Caucus FAQ: What is Caucus? [People][>Caucus<][Conversations][Caucus Systems]
  1. Who is Caucus Systems?

  2. What is Caucus?

  3. How does Caucus work?

  4. What markets does Caucus Systems target for Caucus?

  5. What support issues should an organization anticipate when considering Caucus?

  6. What Operating Systems does Caucus support?

  7. How is Caucus configured?

  8. Who should install Caucus at your site?

  9. Who should do customization and application development using CML?

  10. How does Caucus differ from Lotus Notes?

  11. How does Caucus differ from integrated Web groupware environments or "Notes-clones?"

  12. How does Caucus differ from Web BBS software, newsgroups and "threaded" forum products?How does Caucus differ from "Web conferencing" products?

  13. How does Caucus differ from Netscape Collabra?How does Caucus differ from Microsoft’s offerings?

  14. How does Caucus differ from Java? Other Web development tools?

  15. Will VARs and Web site developers create Caucus applications and Caucus-enabled Web sites for their clients?

  16. How does Caucus Systems distribute Caucus?

  17. Is Caucus currently available? On the Web?

  18. What future developments are in store for Caucus?

  19. How can I learn more about Caucus?
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  1. Who is Screen Porch?
    Caucus Systems is a software company with a mission to create innovative environments for social computing – learning, teamwork, and community. We develop and market effective new models, technologies and products for people who work together online.

    Caucus Systems was founded in 1996 by an experienced team of software, networking, and organizational design professionals. Our proprietary technologies reflect the group’s many decades of experience helping people work together using computers.

    Out of aggregations of individuals, Caucus Systems products create effective groups. Out of information possessed by individuals, Caucus Systems products create shared knowledge. Our software is accessed via a browser and can include and integrate any other browser-accessible software.

  2. What is Caucus?
    Caucus Systems’s first product, Caucus, is software for teamwork, group-learning, and community activity. Caucus workspaces on the Web allow people to work together at their convenience – across buildings, time-zones, or continents.

    People work together in meetings and conversations – in short, in discussions. When we talk about Caucus we are simply talking about the world's best discussion software, software which models the ways work actually gets done in real-world discussions.

    Caucus creates persistant online workspaces called conferences; they are available any time and offer rich contexts for information-sharing. Caucus workspaces are not dependent on marshalling resources and people for a "realtime" session, yet they create the sense that the team, learning community, committee, or other group using the space is actually present whenever an individual arrives to participate.

  3. How does Caucus work?
    Caucus combines a feature-rich computer-conferencing API, a workspace-scripting language which is thoroughly HTML-compatible, and facilities to capture and present literally any kind of information in the workspace. Caucus workspaces can be tailored to meet any need people have to work together.

    Visually, Caucus workspaces can take on any Web-compatible form. Caucus pages can be redesigned as easily as any other Web page. Workspace visual identity can easily be made to reflect and extend corporate identity, and a visual identity can be tailored for the application’s participants and purpose.

    The templates included with Caucus offer immediate productivity, automatically installing an organizational workspace center. But, Caucus also includes facilities to develop custom discussion-centered applications, using CML (Caucus Markup Language), our HTML-compatible scripting language. These Caucus applications can extend from a single Caucus Discussion Objecttm to a full-blown enterprise-wide conference center.

    Caucus workspaces may include any specialized capability (presentation, multimedia, database, etc.) a customer requires. Not just Web information but any browser-accessible application – literally anything which can appear on a Web page – can be included seamlessly in the discussion.

    Workspace resources may include files and documents from users’ PCs, applets, diagrams, video, database applications, links to other resources, a Chat room, etc. These resources simply become material parts of the discussion – sources people draw on and information they use to create knowledge while working together.

    Visual customization, programmability, and the power to integrate any Web information or application are the keys to the extraordinarily rich contexts for work created by Caucus. Yet, Caucus is also easy to afford, simple to integrate, and offers immediate benefits. It adds no infrastructure and no new software to learn. And Caucus is compatible with all Web security methods. If an organization’s intranet or Internet sites implement security methods that work in a Web environment, they will work with Caucus.

