Starting out in WELL conferences
Conferences are the heart of The WELL, providing forums for the exchange of ideas, information, opinions, support, and understanding.
An introduction to conferences on The WELL
If you think of The WELL as a series of interconnected towns, then conferences are the places the townsfolk gather to talk: cafes, parks, schools, clubs, and so on. Discussions on The WELL can be as tightly focused as you'd find in a classroom, or as loose and free-flowing as you'd find at your corner pub. If you want to talk about science, you can go to the Science Conference. If you want to meet people and talk about anything and everything, you can head for the Miscellaneous Conference or to conferences such as New York or Berkeley that focus on people in a particular region.
There are hundreds of conferences on The WELL. Each conference is a general category, such as parenting, games, or travel. Conferences vary in tone, customs, and purpose. It's useful to pay attention to the context as you join in the conversation.
Within each conference you'll find you'll find a variety of ongoing discussions, called topics - sometimes hundreds of topics - each started by a WELL member. Within the Parenting Conference, for example, there are more than 600 topics. Here are some examples:
In each topic, there are usually several people talking. The participants take turns, each telling a story, asking and answering questions, responding to someone's remarks, or maybe nudging the conversation in a slightly different direction. On The WELL, each person's comments are called responses or posts. Some topics may have only a few responses. Others may have hundreds.
As in any gathering of communicative people, you'll find many different kinds of discussions on The WELL. In some topics, one or two people may dominate the discussion; in others, many people may participate equally. Some topics stay focused on a specific subject, while others veer wildly off the subject matter ("topic drift"). You'll find serious discussions, heated debates, light-hearted banter, story telling, jokes, and even parlor games in your exploration of The WELL.
You can read as much or as little of a topic as you like. You can read an entire topic from beginning to end and see all the responses people have posted. Or you can visit a conference regularly, each time reading all the new responses that have been posted since your last visit. Or you can read responses since a particular day, or from a particular person.
Each conference has one or more hosts—people who have volunteered to take care of the conference, offer help and support to newcomers, and in general be something like a host at a party.
Most conferences are public—available to all members of The WELL. You can read any topic in any public conference, and you can post a response to topics. Other conferences are independent—developed and hosted by WELL members. Some of the independent conferences are public, and some are private and require an invitation to join.
You will find more information about conferences, including policies, the role of the hosts, and how to start an independent conference in the next chapter. To start taking part in The WELL's conferences, open the Conferencing Basics menu.Opening the Conferencing Basics menu
From the Main menu choose 2 Conferencing basics. The Conferencing Basics menu appears (commonly known as the Basics menu).
CONFERENCING BASICS . Menu name : basics . Conference: wellcome 1 List WELL conferences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Go to a conference by name . HELPFUL INFORMATION . 3 List the topics in this conference . 40 Definitions 4 List recently active topics . 41 Notes . 42 Quick Commands 5 Read a particular topic . 6 Read recently active topics . 43 Explain a specific term . 44 Help from a real person 7 Go to the main Conferencing menu... . . GETTING AROUND . . 66 Go back one menu . 77 Go to the Main menu . 88 Go to a menu by name . 99 Turn off these menus . . 100 Exit from the WELL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . OK (type a number or command):
The Basics menu is designed to introduce you to the basic features of participating in the conferences on The WELL. Here you can see conferences and topics, go to other conferences, and read topics.
You can also navigate from the Basics menu to the Main Conference menu, which offers the additional features described in Working with WELL Conferences.
Your current conference location is displayed in the upper-right corner of all menus. In the menu pictured above, the conference is the Wellcome conference.Seeing the list of available conferences
How can you see what conferences are available on The WELL? The answer is important not only to become familiar with The WELL's resources, but because you need to know the conference name (or its abbreviation) when you want to go to it, to read what's in it.
From the Conferencing Basics menu choose 1 List WELL conferences. The WELL displays a list of conference categories.
