Conferencing FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the web interface? Is it the same as The WELL?

The WELL runs software that allows you to participate in conferences using your Web browser. Often people refer to the software simply as the web interface, or as “Engaged.” It is one of two ways to participate in discussions.

Is The WELL “chat”?

No. It is an “asynchronous” system–more like a forum system than chat. Asynchronous means that the discussion participants read and contribute to the conversation at different times according to their own schedule. In “chat,” all participants must be at their computer at the same time to have a discussion.

How are discussions organized?

Discussions, or “topics,” are grouped in “conferences.” A conference is a discussion area organized around a discrete subject or theme, like books or parenting. Each conference area is maintained by one or more conference hosts.

What is a conference host?

A host is a WELL member who maintains a conference and assists in its development. A host may also set special rules for participation in a conference and remove discussion items that are inappropriate.

How can I keep up-to-date with conference discussions?

The WELL keeps track of what you have read and flags new items for you to read when they are posted. To read new items after your initial visit to a conference, go to the conference and click “See New” to catch up.

What is a bio?

An informational Profile or Bio is maintained by each member participant. Click on any username to see the short profile of that member. To see and edit your profile, click Settings on the Toolbar and then the Profile button.

How can I learn more about the author of a response?

Go to the author’s profile page by clicking on the username above the response.

How do I placemark a topic or response so I can find it again quickly?

Click the check box to the left of the topic or response to mark it. Later you can click Placemarks on your Toolbar to find it again.

What is the difference between Post and Post and Go?

Post displays the response you have just made to the topic. To leave the topic after posting, you must click Pass. Post and Go allows you to leave a topic after you post, without displaying your response to you first.

How does the software handle security?

The WELL requires every participant to register a username and password once each conferencing session. The software keeps track of your use by sending a cookie to your browser. When you log off or close your browser, the cookie on your computer expires unless you’ve checked the Remember me on this computer box on the login page.

Can I have the software keep me logged into The WELL when I close my browser

Check Remember me on this computer on the login page if you want to return to your session on The WELL after closing and reopening your browser.

Why does my browser keep asking me about cookies?

Engaged requires browser cookies to maintain your current session information. If cookies are disabled, the software does not work.

Can I use HTML formatting tags in my responses?

The software interprets most HTML formatting tags. To post with HTML formatting, simply type the appropriate tags, each preceded by backslashes [\], along with the text of your response. You can preview the formatting by selecting Spellcheck or Preview below the post box.

How do I post a Web address (hypertext link) in a response?

Just type the address in the response box enclosed in angle brackets. The software will recognize the address and make it clickable. For example: <>

How do I create my own Private or Independent Conference?

You may set up a Private or Independent conference at any time. These conferences are not monitored or supported by the WELL. As the Host, you control which members have access, and you set any ground rules you like.

Currently, only shell accounts using the picospan interface can do this directly without staff assistance. If your WELL account is Engaged-only (you only log in via a browser), WELL staff will need to create your conference. Email <confteam> for assistance. Certain hosting functions require a shell account.

* Private conferences are not listed by The WELL. Membership is limited to those users you specify.

* Independent conferences can be listed on The WELL’s Independent Zone. Membership can be open or limited to those you specify.

You may want to practice starting topics, hiding responses, and editing your responses online before you start your own conference. The test conference is ideal for practice.  When you do start your conference, you may want to read Conference Host Manual  for suggestions.

To set up a Private or Independent conference, use ssh to log into your shell account at

Type     !makeconf     at an OK prompt and follow the instructions.  It’s a good idea to have the following information ready before you  begin:

  • the name of the conference,
  • whether Private or Independent,
  • the userids of cohosts, if any.