Conference messages, or banners, are shown to users in the PicoSpan interface when they enter or leave a conference. They are a way of welcoming people to the conference, letting them know about important information or general announcements, and saying good-bye to them when they leave. There are five basic types in the text interface which give you varying degrees of control over when, and how often, a given message is seen. We’ll cover them in the order in which they would appear to a user joining your conference for the first time. (It’s a good rule of thumb to keep these messages fairly short — eight lines or less is best.) Those members of your conference who participate via the Engaged interface will not see the five basic banners. You may display announcements for them with one special banner, which is covered in section 4.6.

4.1 The Welcome Message (PicoSpan text interface users only)

The welcome message is the first thing users will see when they enter your conference for the first time. This message will be shown to them only once, when they join the conference. After that, they will never see it again, even if you revise it. Conferences don’t have to have a welcome message. Some hosts prefer to use only the login message (explained below) for their conferences. It’s entirely up to the host(s). But the same procedure will be followed for creating and changing all of the conference messages.

To create a welcome message (or to change it later) at an OK prompt,

type: change welcome

You’ll be put into the same editor you normally use for topic responses. When you’re finished typing your welcome message, enter it just as you would a topic response and you’ll get a prompt like this:

    Ok to install?
    Type: y …to install the message.
    Type: n …to abandon it.

You will then be returned to an OK prompt.

To see the welcome message without changing it,

    Type: d welcome (short for “display welcome”).

Only hosts may change the conference banners, but any user may display them by using d welcome at any time. To get a look at how other conferences use particular banners, you can use the d commands in various places around the system to compare. All of the following messages will display in the same manner.

4.2 The Bulletin (PicoSpan text interface users only)

The Bulletin message is shown to users just once. But unlike the welcome message, if you make any changes to it in the future, it will be shown to all your users once again. You can change it as often as you like, and each time, users will see the new message only once.

Like the welcome message, the bulletin is considered optional by most hosts. But because changing it will allow users to see it again, it is used more often than the welcome message. The bulletin is particularly useful for conference announcements that change periodically.

To create or change the bulletin message,

type: change bull

After that, the procedure is exactly the same as it was for the welcome message.

To see the bulletin without changing it,

    type: d bull (short for “display bulletin”).

4.3 The Login Banner (PicoSpan text interface users only)

The login banner is used as the standard defining message for most conferences. It is shown to users each time they enter the conference. Typically, the login banner identifies the conference and states the names of the hosts. It can set a tone or style, giving some context to discussions in that conference. It may also remind users of special files or conference menus which may be available. (These will be covered later in this manual.) There is a wide variety of login banner styles, and like the other conference messages, you can design it to suit your own tastes. Please try to keep it to about six lines.

To create or change the login banner,

    type: change login

After that, the process is the same as it was for the welcome and bulletin messages. To see the login banner without changing it,

    type: d login (short for “display login”).

4.4 The Logout Banner (PicoSpan text interface users only)

The logout banner is displayed to users whenever they leave the conference. As with the other conference messages, it’s best to keep the logout banner brief. It’s generally used to remind the user of which conference he or she is leaving, and to wave good-bye, perhaps with a salient quote or attractive graphic design.

To create or change the logout banner,

    type: change logout

After that, the process is the same as that for the other conference messages. So, to see the logout banner without changing it,

    type: d logout (short for “display logout”).

4.5 The Index

The conference index is slightly different from the preceding conference messages. It’s not shown to users automatically, at all. To see it, users must

    type: d index

The index can be used for any reference text which the host wishes to make available to users of the conference who might care to see it. It could, for example, be a list of several topics which the host feels are the best of the conference. Hosts may put a short message at the bottom of their login banner saying something like:

    To see type: d index

To create or change the conference index banner,

    type: change index

then follow the same procedure as with the other conference messages.

4.6 The Web Login, or wlogin (Engaged interface users only)

A special login banner has been developed for use with the Engaged interface. If you are familiar with HTML (HyperText Markup Language — the language used for building documents on the World Wide Web) you may use any HTML commands you wish in this file. Because this code is incorporated into another document before it is displayed, you don’t need the <html> or <head> tags.

If you don’t know any of the html language, simply

type: <PRE>

on the first line of the message (be sure to include the “<” and “>” symbols), enter about six lines of information (or whatever you did for the standard login banner mentioned in section 4.3), then

    type: </PRE>

on the last line.

NOTE: Links to other web documents will work as active, clickable links in this banner, but please avoid things like large or numerous graphics that could slow down the loading of the conference page for your participants.

4.7 The Userlist, or ulist (Limited-access and Private Conferences Only)

The ulist is a list of users which determines who will be admitted to a limited-access and private conference. Users not on the list cannot be admitted.

To create or change the userlist,

type: change ulist

Enter one login name (userid) per line, then follow the same procedure as with the conference messages to install it. You will need to be able to use an online editor to maintain a ulist. See the discussion of the response editor in the printed or online versions of The WELL Member’s Guide or User’s Manual.

4.8 Some Users Will Not See Your Banners

Hosts should be aware that users have many choices in customizing their online environment, including turning off all conference login and logout banners. Only a small fraction of The WELL PicoSpan interface users have done this, but if someone in your conference is behaving as if they don’t know where they are or is ignoring information in your login banner, this may be the reason. In some cases you may have to mail the text in your banner to a participant as a (hopefully gentle!) reminder of context.

If you have your own banners off, be sure to turn them back on now and then to get a feel for how most users experience your conference. To do this, type !banners at the OK prompt.

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