Off-line Components of a Conference

Many references to conferencing facilities refer to bulletin boards or centralised mail systems, where the conversations are <#1313#> asynchronous<#1313#> or off line. Even though this system is intended to be real time (<#1314#> synchronous<#1314#>), we do not want to exclude the possibility of interworking with offline facilities. One possibility is that of providing proceedings automatically for the conference. Since our implementation is text only, we can consider logging all input, and tagging it with the user, the current floor, and any speech act used. This log can be made available to new conference members. Simple heuristics might be used to replay part or all of the past to a new user, showing the structure of the conference so far. This can be based on the observation that people who speak often and loudly generally end up controlling the floor (or being evicted). Thus we can identify the threads of control through the conference by looking at the priorities of speech acts used by frequent speakers. In general, the system should allow for the introduction of old documents at the beginning or during the conference, and the production of new documents during or after. We have not implemented any more than the bland input of text by a given speaker to all of the current floor. Obviously, multiple read/write access to offline documents would be desirable, but that is a large research area in itself. However, interaction with the simple structure of messages (especially use of the subject/Re: type common usages) should be reasonably simple to add on. Much more experience is required in this area before we can commit to a particular design.