Bringing People Together through Internet Technologies
TCFN is a nonprofit organization that uses Internet technologies to bring people together in communities of shared interest or need. We've been linking the people of Minneapolis, St Paul and neighboring communities since 1995.
Overview of our Conversation Center: Caucus Conferencing
What is Online Conferencing?
Online conferencing enables written online group discussions. Unlike online "chat," participants need not all be logged on at once. Instead, conversations typically take place over days, weeks, or even months. Unlike mailing lists or Usenet, the discussion is stored in a central place, ensuring that responses are consecutive and that no one adds a new response without having had the opportunity to read all of what's been said so far. The result is a linear, sequential discourse that has the feel of a real-life conversation.
Twin Cities Free-Net uses conferencing software called Caucus.
Caucus keeps a permanent record of each discussion, allowing you to refer back to old responses if you need to and enabling late-comers to join a conversation. This also makes old discussions available as an information resource.
Caucus keeps track of your place in each discussion, enabling you to automatically pick up where you left off each time you log on. A personalized list of conferences lets you focus on the subjects that interest you with a minimum amount of navigation.
These features make it easy to participate in several discussions at once, keeping up with everything that gets said. You can take as much time as you need to formulate your thoughts on a subject -- a few minutes, or several days.
Conferences, Items, and Responses
Conversations are grouped by broad subject area into conferences. For example, there might be a public conference on politics, another on schools, and a private conference for use by members of a neighborhood organization.
Within each conference are numbered items. Each item is a discussion about a particular subject. For instance, the Politics conference might include items on elections, particular issues, candidates, local government, etc. Each item has a title identifying its subject.
An item is composed of numbered responses, each by an individual participant. You participate in a discussion item by reading its responses through to the end, at which point you have the option of making a response of your own. In Caucus, you respond to the item as a whole rather than to a specific reponse therein -- there is no "threading" within items. This results in a more focused and easy-to-follow conversation.
In a single session you will typically cycle through a number of items in several conferences. The next time you log in, the system will show you the new responses in items that have had activity since your previous visit.
Conference Organizers (Hosts)
Each conference is maintained by one or more organizers, or hosts, who are assigned the job of conference upkeep and given a few special privileges to make that job easier. Organizers can keep topics lively, mediate disputes, and post useful information. A conference organizer also controls whether a conference is public, open to anyone on the system, or private, accessible only to certain individuals. If necessary, the organizer can delete inappropriate messages from a conference.
Web and Text-Mode Caucus
Caucus has two types of user interface:
* Web interface
* Text-mode interface
The Web interface works with any graphical Web browser. The text-mode interface can be used by anyone with a text-only connection to the Internet. Together, these two interfaces make Caucus accessible to anyone with a computer and a modem.
In order to participate in Caucus conferences, you must register for your own Twin Cities Free-Net account. Registration is free and open to anyone. Unregistered guests may browse some conferences but cannot post messages except in the "practice" conference.
Last updated February 2004 by firstname.lastname@example.org
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