Twin Cities Free-Net Help Center

The Conference Organizer


The previous chapters describe the daily use of Caucus conferences by regular participants. This chapter describes how an administers a conference.

When the Caucus administrator 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.

[Note: For a more detailed description of the "how's" and "why's" of conference management, see Chapter 13, the "Organizer's Guide".]

Starting a Conference

To create a new Caucus conference you must use a companion program called cv2start. The details of how you run the cv2start program vary from computer to computer. For a description, see your system's Caucus Installation and Manager's Guide or talk to your system administrator, the person who installed Caucus on your system, or another conference organizer.

When you run the cv2start program, it asks several questions about the new conference. These include:

what is the name of the conference?

what is the userid of the primary organizer?

should this conference be open to everyone?

permit this conference like another one?

make this conference LISTED or UNLISTED?

should this be a CONFERENCE or a LIBRARY?

who are the other organizers (if any)?

which groups should be allowed to use this conference (if any)?

Once you have answered all the questions, you also are given the opportunity to edit the conference user list that controls who may join the conference.

Conference names may be up to 20 characters long but cannot contain any blanks. (You may use underscores to link words, as in "MY_CONFERENCE".) Conferences may not be named CHECK, HELP, STOP, or LIST, because these are key commands for the "JOIN which conference?" prompt.

The "CONFERENCE or LIBRARY" question determines the type of the conference. A CONFERENCE is a traditional discussion conference with items and responses. A LIBRARY is a conference that is organized as a file library. For more information about file libraries, see chapter 14.

If you do not know the userid of the organizer, you must run Caucus and use the SHOW PERSON command in an existing conference. Caucus displays the userid of the person in parentheses on the right-hand side of the screen. Do not type the parentheses when you tell cv2start the userid of the organizer.

Cv2start creates an empty conference with no items, no participants, and 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.


Caucus gives the organizer 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 command. Only the organizer can use this command.

The general form of the CUSTOMIZE command is:



CUSTOMIZE lets the organizer control whether or not participants can ADD new items to the conference. Caucus prompts for a YES or NO answer. YES is the default value and means anyone can ADD an item. NO means only the organizer can ADD new items.

CUSTOMIZE CHANGE lets the organizer control whether or not participants can CHANGE the text of their own items or responses. Caucus prompts for a YES or NO answer. YES is the default value and means anyone can CHANGE an item or response that they entered. NO means only the organizer can change items or responses.

CUSTOMIZE GREETING lets the organizer edit the text of the greeting that appears each time a person joins the conference. Caucus automatically accesses the organizer's default text editor loaded with a standard greeting text for the organizer to edit.

CUSTOMIZE INTRODUCTION lets the organizer edit the text of the introduction to the conference that appears the first time a person tries to join the conference. This introduction should briefly describe the purpose and content of the conference, and who should join it. Caucus automatically starts up the organizer's default text editor loaded with a standard introduction for the organizer to edit.

CUSTOMIZE ORGANIZER lets the primary organizer pass on the responsibility of being primary organizer to another person. (The other person already should have agreed to accept this responsibility.) Many people may have organizer "powers", as described under CUSTOMIZE USERS, but there may be only one primary organizer at a time.

CUSTOMIZE SUBJECTSlets the organizer control whether or not participants can change the conference OSUBJECTS. Caucus prompts for a YES or NO answer. NO is the default value and means that only organizers can CHANGE OSUBJECTS. YES means any participant can CHANGE OSUBJECTS.

CUSTOMIZE USERS lets the organizer control who may join the conference. When a conference is created, it has a user list that allows anyone to join the conference. The organizer can edit this list to specifically include people, exclude people, permit read-only members, or add other organizers to the conference.

The user list has a special format which must be followed precisely. Each line in the list contains only one word, either a userid, a group file name, or a control word. The control words are "", "", "", and ":". The control words affect the userids or group files immediately following them until the next control word or the end of the list is reached. Here is a simple example:








The userids "harpo", "chico_", "zeppo", and "groucho" are included in this conference. This means that they may join the conference. No one else is allowed to join the conference unless the organizer adds their name to the list. Zeppo can only read the material in the conference. Harpo and chico_ can both read the material and add their own items and responses. Groucho can do anything that the primary organizer can do except CUSTOMIZE ORGANIZER.