WELL CONFERENCES -- TABLE OF CONTENTS To see a list of conferences in a particular category, type the number of the category. To see a list of all the available WELL conferences, type 22. 1 Art and Literature 11 Music 2 Body, Mind and Health 12 Recreation and Adventure 3 Business and Livelihood 13 Regional Communities 4 Computers and the Internet 14 Science, Nature and Environment 5 Education and the Future 15 Social Sciences, Cultures & Religion 6 Etc, Etc, Etc.... 16 WELL Customs, Policies and Help 7 Events and Entertainment 17 Women and Men 8 Hangouts and Social Scenes 18 World Affairs, Politics and Law 9 Home and Family 19 Featured Limited Access Conferences 10 Media and Publications 20 Vue Conferences 21 The Independent Zone 22 All Available Conferences Enter a number (1-20), or q to return to the Main menu:
You can now open any of these categories to see the specific conferences in each. To see the conferences in any category, enter the category number.Going to a conference
The WELL's computer thinks of you as being in a conference whenever you are logged on to The WELL. When you issue a command, such as list topics, the software shows you the topics in the current conference. The conference you are currently in is shown in the upper-right corner of each menu.
You start out in the Wellcome conference when you first log in. You can participate in the Wellcome conference immediately - seeing the list of topics, reading responses, and so forth.
In order to participate in a different conference, you must go to it. You need to know the conference name.
From the Conferencing Basics menu choose 2 Go to a conference by name. The WELL prompts you for the name of the conference. Enter the conference name.
The WELL displays the closing message of the current conference (if it has one) and the opening message of the new conference (if it has one).
Here is an explanation of what happens when you go to another conference: When you first go to a conference, The WELL goes through a process of registering you in that conference. This process marks all the responses in the conference as seen, so that when you return to the conference, any responses that have been posted since your previous visit are new. This is just a technical event; don't let it throw you.
Suppose you decide to go to the Popular Culture conference. The conference name is "popcult." The result looks like this:
Registering yourlogin in popcult (/well/confs/popcult) Marking topics (type ^C to abort) ... done. Welcome to the pop culture conference -qgl ._. Your hosts: (jeffreyp) and (marybeth) |M| |M| -qgbpwqb, ,dpvqb, -qgbpwqb, ,dp-wb, -qgl -qgl |M| -+M|-. |MT TM| dMF TM| |MT TM| dMF ##' |M| |M| |M| |M| |M| ,MP MM, ,MP |M| ,MP MM, |M| |M| |M| |M| |M#,_,+P' 'M#,_,+P' |M#,_,+P' 'M#,__dp. 'M#__,+M| |M| 'MM_jg. |M|""" """ |M|""" """ '""`'"""""""" """ _jM|_ _jM|_ Your name is "your wholename" in this conference. 24 newresponse topics and 4 brandnew topics First topic 1, last 151 OK (Return for menu):
"Welcome to the pop culture conference" is the first line of the opening message of the new conference.
"Marking topics" and "done" show that all the responses and topics have been marked as seen in this conference. And your name is displayed. This name is your whole name drawn from your registration information. You can change this display name if you like and use a pseudonym. For information, see Using a pseudonym.Seeing the topics in a conference
Topics are smaller divisions in the broad category denoted by the conference name. Some conferences have hundreds of topics, and there may be up to several hundred responses in each topic.
Each topic has been started by a WELL member. The topic is made up of the responses posted by many different people, expanding the original idea, digressing, returning to the topic, keeping the discussion alive as long as it remains relevant to The WELL community.
All lists of topics show three things for each topic:
Here is a sample list of topics:
Equivalent command: browse Topic - Number of responses - Header 1 4 Conference Business <topic is frozen> 2 166 Pop Culture: An Oxymoron? 3 168 The Pop Culture Junkie Introductions 4 83 The Worst Performance Art/Experimental Theater/Improv I Ever Saw 5 31 They're Dead - Get Over It 6 45 Drag Queens Trapped in Women's Bodies 7 28 Don't Call Me THAT! 8 44 How will you spend your 15 minutes of fame? 9 31 Celebrity Matchmaking 10 89 What Makes A Celebrity? 11 29 Mass Culture vs. Pop Culture 12 74 Michael Jackson Weds Elvis Heiress 13 164 Bring On the 80's Nostalgia! 14 67 The Madonna Topic 15 118 Talking like a commercial OK (Return for menu):
In this list, the first topic is number 1, with 4 responses, and its title is "Conference Business." You can tell from the number of responses about how big it is. You need to know the topic number if you want to read it.
