Mac-based Software for Conferencing, Guestbooks, Site Feedback, etc.

ConferWeb Home Page

Software, documentation and data files copyright 1998-2004 Brian Johnson, Department of Architecture, University of Washington.

Overview: How it Works

The ConferWeb system is composed of two components, one or more folders, each of which contains static HTML files providing the index and threads for a discussion, and the CGI program which modifies the HTML files in certain ways. When someone is simply browsing through the discussion the web server delivers the files to the browser in the usual way. ConferWeb is only invoked to perform editing operations and even then it doesn't usually deliver HTML back to the browser. Instead it modifies the HTML files on disk, then issues a "redirect," sending the browser to reload the modified file.

ConferWeb uses the URL of the "referer" (the page containing the link which invokes the program) to establish the context for its updates. For this reason, a single installed copy of ConferWeb can handle any number of discussion areas, guestbooks, etc. located in various folders on your web server. Since each of these may contain its own set of templates, as well as it's own password, each conference or guestbook is functionally isolated and may have a unique appearance.

Simply Threaded: (each "forum" = 1 "index" + N "threads")

Each forum (or "bulletin board" or "conference", etc.), is contained within its own folder. The folder contains an index file (see samples in the installation kit) and zero or more discussion threads, each stored in its own file, plus certain template (.tmpl) files. The index file is the file you first link to with your browser (often default.html or index.html) when browsing the forum. As webmaster, you may name it and format it any way you want, but somewhere in this file there will be special markers, in the form of HTML comments (see below). These HTML comments mark the point in the index document where "reference links" will be inserted as threads are added to the discussion. The "Reference links" themselves are formatted using a mix of HTML and "ConferWeb tags" copied from the ref_link.tmpl template file (see below).

The index page also includes a "New Topic" form that is used to enter text for a new topic, or thread, as part of the discussion. This form may be laid out in any way you wish, as long as the same field names are used as in the examples.

When the "New Topic" form is submitted, ConferWeb reads in the NewItem.tmpl file. Again, the template file consists of standard HTML, along with special "ConferTags". ConferWeb replaces these tags with corresponding text from the form, or data from the operating system, before writing the finished text to a newly created file in the forum folder.

Next, ConferWeb reads in the ref_link.tmpl file. Again, the ConferTags tell the program where to insert the information provided by the user or the system. The resulting block of HTML is then inserted into the index file, creating a link to the new thread file.

Each topic thread includes a "response" form. When responses are submitted, or "posted", using the form, the program uses the response.tmpl file as the template, again blending HTML from the template with data from the form, based on the presence of ConferTags in the template. After substitution, the response text is then inserted in the Thread file and saved to disk.

Further Reading

Regarding Template files, read the "Standard Configurations" discussion, plus the "Email Integration" page. Regarding ConferTags, read the "Customization" pages.

©1995-2004 Brian R. Johnson, Dept. of Architecture, University of Washington