The user list Caucus displays is numbered in paragraphs and subparagraphs. Caucus numbers this list automatically. The subparagraph number is always 0 for "organizer", 1 for "include", 2 for "readonly", 3 is "exclude". For example if you type in the above user list Caucus will list:

:1.1 include



:1.2 readonly


:2.0 organizer


A userid in the CUSTOMIZE USERS list may contain a terminating asterisk(*); as a wild card. A wild card can replace entering a long list of individual userids. For example:






means that userid "smith" and any userid starting with the letters "csc" may join the conference. The only exception is userid "csc101" who is specifically excluded from joining the conference. The initial default user list contains the ":include" control word followed by "*" on the next line to open the conference to all userids. The third kind of word that may be placed in a conference user list is a group file name. A group file is just a file that contains a list of userids. To use a group file in a user list, preface the name of the group file with the character "<". For example:





means that all userids in the group file "faculty" may join this conference, but userids in the group file "students" may only read this conference.

CUSTOMIZE VISIBILITY controls whether your conference is LISTED or UNLISTED. If your conference is LISTED, its name will appear with the other visible conferences when a user types LIST at the "JOIN which conference?" prompt (see JOIN). If your conference is UNLISTED, its name will not appear unless the user is already a member of the conference, or can become a member of the conference.

Group Files

When many people are using Caucus on your computer system, you may find that they fall into distinct groups. For example, at a university you will have students, faculty, administrators, support personnel, and so on. These groups may in turn be divided into sub-groups: engineering faculty, liberal arts faculty, law faculty, etc.

Caucus can help you use these groupings to better control who has access to a conference. That is the purpose of the Caucus "group files". A group file is an ordinary text file that contains a list of userids, one per line. Users listed in a group file are members of that group. The name of the group is the name of the group file.

Group files are useful when a specific group of people need access to several conferences. Without group files, the organizer of each conference would have to edit the user list for that conference and add the userid of each member of the group. With group files, each organizer need add only one line to their user list: a "<" followed by the name of the group. (For details, see CUSTOMIZE USERS.)

Group files are created and edited by the Caucus administrator (or anyone who can login as the Caucus administrator). All group files must be contained in the directory called GROUPS under the main Caucus directory.

Each line of a group file must contain either a single userid, a wildcard match, or a reference to another group file. A wildcard match must end with an asterisk ("*"). The wildcard match "xyz*", for example, means "any userid that begins with the letters 'xyz'." The third case, a reference to another group file, consists of a "<" followed immediately by the name of a group file. The contents of that file are included as though they were part of the original group file.

This last feature means that you can mimic the groupings and sub-groupings of your organization with Caucus group files. To continue the university example, the Caucus administrator might create a group file called faculty, which contains the lines:




The group files faculty.eng, faculty.lib, and contain the userids for the faculty members in engineering, liberal arts, and law. Or those groups could be subdivided further. For example, faculty.eng might contain:



These in turn would contain the userids for the mechanical and electrical engineering departments.

Group files may reference other group files, "nesting" indefinitely without limit. Be careful to keep your group files arranged in a hierarchy and not allow any loops. That is, if group file a contains "<b", then group file b must not contain "<a".

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 and messages, plus keep the list of OSUBJECTs up to date (see Chapter 7).

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, type the CHANGE ITEM or CHANGE RESPONSE command. If you are editing text that you did not enter, Caucus tells you so and asks you confirm that you really want to change this text. When you are changing a response and see the prompt

EDIT, DELETE, REPLACE, <RETURN> for previous, or ? for options

type the number of the response you want to change. Caucus shows you that response, and prompts you to EDIT, DELETE, or REPLACE it.

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.

[Table of Contents]

©1996, Screen Porch LLC
©1997, Twin Cities Free-Net
Last modified: March 1997