to an item.

You can add a response directly to an item from the "AND NOW?" prompt without SHOWing anything. The general form of this command is:

ADD instance

where the instance is any of the instances described in Other Ways to SHOW ITEMS . However, you may select only one item. If you specify two or more items, Caucus tells you to select one item and prompts you again with "AND NOW?".

Once you have told Caucus to add a response, it displays the number and title of the item you selected, and prompts you to type the text of your response. Enter your response as described in Responding. Type as much as you like, but remember to press <RETURN> at the end of each line. To finish your response, type a dot (period) at the start of a new line. When you are done, Caucus returns you to the "AND NOW?" prompt.


The previous sections assume that other conference participants entered items into the conference for you to SHOW and to add responses to. When a conference is started, the organizer typically creates the first few items to introduce and define the purpose of the conference.

To start a new discussion of your own, type:


at the "AND NOW?" prompt. Caucus prompts you for the text of your item just as in Responding. After you finish entering your item introduction, Caucus prompts you for a one-line title. Choose a clear and succinct title for your item; this helps the other participants of your conference. Caucus assigns the next available number for your item; you do not have to supply one.

Once you add an item to a conference, it is yours and automatically appears under your name in the AUTHOR catalog. You also receive certain powers and rights to this item that are described in later chapters.


Several of the previous sections in this chapter have described what happens when you SHOW an item or response that has an attachment, or how to SHOW just an attachment. But, in order for the attachments to exist, someone must add them.

You can only add an attachment to an existing item or response. For example:

ADD ATTACH 1 <alpha adds file alpha as an attachment to item 1

ADD ATTACH 2:4 <beta adds file beta as an attachment to item 2, response 4

In this example, files alpha and beta must already exist on the host computer, and be readable by you.

LIST - Getting an Overview

The previous sections introduced the analogy of a Caucus conference as a library, complete with books (items) and card catalogs (AUTHOR, TITLE, and SUBJECT instances). In this analogy, SHOWing an item is like reading a book.

To extend this analogy, when you are looking for information in a library you do not start by reading every book that might be relevant. First, you gather a list of related books. That is what the Caucus LIST command is for. It has exactly the same form as the SHOW ITEMS command:

LIST ITEMS instance

where the instance can be any of the instances shown in Other Ways to SHOW ITEMS. For each item selected by the instance, LIST displays three lines of information:

the item number, author, and time and date the item was added

the full title of the item

the number of responses within the item

When Caucus is finished displaying the list, it prompts you with "AND NOW?".

If your lists are very long, you may wish to see the information in a more condensed form. LIST has a modifier called BRIEF that tells Caucus to display only one line of information per item. For example: LIST NEW ITEMS displays one line for each new item in the conference. Each line contains:

an item number

the number of responses within the item

the title of the item (or as much as fits on one line)

Here is another example. The command LIST ITEMS TITLE "FEDERAL" BRIEF displays one line of information about each item in the conference that contains the word FEDERAL in its title.

STATUS and CHECK - What is New?


Each time you join a conference, you see a greeting from the organizer followed by a very brief summary of the new items, responses, and messages. You can obtain this summary at any time by typing STATUS at the "AND NOW?" prompt. Here is an example from a typical conference:

AND NOW? status

Caucus (TM) Version 2.2/IM. Copyright (C) 1988 Screen Porch

The Conference is: demonstration

The Organizer is: Charles Roth (roth)

You are: Joan Doe

The time is: 29-OCT-89 14:41

The <CANCEL> key is Control-C.

New items are: 3

Unseen items are: 1

New responses on items: 2

This tells you that Item 3 is new, Item 2 has new responses, and that you have never seen Item 1. The STATUS command is a good way to find out what conference you are in and how much new material there is in the conference.


Caucus provides an easy method of checking each of the conferences in which you are a member. For example, if you are a member of six different conferences, you might join each of the conferences in order to see if there was something new on any of them. Instead, type CHECK at either the "AND NOW?" or "Join Which Conference?" prompt. Caucus tells you which of your conferences have new items or responses and whether you have any new messages.

Leaving a Conference

Once you have joined a computer conference, there is one important thing you need to know - how to leave it! Caucus provides two different commands for leaving a conference: STOP and JOIN. You use STOP to exit from Caucus and JOIN to go directly to another conference.


The sample Caucus session in Chapter 2 demonstrated using the STOP command to leave Caucus. When you type STOP at the "AND NOW?" prompt, Caucus exits and returns to your normal operating system prompt.

Some computers may be set up so that you can use only Caucus and nothing else. If you are accessing such a system, typing STOP logs you off. If you are dialing into the conference via modem, STOP also disconnects your modem from the host computer.

Because Caucus was designed to run on a variety of computer systems, it understands many synonyms for STOP. The commands DONE, QUIT, BYE, EXIT, and QQ are all equivalent to STOP. You may use whichever one you prefer. You must type the entire command, however, as Caucus does not recognize abbreviations for STOP and its synonyms. This keeps you from leaving Caucus accidentally.


Since you will probably attend more than one conference, Caucus provides the JOIN command to let you switch between conferences. The general form of the JOIN command is:

JOIN conference

where conference is the name of the conference you want to join. You can type just the first few letters in the name of the conference, and Caucus will figure out which conference you meant. If more than one conference begins with those letters, Caucus will tell you it can not find that conference.

If you type JOIN and do not specify a conference, Caucus prompts you with:

JOIN which conference?

At this prompt you can:

_ type the name of a conference

_ type STOP to exit Caucus

_ type LIST to see a list of all available conferences

_ type CHECK to see a summary of new material in your conferences

You may not have permission to join all of the conferences you can LIST.

If you attempt to join a conference that does not exist or which you are not permitted to join, you are returned to the "JOIN which conference" prompt. Conferences cannot be named LIST or STOP.


When you leave a conference with STOP or JOIN, Caucus checks whether you told it to print anything. If you told Caucus to print some material by using the PRINT modifier with a Caucus command, that material was saved in a temporary file (see Chapter 9). When you leave the conference, you receive the prompt:

OK to print text requested? (yes)

Press <RETURN> or type YES or OK to tell Caucus to start printing the material. Type NO if you do not want it printed.

If you see this prompt when you have not told Caucus to print any text, there may be a problem. Type NO, leave the conference, join it again, and type STOP. If you see the prompt again and you still have not told Caucus to print anything, there is a problem with your system's print instructions.

If you have modified your print instructions using the SET command (see Chapter 9), check them over carefully for errors. If you have not done so, contact your system manager and conference organizer to report the problem.

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©1996, Screen Porch LLC
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Last modified: March 1997