If a topic displays <topic is frozen>, as the Conference Business topic does in the above list, it can be read but it can't be changed (no new responses are being accepted). Typically, a topic is frozen when it contains announcements, or interesting but out-of-date information. For additional information about frozen topics, see How to freeze or thaw a topic.
You may also see a topic displaying <linked topic>. A linked topic belongs to two or more conferences, and is available from any of the conferences.
HANDY HINT: When you see a topic you are interested in reading, be sure to make note of the topic number. You will need it later, when you inform The WELL which topic you want to see.
You can quickly see a list of all the topic titles in a conference.
Go to the conference you are interested in. For information about going to another conference, see Going to a conference.
From the Conferencing Basics menu choose 3 List the topics in this conference. The WELL displays a list of topics in the conference. If the list is too long to display on a single screen, you see the More prompt:
--More--[Hit space to continue or q to stop.]
The More prompt lets you know that there are more topic titles in the list. In order to display another screenful, press the spacebar. To stop looking at the list of topic titles, press q.
The More prompt is explained in more detail in About the prompts you see while reading responses.To see a list of recently active topics
Some topics are active—that is, people are contributing responses to them. If you want to see a list of topics that have been active recently in this conference, you can do so. From the Conferencing basics menu choose 4 List recently active topics.
The WELL displays titles of the ten topics that have been active most recently. For example, in the Popular Culture Conference, you might see something like the following as the result of this choice:
Equivalent command: browse recent 10 Topic - Number of responses - Header 17 1052 More TV ads, cool and stupid. 34 47 Soap Operas 36 21 Quien Es Mas Macho? 39 98 The Celebrity Body Part I Want 85 39 My first celebrity crush 91 437 Jargon Watch 106 44 Sassy Refugees Post Here! 140 90 Post your Favorite Lines from *The Simpsons* 150 21 That Darn Aaron Spelling 151 26 Beavis & Butt-Head. The *Most* Intelligent Show. Period. OK (Return for menu):Reading responses in a topic
Reading the responses people post in a topic is one of the basic activities of using The WELL. Here is a sample response:
Topic 1182 [writers]: Introductions: How to intro another writer. #12 of 13: Gail Williams (gail) Thu Mar 9 '95 (10:28) 5 lines I have started by touching base to ask the writer, or any speaker, what the audience might need to know. Describing the impact of the first thing you read by that author might be fun if you have no way to talk first. That way the author and the audience are both listening to you with interest.
The first line indicates the topic number (1182), the conference (writers), and the title of the topic, "How to intro another writer." The second line shows the response number (12) and the total number of responses (13), the writer's name (Gail Williams) and her login (gail), the date and time of the posting, and the number of lines in the response. The last two lines are the response she posted. All the basic information you need to identify this response is included: the conference name, the topic number, and the response number.To read responses in a single topic
So, you've seen a topic you want to read, and you've written down the topic number. Jump right in!
When you read a topic, the menu disappears from the screen, and the text of people's responses replaces it. From the Conferencing basics menu choose 5 Read a particular topic.
The WELL prompts you for the topic number. Enter the number of the topic you want to read.
The WELL displays the first responses in that topic.
