What is Motet Conferencing?

From www.motet.com

If you're registered, you can log in to the Webster University Motet conferencing system now.


Motet conferencing is a system for enabling written online group discussions. Motet manages the administrative details, leaving participants free to focus on the content. A full set of navigational tools, a graphical interface and a self-maintaining design eliminate the need for the overhead normally associated with maintaining Web pages, newsgroups, and email lists.

Motet is self-maintaining. Unlike online chat, participants need not all be logged on at once. Instead, conversations typically take place over days, weeks, or even months. Unlike mailing lists or Usenet, Motet stores the discussion in a central place, ensuring that postings are consecutive and that no one adds a new posting without having had the opportunity to read all of what has been said so far. The result is a discussion that has the feel of a real-life conversation.

Motet keeps a permanent record of each discussion, allowing users to refer back to old postings if they need to and enabling late-comers to join a conversation. This also makes old discussions available as an information resource.

Motet keeps track of each user's place in all topics of discussion, enabling the user to automatically pick up where he left off every time he logs on. A personalized list of conferences lets the user focus on the subjects that interest him with a minimum amount of navigation.

These features make it easy to participate in several discussions at once, to keep up with everything that is said, and to take as much time as one needs to formulate thoughts on a subject, without the tedium of managing, saving, deleting, and making decisions about email. The conversation runs itself. Participants can read and respond with only a few mouse clicks.

Conferences, Topics, and Postings

Motet groups conversations into conferences by broad subject area. For example, there might be a conference on politics, another on sports, and another on food. (The Motet Administrator determines what the conferences shall be.) Educators might use many conferences as classrooms, and others for administrative functions such as semester schedules, bulletin boards, faculty meetings, etc.

Each conference consists of numbered topics. The topic is nominally a single discussion about a particular subject. For instance, the Food conference might include topics on restaurants, particular types of food, recipes, diets, where to by the best produce, etc. In a classroom conference, topics would typically cover the course syllabus, course outline, lecture notes, lab assignments, questions for the instructor, links to other resources, and student discussion groups. Each topic has a title identifying its subject.

A topic consists of numbered postings, each by an individual participant. Users participate in each topic by reading its postings through to the end, at which point they have the option of making a posting of their own. In Motet, users respond to the topic as a whole rather than to a specific posting therein--there is no "threading" within topics. This results in a more focused and easy-to-follow conversation.

In a single Motet session a user will typically cycle through a number of topics in several conferences. The next time he logs in, the system can show the user the new postings in topics that have been active since his previous visit.

One or more hosts typically maintain each conference. Since they handle conference upkeep, they have a few special tools at their disposal to make that job easier. Hosts can keep topics lively, mediate or terminate disputes, and post useful information. Hosts are also usually the first people to create topics in a conference. In the educational setting, hosts would typically be instructors, administrators, and occasionally student helpers.

A conference may be private--restricted to a subset of users--or open to all. The school using Motet as a teaching tool may wish to hold each class in a separate conference that is accessible only by the instructor, staff, and enrolled students. To do this, the school need only put the usernames of the enrolled students on the conference member list and make the appropriate staff members hosts of the conference.

How Motet Works

The Motet backend is a suite of CGI programs, written in C, which serves up Web pages on the fly. It runs on UNIX platforms and works with most any Web server. The programs run only when a user requests a page--no processes run all the time, and nothing has to be started up when the operating system is rebooted. The load on the server is light, and Motet requires very little maintenance once installed.

You may run Motet either on your own server or through an Internet Service Provider. No special privileges are required, as long as your ISP supports CGI and user authentication (most do).

Motet supports all HTML 2.0-compliant browsers and Lynx. Motet also makes use of HTML 3.0 tables for browsers that support them.

Motet stores its data in ordinary UNIX files--there is no separate database management system involved. This makes Motet very fast, and means that conferencing data can be backed up along with ordinary system backups. There are no additional maintenance chores for the system operator.

Each participant logs in with a username and password. Motet verifies these with the standard Web user authentication method built in to the server and browser.

Motet maintains statistics on the number of users, hits, and postings, down to the topic level, allowing the system administrator to monitor usage.

If you're registered, you can log in to the Webster University Motet conferencing system now.