11.1 What is a Conference Directory?

A directory is a special kind of computer file which can contain other files. Mac users will feel comfortable thinking of a directory as a folder which can hold files and, sometimes, other directories. Whenever you log on to The WELL, you are always located in your own personal Home Directory which remains “underneath” your conferencing, so moving from one conference to another does not move you out of your Home Directory. And whenever you create a new file by typing “ped filename” or “red filename”, the new file automatically lands in your Home Directory.

Exactly what is a conference directory? In a way, it’s your conference’s home. Just as you have your own (Home) directory, each conference has its own directory, as well. That’s where it stores its files. In fact, as far as Unix is concerned, a conference is nothing but a directory that holds PicoSpan files.

The most common type of PicoSpan file is a topic file, which is where all the text in a topic is stored. These topic files cannot be changed directly by either hosts or users — PicoSpan makes certain of that to ensure the integrity of the material posted in topics.

So, while we won’t be creating any fireworks in this section, it’s an important one as background to the sections that follow. We’re almost ready to jump in! 

11.2 Your Conference Directory’s Full Pathname

A pathname is a lot like a street address. It’s the exact location of something. There’s a bit more to it than that, but we’ll keep things simple. Just to refresh your memory, to find the full pathname of the Mesozoic Life conference’s directory, go to an OK prompt in meso and:

Type: g

Again, you’ll see this:

    File is: /well/confs/mesozoic (meso)

The part of this message which interests us now is:

      File is : /well/confs/mesozoic (meso)




        This is the conference’s


      full pathname

This full pathname describes the unique location of the conference directory, itself.

But for now, let’s move our tour forward to a new and exciting directory — your conference’s second directory. 

11.3 The Conference Info Directory

Each conference, like our imaginary mesozoic life conference, has three possible directories available to it. We’ve just located the first one — /well/confs/mesozoic — where all of its topics and essential conference files reside. To make use of the second available directory, you need to specifically request (in email to confteam) that it be created.

This second directory will have the same name as the first, but for one small difference. Instead of the word “confs” in the middle of the full pathname, the word will be “info”. That is, the full pathname of our mesozoic conference’s second directory will be


instead of


We’ll refer to this second directory as the conference’s info directory. It is for files of interest to your conference’s users, usually presented in menu form. It’s only readable to our members, and in the case of private conferences, only to conference members. 

11.4 The Conference Front Page Web Directory (Featured Conferences only)

The third directory will have the same name as the first, except (you guessed it) for one small difference. Instead of the word “confs” in the middle of the full pathname, the word will be “web”. That is, the full pathname of our mesozoic conference’s second directory will be


This directory has the peculiar attribute of being “mounted” to another machine which serves its contents to the World Wide Web. Any material you publish here will be reachable from the entire web, as an introduction to your conference or a gift or resources your conference has to offer to the world. This is similar to the functionality of the WEB subdirectory in your own Home Directory, where your own web home page may already reside.

Your conference’s URL (Universal Resource Locator) will be in the form of


Note that this outside URL address uses “conf” not “confs” but like the interior path names, it includes the all important real name of your conference.

One more note for the Unix savvy. You will not be able to write directly to any of these directories, but through special host tools you can easily move materials in and out of the info and web directories.

Now that we know our way around, we can start using more of the tools hosts have in their toolkits.

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