E-mail Notification Configuration

Revised 8 February 2000

I. Introduction and Purpose

Caucus 4.1 introduces a new feature called "e-mail notification".  This feature provides conference organizers with the power to automatically send notifications about new material in the conference, directly to conference participants via e-mail.

This feature can be a very powerful way to help promote interaction in a conference.  It can act as a reminder or a "tickler" to let people know about new activity, especially when they do not sign on to Caucus regularly.  It can also act as a convenient summary or update on activity in particularly important discussions.


II. Configuration Issues

Because this feature "hooks together" Caucus and a local e-mail client, there are several aspects which may vary from system to system and may therefore need to be configured by hand.  Different "sendmail" clients, different security policies on the use of 'cron', different customizations of the basic Caucus interface, all affect precisely how the e-mail notification feature is configured.

The rest of this document walks through the steps needed to configure and "turn on" the e-mail notification capability.


III. Configuration Steps

The following steps are only done once, after installing Caucus but before attempting to use e-mail notification.

  1. Check enotify.  Check the file enotify in the Caucus home directory.  It is used to run the e-mail notifier once every hour.  The last five entries in that file should be:

    • the full pathname of your temporary file directory (typically /tmp)

    • the full pathname of your sendmail program (varies from system to system)

    • the Caucus interface directory name.  (The default value is CS41.)

    • the alias for the SWEB directory.  This entry is optional, if left out it defaults to "sweb".  Enter a value if you have changed the alias for your SWEB directory in CML/your_interface_directory/Local/switch.i

    • the alias for direct entry to Caucus via "Caucus URLs".  This entry is optional, if left out it defaults to "caucus".  (This is to support the use of URLs like "http://yourhost.com/caucus/conf_name".)

    If your system or Caucus site uses different values for any of these three arguments, you must change them in this file.

  2. Check the Caucus crontab.  Make sure that 'cron' usage is enabled for the Caucus userid.  Check the cron entries for Caucus; they should include one that looks like:
       1 * * * * /home/caucus/enotify
    This entry should have been added automatically by the installation procedure.  If it is not there, add it yourself.

  3. Create a 'Caucus' user.  In order for e-mail notification to work, there must be a user in Caucus that has exactly the same userid as the Unix userid that owns Caucus.  This user must get at least "readonly" access to every conference that will use e-mail notification.

    (In other words, if Caucus is installed in /home/caucus, as Unix user "caucus", then there must be a user known in Caucus as userid "caucus".)  Register that user now, and keep its password secret.

  4. Make Caucus a "trusted user" Caucus attempts to "spoof" the automatically generated e-mail notifications, so that they appear to have come from the organizer of each particular conference.  If a participant replies to an e-mail notification, it is best if the reply goes to the organizer (who will presumably read it and take appropriate action), rather than to Caucus (where no-one may be reading the incoming mail).

    To allow this "spoofing", configure sendmail on your host to treat Caucus as a "trusted user".  Typically this means adding a line like "Tcaucus" to the /etc/sendmail.cf or equivalent sendmail configuration file.  This should be done by your system administrator.

  5. Turn on the e-mail notifier daemon.  Go in to Caucus as a manager, and click on the "you can manage..." link.  Click on "Edit the Caucus switches".  Find the checkbox labelled "Run the e-mail notifier daemon?" and click it "on".  (Go to the bottom of the page and click "make changes".)  This enables the once-every-hour run of the e-mail notifier.

  6. Permit e-mail notification.  As the manager, you can permit all conferences to use e-mail notification, or you can restrict it to specific conferences.  If you are trying this feature for the first time, you may want to restrict it to just a few conferences.

    To restrict it to specific conferences, go to the manager's page, and click on "Conference Settings".  Click "allow e-mail notification" on for the desired conferences.

    To permit it to all conferences, go to the manager's page, and click on "Edit Caucus switches".  Find the checkbox labelled "Allow e-mail notification...", and click it "on".  (Go to the bottom of the page and click "make changes".) 


IV. Using e-mail notification

Once the above configuration steps are complete, conference organizers may begin using e-mail notification.  The organizer of each conference must go through the following steps and choices in order to use the feature:

  1. Include "caucus".  The organizer must grant the "caucus" userid (as described in III.3) at least "readonly" access to the conference.  (From the "Customize" page, "Users" link.)

  2. Set a schedule.  To actually begin generating e-mail notifications, the organizer must first "turn on" notifications, and then set a notification schedule (both from "Customize" page, "E-mail Notification" link). 

    The organizer may set multiple schedules covering different items, with different frequencies of notification.  A typical scheme is to set one schedule that covers all items, and sends a notification once a week (perhaps Monday morning at 6 a.m.).  If there is a particularly important item or set of items, another schedule could be created to report on new activity in that item(s), perhaps daily.

  3. Allow participant schedules?  The organizer can also choose to let individual conference participants create their own notification schedules.  This is a very empowering capability, but is best held in reserve until it is clear that most users are familiar with using Caucus.

    To enable individual schedules, from the "Customize" page click on "Users".  In the "User Capabilities" section, click on the "Allow members to set... schedules" box.