Structure of Caucus Conferences

Caucus structures the virtual space on a host computer site into conferences, items, and responses.  Conferences are where specific groups of people meet; items are the "threads" of their discussions; responses are the individual comments by the people.

Conferences can either be "open" to anyone having access to the Caucus host, or "private" (reserved for the exclusive use by a particular group).

The diagram to the right shows one way to visualize this structure.  Each conference consists of a group of people (the participants), and the items they are discussing.

Each item is a separate discussion.  An item is started by a person, and then the other participants may add their responses at any time.

The responses are appended over time to the end of an item, and may contain ordinary text, HTML, graphics, word processor or other files, links to other pages, or even links to other conferences, items, or responses on the Caucus host.

When you look at an item, Caucus displays the contents of the item and all of its responses as a page in your browser.  (If the item is very long, Caucus may break it up into separate pages, to improve your speed.)  Caucus treats an item and its responses as a single conversation amongst a group of people, rather than as separate, isolated pieces of data.

Caucus remembers what you have seen, and tells you about any new items or responses that have recently been added.  In fact, most Caucus users just click once to see all of the new material in their favorite conferences. 

Navigating through Caucus

Caucus works with your browser to show you web pages that contain the information in the conferences, items, and responses.  These web pages are dynamic; that just means they may be different each time you look at them, as more information is added or changed in the conferences.

You navigate through these pages the same way you would on any web site; by clicking on the links and buttons you see on each page.  (You can also use the Back and Forward buttons on your web browser to move around.)  The layout of the Caucus pages echoes the structure of conferences, items, and responses shown in the diagram above.

Where Am I?  The Caucus Compass Bar

Near the top of every Caucus page, you will see the Compass Bar, which tells you exactly where you are in relation to the Caucus Center.  For example, if you were in the middle of a long item in the Demonstration conference, you might see:

     Caucus Center => Demonstration => Item 4: WWWCOOP discussion: Browsers and the HTML Language => Resp 27

This shows that you are inside the Demonstration conference, looking at item 4, titled "WWWCOOP discussion: Browsers and the HTML Language".  You are on a page that starts with response 27 to that item. 

The Compass Bar not only tells you where you are, but provides a convenient way to go to any of the intermediate pages.  In the example, you could click on (and go directly to) the Caucus Center, the Demonstration conference Home Page, or the beginning (first page) of Item 4.

Note that the Compass Bar doesn't tell you exactly how you got to the current page.  (To see the path you took to get here, you can just click on your browser's Go button.)  The Compass Bar just shows where you are in the Caucus structure diagram, and the names of the pages between here and the Caucus Center.

(Next section: Using Caucus the First Time.)