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Suggestions and Shortcuts

Helpful Hints

There are several shortcuts which can be used with Caucus. Most are easy to remember and use.

Caucus commands can be abbreviated. Caucus recognizes most command keywords by the first few letters of their names. For example, the verb SHOW can be shortened to SH and the object ITEMS can be shortened to I. On the other hand, the verb SET must always be typed in full since it could be confused with the verb SEND.

You can also abbreviate Caucus participant names and SUBJECT topics. If Caucus cannot identify your abbreviation, it asks for clarification. The only two keywords which cannot be abbreviated are the STOP command and the PRINT modifier. This ensures that these words are not used accidentally. Use abbreviations to save time!

The HELP command has the special abbreviation ? (question mark). Remember that HELP or ? can be used at any prompt. When used without an object, the HELP command shows you what choices you have at that prompt and then returns you to the prompt.

If you just joined a large conference or have been away from an active conference for a while, you may want to PRINT all of the items. You can then read them at your leisure.

Questions about Caucus should be asked at large in the conference as a response or item. This usually ensures you get a fast answer and helps the other conference participants who were hesitant to ask.

Press the <CANCEL> key whenever you want to interrupt what Caucus is doing. Caucus will proceed to the next prompt in the sequence. If you are unsure what key is your <CANCEL> key, this information is included in the text shown when you join a conference or type STATUS at the "AND NOW?" prompt.

To illustrate using the <CANCEL> key, suppose you are SHOWing the introductory text to an item and decide you do not want to read it all. Press <CANCEL> and Caucus will begin showing you the responses to that item. Press <CANCEL> again and you will be returned to the "AND NOW?" prompt.

Other helpful hints and shortcuts can be found throughout the Caucus User's Guide, in the following sections on Caucus macros and conference etiquette, and in Chapter 13 (Organizer's Guide).

Caucus Macros

Caucus has a very rich set of commands built out of a small number of verbs and objects. But no set of commands, no matter how large or carefully designed, can anticipate everything that you might want to do. That is why Caucus has a "macro" capability.

Using Caucus macros, your system manager can easily create new commands to meet the needs of the local users. Macros can combine Caucus commands with operating system commands and other applications programs to provide almost any capability.

Predefined Macro Shortcuts

One of the most common uses of macros is to provide shortcuts for frequently typed Caucus commands. Caucus is distributed with several shortcut macros already defined.

A good example of these predefined shortcuts is the NEW macro. If you type NEW at the "AND NOW?" prompt, Caucus displays all of your new messages, all of the new responses, and all of the new items. Using the NEW macro is the same as typing SHOW NEW MESSAGES, SHOW NEW RESPONSES. and SHOW NEW ITEMS.

NEW may also be used with modifiers: NEW PASS displays all the new messages, responses, and items without stopping to ask if you want to reply or respond. NEW PRINT prints all of the new material, and so forth.

The predefined macros are:





MARKSEEN is like SHOW ITEMS, only nothing appears on your screen. MARKSEEN is a quick way to mark NEW items as seen without actually SHOWing them.




Macros must always be typed at the "AND NOW?" (or menu) prompts. Those are the only places where Caucus recognizes macros. Macros also may be abbreviated like the regular Caucus commands. For example, the SUB command is recognized as an abbreviation of the SUBJECTS macro.

Other Macro Uses

A popular use of macros is to add upload and download commands to Caucus. Many sites have created Caucus macros that move text to and from a conference via the Kermit and zmodem protocols. All that is needed is a copy of the Kermit or zmodem program for the host Caucus system. (A free copy of Kermit is distributed with most Caucus packages, as referenced in your Customizing the Caucus User Interface manual. Zmodem also is included with most versions of Caucus for Unix.)

Graphics is another area of growing interest in computer conferencing. Caucus macros combined with NAPLPS or other graphics interpreters can add a whole new dimension to your group discussions.

If you are interested in creating a new macro or learning about macros which have already been set up on your system, send a message to your Caucus system manager or conference organizer. For more detailed information about Caucus macros, see the separate Customizing the Caucus User Interface manual.

Conference Etiquette

In many respects, using Caucus is like conducting all of your business by letter. You cannot see the faces of the people you are corresponding with. As a result, it is difficult to judge their emotions. You do not know whether a participant answered your last response in haste or took time to think about your comments before replying. Bearing this in mind, the following advice will help you ensure that using Caucus is a pleasant experience.

Conferences proceed faster and are more lively when participants check in every day or two. If you are responding to an item or replying to a message, take the time you need to consider your answers. If that takes several days, you may want to enter a preliminary response or reply that can be followed up at a later time.

Keep items and responses simple. Complex topics can be expressed simply by keeping your sentences short and using less complex words. Be clear and concise.

Sarcasm does not work well in a conference. Without facial expressions, the meaning and intent may be lost. In general, try to adopt a neutral emotional tone. If the organizer and other participants of your conferences have devised a method to denote humorous or tongue-in-cheek comments, use it. Often phrases in parentheses, such as (grin!), are used.

Be specific. If you are responding to two different thoughts in a discussion within an item, make two responses. Try to answer direct questions in a straightforward fashion.

Leave landmarks. If you are responding to a comment in Response 34, say so. Several other participants may have entered responses while you thought out your reply.

Discussions in a conference have a tendency to wander off the original subject. If a particular discussion sparks a new idea, enter it as a new item.

Do not be afraid to ask questions. If you do not understand someone's item or response, ask for clarification. If you do not understand something about using Caucus, enter an item or response about it. You are probably not alone!

You can emphasize a word or two by using all capital letters or asterisks (for example, "How about THAT?" or "This is really *useful*!") Note that more than one or two emphasized words per response, however, can become irritating and hard to read.

While Caucus conferences are for group interaction, do not overlook the private message utility. Send person to person messages if you have information which is irrelevant to the group as a whole or more appropriately handled confidentially.

For further suggestions, see also Chapter 13, the "Organizer's Guide".

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Last modified: March 1997