  4. What markets does Caucus Systems target for Caucus?
    Caucus Systems has developed Caucus to address three core needs of organizations:

    Learning: Caucus Systems focuses on distance-learning in the education market as well as applications for corporate-university and corporate-training markets. Caucus is used by numerous colleges, universities and other educational institutions around the world to create virtual campuses.

    Teamwork: Caucus Systems aims Caucus at Fortune 1000 and government organizations that need support for distributed, virtual teams. Caucus has been chosen for these kinds of applications by some of the largest government and commercial entities in the world.

    Community: Caucus is used to support virtual communities around the world. Increasingly, it is being used to create organizational communities of skill and practice intranet/extranets in support of enterprises and products/services.

    On a longer view, virtually every Web site will benefit when its constituencies can create and share knowledge and community at the site, rather than simply viewing interactive billboards or querying static information. Every Web site is a Caucus conversation waiting to happen.

  5. What support issues should an organization anticipate when considering Caucus?
    Caucus features the affordability, ease of use, simplicity of deployment and low training cost associated with a browser-based environment. Software maintenance is of a single server application only.

    Caucus can be installed and a full conference center created in a single day, allowing an organization to begin to recapture quickly the cost not only of the software but of much of their Web infrastructure. Moreover, the business benefits of Caucus are available immediately upon creation of conferences.

    Caucus offers exceptionally rich functionality for creating and sharing information, building team and group unity and effectiveness, and turning information in organizational knowledge. Along with increased productivity and accuracy through shortened information-sharing cycles, some key benefits of Caucus include enhanced collaboration, a heightened sense of team and enterprise participation, and the opportunity to create branded constituencies and communities.

  6. What Operating Systems does Caucus support?
    Caucus
    runs on Microsoft NT 4.0 (Intel) and a wide variety of Unix servers, on an intranet or the Internet. See below: Caucus is accessed from any standard Web browser, such as Netscape Navigator (2.0 or higher) or Microsoft Internet Explorer (3.02 or higher), on any browser-supported client platform. (viz. any Windows version, Macintosh, UNIX).

  7. How is Caucus configured?
    Caucus
    software is installed on a standard Web server. It includes the Caucus server and database, the HTML-compatible interpreted language CML (Caucus Markup Language), and Caucus workspace templates.

  8. Who should install Caucus at your site?
    The Webmaster, network administrator, or systems operator who manages your Web server should install and configure Caucus. It may be managed by your Webmaster. Users throughout your organization will be able to organize and administer Caucus workspaces.

  9. Who should do customization and application development using CML?
    Any HTML developer, using any HTML tools, can create custom designs for Caucus and Caucus workspaces and can also integrate any HTML software (viz. video, audio, chat services, etc.) into your Caucus environment. Anyone with experience in programming concepts and logic – including people who have used Perl, Visual Basic, or any other scripting or programming language – will find CML easy to use to create a wide variety of discussion-based applications.

  10. How does Caucus differ from Lotus Notes?
    Despite increased Web services and browser accessibility, Notes is a soup-to-nuts integrated environment based on proprietary network protocols, servers and client software. Notes requires an organization to "bet the company" on the software.

    Caucus is an incremental application on an intranet, extranet, or Internet Web-server. Caucus workspaces can include literally anything that can appear on a Web page – including any Notes application that can be accessed from a Web browser, or any other browser-accessible database application. It is designed to interoperate smoothly with all other Web-compatible software. These and other resources are transformed by being brought into the Caucus context.

    Caucus is also much easier to install, configure and maintain than Notes, and it is much less expensive than Notes.

  11. How does Caucus differ from integrated Web groupware environments or "Notes-clones?"
    It’s a matter of architecture, and even more of a design philosophy.

    The Web is a rapidly developing environment, a world in which creative people of high intelligence introduce new tools and technologies regularly, presenting important opportunities for organizations to gain productivity and effectiveness by continuing to enhance their intranets and Internet sites. This kind of power and flexibility will simply never be available from within "soup-to-nuts" integrated systems.

    Hence, we designed Caucus not as a closed system or "integrated" package, but rather as a high-performance application for discussion-centered workspaces that can include and integrate any Web-standard software – software that exists now and software to come. We also gave Caucus a powerful application-development scripting system to allow customers to extend their workspace applications.

