Members' Guide

Welcome to The WELL! If you plan to use PicoSpan, our command-line interface to access and participate in WELL conferences, this guide will help get you on your way. This guide was created back in 1995, when the PicoSpan command-line text interface was ten years old. Most of it has been updated over time, but if you see something anachronistic, please let The WELL helpdesk know about it.

Conversation on The WELL is asynchronous, which means that discussion is not predicated on each participant being online at the same time. This is not live chat. Instead, conversation occurs over time, with everyone having a chance to read and respond in discussions in their own time and place.

On The WELL, a conversation begins when one participant "posts" a question or idea for discussion. When other members log in, they are given an opportunity to read the idea and post a response to it. Each member's response is added to the end of the discussion in sequence. The resulting series of responses becomes an ongoing conversation—or topic—that reads like the script of a play. On each visit, you may read and respond in numerous discussion topics, and create additional topics of your own.

Topics are organized within hosted conferences that usually focus on a particular subject or theme, like "books" or "current events." In the Books Conference, for instance, you will find hundreds of topics, with names like "Books on Tape" or "Great Biographies." Conference hosts are responsible for maintaining the discussion area, facilitating conversation, and assisting new participants.

If you log into The WELL using an SSH application, you will land at a prompt that looks like:

OK (Return for menu):

This is the OK prompt. Once you are familiar with the commands to use to get around The WELL, you can enter some of them at this prompt. The PicoSpan Command Summary is a two-page list of PicoSpan commands which you can print and keep at hand. As a beginner, you might want to use the PicoSpan Menu System to navigate, so, hit the Return or Enter key to be taken to the Menu System.

This Members' Guide is a guide to The WELL's PicoSpan Menu System.

If you have a question WELL staff can answer, send an email message to Help Desk at Or call us: Help Desk is available Monday through Friday between 9 am and 5 pm Pacific time at (415) 343-5731.

WELL policies and etiquette

As a user of The WELL, you own your own words. This means that you are responsible for the words that you post on The WELL and that reproduction of those words without your permission in any medium outside of The WELL's conferencing system may be challenged by you, the author.

The WELL, as a community, functions on mutual respect and cooperation. Communicating online is quite different from communicating face-to-face. Only your words travel over the net - the facial expressions, tones of voice, and other nuances we use in live conversations are completely absent from discussions on The WELL. Please pay careful attention to how you use those words. Sarcasm and humor, for example, may not travel well. Asking or explaining that a joke was meant may be necessary from time to time until your personality and point of view are well known.

Remember that words you enter in a burst of inspired passion or indignant anger will be there for you (and everyone) to read long after your intense feelings are gone. This isn't meant to discourage spontaneity and the expression of feelings on The WELL, but to remind you of the long-term existence and effects of what you write.

You may, from time to time, find yourself in disagreement with someone on The WELL. At times like this, please remember that it is safer, more polite, and more persuasive to take issue with that person's comments, rather than to attack them personally.

People on The WELL generally avoid "obscene" language (no, we aren't going to try to define that here), except in conferences where such language is acceptable-or even encouraged. There are no rigid rules about this. Just remember that we are a diverse community of individuals with varying standards, and there may be minors present.

Naturally, passwords for The WELL and other systems, credit card numbers, or other information that was gained or can be used illegally are not allowed on The WELL.

The WELL reserves the right to refuse service to anyone. Our terms of service are spelled out formally in our Members Agreement.

You'll find additional information about WELL policies and etiquette in Starting out in WELL conferences and Working with WELL conferences. And you can ask questions in in the Policy conference online.

If you need to reach us, send an email message to Help Desk at Or call Help Desk at (415) 343-5731. If you reach the voicemail message, leave your name, your telephone number, and your username and we'll call you back.


Welcome! WELL policies and etiquette
Getting connected
Menu basics
Getting and sending email
Starting out in WELL conferences
Working with WELL conferences
People online
Accessing Other Internet Sites
The muse
Managing files on The WELL
Checking and changing settings
Accounting and billing
PicoSpan Command Summary

Notes on the writing conventions in this online Members' Guide:

In navigating through the menu system, you will be making menu choices; usually numbered menu items. The menu choices you are to select are in bold. We will always make the menu choices bold, so that you can pick them out easily.

In the instructions herein, each step is described. However, we don't want you to have to read "and press the Return key" again and again. So, throughout the Guide, we will use the word Enter to mean, "type the following information and press the Return key."

In the sections of the Guide listed in the Contents you will see: "To choose an item, enter its number at the OK prompt."

   Join Us
Home | Learn About | Conferences | Member Pages | Mail | Store | Services & Help | Password | Join Us

Twitter G+ Facebook