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Backtalk Features

1. Stable Release:

This page describes the features in Backtalk's 1.3.x stable release. The section at the end describes additional features in the 1.4.x development release.

1.1. Conference Structure:

Backtalk is based on the Confer model of computer conferencing. This model is widely recognized as the best way to organize active, open, on-line discussions. This type of conferencing system has proven an excellent compromise between structure and flexibility in many places including M-Net, Grex, and The Well.

1.2. Access Control:

Backtalk supports a wide range of access control options to control who can see what, and who can post where.

1.3. User Interfaces:

There are currently six different Backtalk interfaces flavors available, three web interfaces included in the main distribution (pistachio, vanilla and abalone), two separately distributed add-on web interface (bubblegum and papaya), and one command-line interface (fronttalk). The web interfaces are designed to be simple enough for new users to readily understand without having to study a manual, and powerful enough to provide experienced users with a range of options, but to have very different looks and controls. We'll describe the features of the main interfaces, pistachio:

1.4. Fairwitness Powers:

Fairwitnesses or conference hosts are users assigned to oversee a specific conference. Normally the job is best done by gentle persuasion, but Backtalk can be configured to allow fairwitnesses special powers.

1.5. Administration Tools:

Backtalk includes a complete set of administration tools for maintaining conferences and user accounts. There are both web-based versions and command line tools, the latter being designed to be usable both directly and from custom scripts.

1.6. Compatibility:

Backtalk is designed to be portable and configurable, and to be able to coexist with other conferencing systems.

1.7. Configurability:

The authors of Backtalk recognize that the needs of different systems and users vary widely. Backtalk is designed to be extremely flexible and configurable.

1.8. Performance:

Backtalk was developed for use on Grex, a low-budget system which had about 30,000 users running on an antiquated Sun-4 server. This machine was always seriously overburdened, so to make Backtalk at all usable there, we have made performance a high priority.

2. Development Release:

All the features described above are in the current stable release of Backtalk. New versions of the stable release contain only bug fixes, no new features. A development release is also available. This is where we do new feature development, which always has some risk of introducing new bugs.

Major features in the 1.4.x development branch include:

E-Mail Jan Wolter
Thu Sep 29 20:36:21 EDT 2005

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