It is possible to “link” a topic from one conference to another. When this is done, the linked topic will appear in both conferences with exactly the same title and text, but with a different topic number in each conference. Users in either conference can respond to the topic, and all new responses will appear in the linked topic in both conferences. Topics can even be linked between several conferences. (As a Featured conference host, you can only link topics *into* your own conference. You cannot link topics from your conference out to conferences not hosted by you. Independent conferences do not support linking, though a Featured conference host may link an Independent topic into his or her conference with permission.)

9.1 Advantages & Disadvantages

Linking a topic presents a unique set of advantages and disadvantages to ordinary topics. The obvious advantage is that a topic which is germane to two or more conferences can appear in both or all. For example, some topics might well belong in both the Science Conference and our imaginary Mesozoic Life Conference. But some users may only frequent one of these conferences. Linking a topic between them makes the topic available to all users who visit either conference. A user who visits both conferences will see the linked topic in each conference until he/she “forgets” the topic in one or the other.

The disadvantages to linking topics are less obvious, but very important. First and foremost is the issue of a topic’s compatibility between two conferences. Different conferences have different rules, expectations and userships. It’s entirely possible (and, indeed, it has happened) that a topic whose subject matter appears to apply to two conferences is a poor choice for linking because the people in one conference expect the subject to be discussed in one context, and the people in the other conference expect it to be discussed in another context. Such links can lead, inadvertently, to misunderstandings between both the participants and hosts of the different conferences.

For example, the Mesozoic Life conference is full of serious discussion, scientific fact, and proven biological premise. The TV conference is a much more social atmosphere with discussions geared towards popular culture, the production aspects of broadcasting and general banter. Someone starts a topic in Mesozoic Life on National Geographic specials that the hosts then link into the tv conference. Suddenly you have a topic full of clashing dialogue between scientific fact and discussion of content, and lighthearted banter and a discussion of Barney. Though the subject applies to both conferences, the tone of each conference is significantly different and therefore makes for poor discussion on both sides.

For example, the Mesozoic Life conference is full of serious discussion, scientific fact, and proven So, careful forethought is advised for all hosts concerned before topics are linked between conferences.

9.2 Murphy’s Linking Laws

Because of the potential for incompatibility between the approach of two different conferences to the same topic of discussion, it is imperative that the hosts and cohosts of the respective conferences communicate with each other and come to an agreement regarding their linking policies prior to making any links. The following rules of thumb by Dan Murphy are recommended as standard procedure for hosts wishing to link topics:

* When you link a topic from another conference, you must first obtain the permission of a host there. Cohosts in multi-host conferences should work out among themselves the protocol for how this decision is made, etc.

Hosts may waive this rule for any hosts/conferences they wish. If, for example, the hosts of the lawn conference want to give blanket permission to the hosts of the chair conference to link topics there, they may do so, allowing the hosts of chair to skip rule #1 if they see a topic they want to link. This permission may be withdrawn at any time, but until then, the hosts of lawn pretty much have to live with the results.

* When you link that topic, the system automatically posts a message indicating from which conference and topic number it was linked, and which conference and topic number it was linked to.

Example: <linked from film.12 to arts.244 by puffball>

* If you kill a linked topic, you should leave a message in your conference administrivia or business topic to let users know this was done, as they may have forgotten the topic in another conference but wish to continue reading it there.

9.3 Technical Side-Effects of Linking

Once a topic is linked between two conferences, the ability to scribble responses in the topic is changed. Thereafter, only the original author of the post, and The WELL confteam staff can perform this action. Neither of the hosts will be able to scribble responses (other than their own). If it becomes necessary for the hosts to do so, they must contact The WELL conferencing team, who can do it for them. The hosts of both conferences should agree on the need to scribble in a linked topic before contacting the staff with such a request.

Linked topics are also immune to the host’s use of the “retire” command.

The hosts in both conferences do retain, however, their abilities to kill the topic within their own conference. When a linked topic is killed in any conference, it lives on in the other conferences to which it was linked. (This little feature is a handy way for hosts to transfer topics from one conference to another: link it into the new conference then kill it in the old conference. This is also how the attic conference can store killed topics — they are linked there before killing in their place of origin.)

9.4 The Linkfrom Command (Featured Conferences Only)

Now that you know the ins and outs of linking, the actual command may be of interest. Let’s say you are the host of the Mesozoic Life conference, and you want to link topic 234 of the Science conference into Mesozoic Life. You’ve determined who the hosts of the science conference are either by going there and typing display host, or by typing hosted science at any OK prompt, and emailed them to confirm that the link is fine. It’s ok to link with permission from one host unless that host says to wait for a reply from their cohost(s) It’s wise to inform all hosts of a cohosted conference since hosts may have divided up their duties or have different schedules for logging in. Here’s the command (given from the OK prompt in the Mesozoic Life conference):

type: linkfrom science 234

Both topics will then be marked as in their headers and browse lists, and you will be told the new topic numbers of the linked topic in your conference. PicoSpan will now make an automatic post logging the numbers of the topic and noting that you made the link.

That’s all there is to it. Now your guests know something about how the conversation has been expanded. To see where any topic is linked, you can type linked followed by the conference name and topic number to see where a particular topic is linked. For example:

    type: linked science 234

To unlink a topic, kill it in your conference.

9.5 Listing Linked Topics

If you’d like to see a quick list of all the topics in your conference which are linked to/from other conferences,

Type: linked confname

This command will produce a list of conferences and topic numbers (without their corresponding titles) for each topic in that conference that is linked. For example, for the words conference, the output of linked words might look like this:

science.404 words.1041
archives.208 health.444 medroll.260 words.413
cbooks.104 media.892 oldsoft.187 software.139 words.1008
flying.142 words.794
eff.546 words.902
… etc.

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