GMU Townhall
Instructions for participants
by Virginia Montecino

[Townhall is a Web-based asynchronous "bulletin board" with synchronous chat capability] 
[Also see instructions for Townhall hosts (faculty, moderators)]

Townhall has advanced features not covered in these instructions. These instructions will get you started. If you do not have host/moderator privileges for a Townhall site, you might not have access to some of the capabilities discussed below. If a forum has a restricted access list, you will not see all or some of the folders for that forum.

1) Log on to a Web browser, for example Netscape.

2) Type in the address: http://townhall.gmu.edu

3) Register: If you are registering for the first time, click "Register " button. (If you are not registering for the first time, go to # 5.)

4) You will see a screen with:

Enter log in name: [Type in your *mason computer account name without the extension.]

Choose a password:

Your e-mail address: 

| Register | Cancel |

*If you are a GMU student or employee then you must register using your Mason (OSF/1) login name even if you don't use your Mason account. This ensures that your login name won't conflict with anyone else's login name. All GMU students and employees have Mason accounts automatically created for them. If you don't know what your Mason login name is you can find out at http://mason/ISO/SysEng/Mason/account.html

For example, if your username is jsmith5 on Mason, enter jsmith5 as your login name.

If you are are not a GMU student or employee you may use Townhall if you are participating in discussions at the invitation of GMU faculty or programs. You must register using an acronym for your institution followed by an underscore, your first initial and your last name. For example, if you are "Joe Doe" from Oxford Traditional University, you would register as OTU_ jdoe.

If you register without following one of the above methods your account may be deleted without notification. You may choose (almost) any password you wish.

For your e-mail address, put the address you want other users of Townhall to use when they send you e-mail. Users can send you e-mail from Townhall by clicking on your e-mail link in Townhall.

After you register you will still have to log on each time you use Townhall. (Be sure you exit the Web browser when you want to exit. Otherwise your account will stay open.)

5) To log on - click the "Login" botton and insert your email name (as described in # 4) and your password. You must log in everytime you access Townhall.

You will see this menu:

Your login name:

Your password:

| Login | Register | Guest Access | Lost Password | Email to Sysop |

6) After you are logged in you will see an interface that looks something like this:
Welcome to Townhall, George Mason's Web Crossing Server
-Townhall Documentation
- A Guided Tour of Web Crossing
- Course Forums
- Departmental Forums
Check Messages Subscribe Preferences Email to Sysop
- For a tutorial on Townhall, click on the folder called "A Guided Tour..."

- To access a course, click on "Course Forums" and select the appropriate semester, course .

- To access non-course related forums, click on Departmental Forums

7) Structure of forums: The 2 main levels where information is posted are folder and discussions .

Folders organize the conference. They contain discussions or other sub-folders. A folder is comparable to a file in a filing cabinet or a folder or directory on your computer's hard disk. Every folder has a title and a heading, which describes the folder. The hierarchy of a Townhall site, and whether or not participants can add folders or just add discussions or messages, is determined by the host.

A discussion is a collection of posted asynchronous messages that reside in a folder. Discussion messages are attached to folders in a linear fashion.

8) Other features:

Chat room - a "meeting place" where participants log on real time and type in their chat messages. The messages are not archived and disappear when the discussion is over.

Link - A link added to a local folder or discussion allows that item to be accessed from more than one path. You can also link to any Web page.

9) User Options - You may or may not (depending upon your access privileges) have all of the "button" choices below:
Check Messages
Cancel Subscriptions
Add Discussion
Add Link
Add Folder
Add Chat
Access List
Email to Sysop
Edit Folder
Delete Folder
Check Moderated
For example, only the host/moderator has "access list" privileges. The host may allow users to add discussions but not create folders. The host sets up chat privileges also.

10) User preferences - To set user preferences: click on the "Preferences" button to update this information. User preferences let you change your name and/or password, include your e-mail address and web page addressand so on. After you enter o r change preferences clicking the "Update Preferences" box.

11) To join a forum - click on the available options, such as "Add a Folder," "Join a Discussion," or "Post Message." The options are determined by the moderator.