    Caucus is, and will continue to be, compatible with and friendly to new Web technologies as they are developed. Caucus allows an organization to gain advantage by integrating these new tools and technologies in discussion-centered environments where information can be created and shared. Caucus is also compatible with any kind of intranet or other Web-compatible security technologies or measures.

  12. How does Caucus differ from Web BBS software, newsgroups and "threaded" forum products?
    In BBS, newsgroup, or threaded forum software, the individual message – not the meeting, discussion, project or team – is the most significant object. This software relies on a metaphor taken from a real-world bulletin board, as the name implies. The metaphor is of an individual posting a message in order to receive a reply from another individual.

    Essentially such software creates a database of individual messages. As with any other database, the goal is either to quickly retrieve information and remove it from context or to quickly add specific information to the database. When a user selects a message, the screen blanks and is taken over by that individual message.

    There is no context, no persistent sense of place, and no room to structure an application. It would not be easy, for example, to support a strategic team or create an online training course in a BBS. Such software provides no foundation for creating discussion-centered workspaces or applications to support teamwork, learning groups, or organizational communities.

    Moreover, because these products rely on the basic metaphor of thumbtacking a query to a bulletin board in hope of an individual reply, they all rely on threading and subthreading as a way to organize their message databases. The goal is to create a way to match reply to query individually.

    Threading and subthreading are antithetical to the creation of a team and team knowledge. Instead of focusing contributions to add to a rich shared space, they disperse replies in multiplying threads which get thinner and thinner.

    Caucus has been designed based on decades of experience in discussion-centered application development. Caucus workspaces are rich networks of people, resources, applications, interests, identities, databases, and multimedia information – all designed to support and enhance group commitment and achievement.

  13. How does Caucus differ from "Web conferencing" products?
    Caucus
    has been designed to allow an organization to build custom discussion-based applications. Any such set of workspaces can have its own look, feel, and custom-designed interface. No Web conferencing product allows this kind of advanced customization or application development.

    Particular Caucus discussions – and even items within these discussions – can be attached as objects to anything whatever on a Web page, referenced as normal URLs. No Web conferencing product was conceived with this immensely useful facility in mind.

  14. How does Caucus differ from Netscape Collabra?
    Collabra essentially offers an interface to NNTP servers, an outdated technology which implements BBSes on the Internet. Moreover Collabra requires that an organization use Netscape’s server products and a Netscape browser environment. Like Lotus Notes, it locks an organization into a proprietary and single-branded server choice, even though other Web server software may offer benefits in price, performance, or flexibility. Caucus will work well with Netscape Web servers and browsers, but will also work equally well with any other Web server. Unlike Collabra, Caucus is also browser-independent.

  15. How does Caucus differ from Microsoft’s offerings?
    Caucus
    is available in a version for Microsoft NT. Caucus is 100%-compatible with Microsoft’s Web development standards and tools, including ActiveX. These facilities can only enhance the kinds of functionality available within Caucus workspaces.

  16. How does Caucus differ from Java? Other Web development tools?
    Caucus
    applications are compatible with Java-driven Web pages, and Java applets can be included in Caucus discussions and even in user’s responses if a site wishes to allow this inclusion. Web development tools, whether for publishing, database access or other programming purposes, do not provide facilities for creating rich discussion-centered workspaces. They offer complementary functionality, rather than competition, for Caucus.

  17. Will VARs and Web site developers create Caucus applications and Caucus-enabled Web sites for their clients?
    Yes, they are already doing so. We will be happy to share solutions stories with interested people.

  18. How does Caucus Systems distribute Caucus?
    Caucus is sold through direct sales, via the Internet, and through VARs and consultants/developers.

  19. Is Caucus currently available? On the Web?
    Caucus
    is currently available. A 30-day trial version of Caucus is available for download from Screen Porch's public Web site at http://caucuscare.com. Product information and a demonstration Caucus workspace are also at the Web site.

  20. What future developments are in store for Caucus?
    Caucus
    will continue to be enhanced. A new version of Caucus will be released by early 1998. New CML templates and sample applications are often available in our technical support conferences, created either by us or by Caucus developers worldwide.

  21. How can I learn more about Caucus?
    For more information, visit our Web site at http://caucuscare.com, send email to the Caucus Systems sales department at sales@caucus.com, or call Caucus Systems sales at 703-243-3001.