Computer conferencing systems allow people to post original messages,
and to read and reply to the postings of other people.
Unlike E-mail, computer conferencing systems are designed to gracefully
support discussions amoung groups of people, sometimes very large groups.
Unlike chat systems, computer conferencing systems are not real-time -
the people involved in the discussion are not necessarily all online
at the same time.
To participate in Backtalk conferencing, a user must have an account,
with a login name and a password.
When you first enter the conferencing system you will be asked to give
these to identify yourself.
This not only provides a measure of security for the conferences,
making it possible to restrict the set of people who can access it and
allowing the author of each message to be identified,
but it also means Backtalk can remember things about you.
Thus, you will not normally be shown messages you have seen before,
because Backtalk will remember what you have seen.
Normally each user will also provide a little personal information, so that people interested in the user's postings can satisfy their curiousity about the author.
On some systems, anonymous users, who do not have
accounts, may be permitted to read the conferences, but not to post to them.
Many of the functions of Backtalk won't work for anonymous users.
To help organize multiple threads of discussions,
most conferencing systems impose some kind of structure on discussions.
Backtalk adopts one of the most successful structures, which was pioneered
by text-based systems like Confer and Picospan, and is now used in many
other popular conferencing systems.
There are three levels to the structure:
Sometimes buttons will be grayed-out, like this: . This means that that function is not available, and pushing the button will not work. For example, the ``read new'' button is turned gray when there is nothing new to read.
If you are a fairwitness or an administrator, you will see red buttons, like this: . Red buttons allow you to do things that ordinary users would not be allowed to do, like erase another user's posting (some installations won't allow even )Fairwitnesses( to do this). The color is to warn and remind you that you are doing something extraordinary.
Oh, and feel free to use your browser's ``Back'' button any time you want, as much as you want. Backtalk won't be confused by it (or at least not enough to speak of), and Pistachio has lots of dead ends that you can't get out of any other way. It's also fine to open multiple backtalk windows at the same time.
A ``hot list'' is just your list of the conferences that most interest you. There is a button on the entrance page that lets you edit this. Most systems will have a default ``hot list'' for new users and anonymous users, but you will surely want to change this to reflect your own interests.
When you arrive in a conference, however you got there, you will be at the conference home page. Again, you will find a big, bright ``read new'' button here, to do what you will most often want to do - read the new postings to the conference. Alternately, the conference home page has a button that allows you to list all the items and select just the ones that interest you. There are also various other controls, to do things like enter new items and change your name in the conference (you can use different names in each conference). There is also a ``next conference'' button that lets you skip to the next conference on your hot list.
When you read a conference, each item will be displayed to you on a single read item page. The page will be divided into two windows. The top part, which doesn't scroll, has a selection of commonly used buttons. The bottom part contains the new responses to the item, and at the very bottom, a box you can use to post your own responses with. This bottom part can be scrolled up and down.
The ``next item'' button in the control panel is used to continue on to the next item. It'll be grayed out if you have read all the new items in the conference, in which case you can take the ``next conf'' button to the next conference in your lot list, or use the ``conf home'' button to return to the conference home page, or the ``entrance'' button to return to the entrance page.
If the item is really boring to you, and you never want to see it again, just hit the ``forget'' button.
If no text entry forms appear, the item may have been frozen by the author or the fairwitness, or you may be in a read-only conference, or you may be an anonymous user.
- Backtalk version 1.4.6 - Copyright 1996-2005, Jan Wolter and Steve Weiss