[If there are a lot of messages, you'll have to scroll down to the end of the list of messages to get to the end of the postings.] Select the appropriate option, Fill in the form, including the title:

Then scroll down and click on the "Add" option button following the form.

Copy and Paste option: I recommend you compose your "discussion" or other required text using wordpad, notepad and copy and paste it into the discussion window.  If you press Enter after each paragraph, the spaces will remain intact.

12) Edit, Delete, Posts: After you see your message posted, you can use the "Edit" and "Delete" buttons following your text. You can always delete a message you've posted, at any time. You have 30 minutes after posting to edit your post. The system operator and the host of the Townhall site can edit and delete postings at any time.

13) Formatting Summary:
Controls are the first character on a line. These format control characters must be followed by a space, except for the *, ] and >.

b - bold up to the end of the current line.
i - italic up to the end of the current line.
c - center up to the end of the current line.
* - bulleted paragraph up to the next blank line (no space needed).
]- indent the paragraph up to the next blank line (no space needed).
> - indent and use the blockquote font, up to the next blank line (no space needed).

14) HTML TAGS: You can insert HTML documents into the forms "window." HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is used to display material on a Web browser. Townhall allows you to use the full power of HTML in your messages and headings. You can create your html document in another program, then copy and paste the resulting HTML into a Townhall forum. Townhall is "Web ready" so you don't have to use an html document template. For example, you can just insert a <p> tag in front of a paragraph to show that paragraph break in your message. Material between an opening <b> tag and a closing </b> tag will be in bold.

15) Navigation - To go back to a previous forum, click on the "Back" button on your Web browser. You can also go back and forward by clicking on whatever level of the hierarchy of forums you choose. For example, the main level is "GMU's Townhall Web Crossing Server." "Course Forums" is below the main level. "Spring 2001" comes below "Course Forums,"and the course comes after Spring 2001:

GMU's Townhall Web Crossing Server | Course Forums | Spring 1998 | WC 101

16) Keyword Search: You can use the search function to locate particular topics, items of discussion, participants names and their discussion entries, and any information you want to go back to in a conference. Keywords are separated by blan ks. Keyword matching ignores upper and lower case, and matches all suffixes such as plurals and "-ed". You may include user names or handles in your keyword list. Only items containing all the keywords will be returned.

17) CHAT : If the forum moderator has included this option, chat allows participants to have a real time discussion, which is ordinarily not archived. Participants have to log on at the same time. Type your message in the "chat" window an d press ENTER for the message to be displayed.

Host privileges: If you are a host [such as a faculty member holding class meetings on Townhall, or the designated host for an organization], contact IRC (at 993-3141) to set up your class or organization. Hosts can create folders, restrict access, delete unwanted submissions by participants. 

See host instructions at http://mason.gmu.edu/~montecin/townhall-host.htm for more detailed host privileges information and how to set up an acces s list.

Retricted Access: As a host you can set preferences for whether or not your meeting place will have restricted access. You can enter specific participant names Access permissions may be specified for a user or for a group of users. If a folder o r discussion does not have an access list, it uses the access list of its parent folder.

To set up an access list, select the "Access List" option from your host menu.

Types of permissions: Host, Participant, Moderated, Read-only, No access

In order to add members to a restricted class or forum list, the users must first be registered with Townhall. To enter names in the access list, scroll down until you come to a "window" to enter the text, then type or copy and paste log on name s of the users (See item # 4 for name details).(Suggestion: Keep a list of the participants email addresses in the appropriate registration format to copy and paste into the access list window - single space, no commas. Copy and past long lists into the " window." For example:

There is no way to know in advance if participants are registered . If they have registered, the addition to the access list will "take."

Click on "Show Access List Only" to see the list of users for your forum.

Click "Update" to update the the access list.

Prepared by Virginia Montecino- montecin@gmu.edu; http://mason.gmu.edu/~montecin

[This documentation is a work-in-progress and is partially based on the Web Crossing © (software which Townhall uses) on-line help. I invite suggestions for improvement and/or clarification. The folder and discussion icons and other images are captured from the Web Crossing interface and/or GMU's configuration for Townhall.]

May be copied in its entirety with attribution.
latest revision Jan 2001

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