Equivalent command: see 2 Topic 2 [popcult]: Pop Culture: An Oxymoron? Started by: Lethal Lolita (marybeth) on Mon, Aug 8, '94 166 responses so far Will "Sugar Sugar" someday have the historical relevance of a Bach fugue? Does the Nick at Night lineup say something about our society? Is "Fantasia" as much a work of art as "Citizen Kane?" Or is it all just a load of hooey? 166 responses total. Topic 2 [popcult]: Pop Culture: An Oxymoron? #1 of 166: Avante Garde A Clue (mnemonic) Mon Aug 8, '94 (18:04) 4 lines I'm waiting for revisionism to revive the reputation of Paula Abdul. I still think the "Straight Up" video is pretty keen. Topic 2 [popcult]: Pop Culture: An Oxymoron? #2 of 166: 800-lb guerrilla (marionsd) Mon Aug 8 '94 (20:45) 1 line Paula Abdul is one hell of a choreographer. Topic 2 [popcult]: Pop Culture: An Oxymoron? --More--[Hit space to continue or q to stop.]
To see the next screenful of responses, press the spacebar. If you read all the responses, or if you press q at the More prompt, you will see the Respond prompt:
Respond (r), pass (Return) or help (?):
The Respond prompt gives you an opportunity to write your own response. Writing a response is described later in this chapter. To return to the OK prompt, press Return.To read the responses in several topics at once
You can read the responses in the recently active topics, moving directly from one topic to the next.
While reading responses, you will see two different prompts:
You see the More prompt at the bottom of the screen following a group of responses:
--More--[Hit space to continue or q to stop.]
The More prompt means that there are more responses to see. The More prompt here works similarly to how it works in the list of topic titles:
When you type q to stop, or when you reach the end of the topic, you see the Respond prompt:
Respond (r), pass (Return) or help (?):
The Respond prompt means that there are no more responses in the topic for you to see. Here is what you can do:
Note: When a topic is "frozen" the Respond prompt looks like this:
Response not possible. (Return) or (?):
A frozen topic accepts no responses. You can see a list of available commands by entering a question mark (?).Contributing your own responses
The WELL conferences are like conversations with many voices, extended over time and not limited by place. You can add your voice to the conversation at any time by writing and posting a response.
To add a response, you need to be reading a topic. The WELL knows which topic you are responding to because it is the topic that is visible when you start writing your response. Responding always begins at the Respond prompt:
Respond (r), pass (Return) or help (?):
The Respond prompt appears after the last response in a topic, and when you type q at the More prompt.
Enter message, command, or :? for help
OK to enter this response?
This prompt gives you a chance to read over and consider your response - its tone, its ramifications, and so forth.
If you make a mistake as you type, you can usually use the Backspace key to erase the mistake and then continue typing. But you can't easily go to a previous line. If you want to edit your message substantially, you can do so.
The screen presents the "Ped" editor and displays everything you have written up to this point. You can write and edit your response on this screen.
The Ped editor is similar to the Pine email program. The editing commands are displayed at the bottom of the screen. For example, you can delete a whole line by pressing Control-K. You can use the Arrow keys to move the cursor into position.
Note: You can permanently change to the "Ped" editor for writing responses as well as for editing them. For information, see How to change your response editor.
Suggestions for writing a response
Use the test conference!
If you want to try out writing responses in a completely risk-free conference, use the test conference. Nobody cares what you do there, or what you say. It's designed for practice, practice, practice.Starting a new topic
You are taking the plunge at last! Everyone does, sometime - you have a burning question, you have a sermon to test against other people's consciousness, you have an experience you want to examine with the help of The WELL community. It's time to start a new topic.
The following description assumes that you are already in the conference in which you want to start a topic. That is, if you want to start a topic in the Games Conference, for example, you should go to that conference first.
When you create a topic, you first write the header, or topic title. Then you write a short statement or question that states the topic and invites people to respond. For these directions, we start at the Main menu.
OK to enter this item?
Here is an example of creating a topic in the test conference:
OK (Return for menu): 10 Equivalent command: start Title of new topic: This is the title of the new topic Enter message, command, or :? for help To end, type . (a period) on a line by itself This is the first line of the new topic this is the second line And this is the last line . OK to enter this item? y Saving as item 313...saved. OK (Return for menu):
Use the test conference!
If you want to try out starting topics in a completely risk-free conference, use the test conference. Nobody cares what you do there, or what you say. It's designed for practice, practice, practice.
WELL policies and etiquette