Caucus Conference Organizer "How To"

Last revised: 18 September 1999

1. Introduction

This "How To" guide describes the details of how a Caucus conference organizer administers a conference.  For more general information about the whys of conference management, see the companion Guide for Conference Organizers.

When the Caucus manager 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.

2. Starting a Conference

Conferences must be created by a Caucus manager, from the manager options page.  The manager creates an empty conference with no items, a primary organizer, and an optional list of other organizers.

The manager may also chose to make the conference "closed" (no-one else may join until the organizer(s) decide what to do) or "open" (anyone may join, immediately).

Conference names may be up to 80 characters long, and may contain letters, numbers, blanks, underscores, dashes, or dots.  (Underscores are treated as blanks).

A new conference has 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.

3. Customizing a Conference

Caucus gives organizers 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 link in the conference home page.  Only organizers can use this link.

Pressing the customize link brings up a page with links for customizing:


4. Customize users

While each page is provided with on-line help and instructions, the Users page is important enough to warrant additional description.  This is especially true since it's the first thing that new conference organizers will have to work with.

Note:  it may be helpful to print out this page, and then keep it in hand while working with the customize pages in Caucus.

The first two parts of the Users page control Conference Membership and User Capabilities -- in other words, who can join the conference, and what they can do while they're there.)

4.1 Conference Membership
This section contains four (or more) text boxes with a pull-down menu at the top of each box.  Use the pull-down menus to select which kind of membership access people should have:

Then, in the matching text box, type in the userids of the people.

For example, in the membership section shown below, jsmith and bjones are included as regular members, and mrobin is an organizer.

Entries in the text boxes may be specific userids, as shown above, or may combine text and a trailing "wild card" (an asterisk).  For example an entry "csc*" means "all userids that begin with the letters 'csc'".  An entry of just "*" means all userids.

Thus, reading left to right in the membership section below, everyone is included, but all userids beginning with "csc" get read-only permission, except for user "csc001" who is explicitly excluded from the conference altogether.  Userid mrobin is an organizer.

There's one more case to consider.  Entries in the text boxes may also be references to "groups".  A group is a collection of people (i.e., of userids) that has been created by a Caucus manager.

For example, if you had a group of staff people that were expected to participate in several conferences, the Caucus manager might use the Caucus manager menu to create a group called "staff", and in it place the userids of the staff members.  Conference organizers could then reference the group, as shown below:

which includes everyone in the staff group, and makes mrobin and jsmith organizers.  (The "<" in front of "staff" means that staff is a group rather than a single userid.) 

Note that there is a link right above the text boxes called User Groups on this system that displays the groups that are available on this host.  This may be helpful when setting up the membership in your conference.

Warning: the left-to-right order is important.  Boxes to the right potentially override boxes to the left.  Thus "include *" followed by "organizer jsmith" includes everyone but makes jsmith an organizer; whereas "organizer jsmith" followed by "include *" makes jsmith just an ordinary user!

Or in other words, when in doubt, list your organizers last.


4.2 User Capabilities
This section provides finer-grained control over what users can do in your conference.


5. 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, monitor the progress of the conference, assist in any communications difficulties, and in general help keep the conference well structured.

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, simply click on the edit button next to that text.  Normally this button only appears next to responses that you wrote; but since you are an organizer, it appears next to all items and responses.

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.