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DISCUSS Messaging Platform

The DISCUSS messaging platform provides message boards and private messaging capabilities for ChivaNet users.

DISCUSS was implemented by John Willis in the MUMPS programming language.

Accessing DISCUSS

To access DISCUSS, type discuss at the UNIX prompt. You should see a screen similar to the following:

Connecting to DISCUSS service. Please wait...
Last login: Mon Jul 31 13:22:26 2017 from
USER = guest LANG = en

 < < < < < C H I V A N E T   I N T E R N E T W O R K   S E R V I C E S  > > > > >

                    DISCUSS: The On-Line Discussion Platform
        Version 0.02-A (jpw@chivanet.org) Copyright (C) 2017 John Willis

Next post ID is 1
Type 'login' to access your account, 'new' to create new account, or '?' for a list of commands.

B:NONE/P:0 [guest]>

DISCUSS Command Prompt

The B:NONE/P:0 [guest]> prompt is the DISCUSS command prompt. It indicates three things:

  • B:NONE: This indicates your currently-selected board. If NONE, you have not yet selected a board.
  • P:0: This indicates the currently-selected post ID. If 0, you have not yet selected a post.
  • [guest]: This indicates the currently logged-in user, which in this case is guest.
To make DISCUSS do something, you must type a command, a space, the arguments to the desired command, and press <ENTER> at the DISCUSS prompt.

The most important command for the new DISCUSS user is ?, which provides a listing of the commands currently available in your DISCUSS session:

B:NONE/P:0 [guest]> ?
>>> List available actions
  ?               List available actions
  exit            Exit DISCUSS
  lang            Change language
  login           Login to existing account
  new             Create a new account
When you initially connect to the DISCUSS service, you will be logged in as the guest user. This limited account may only perform the actions listed above.

Setting up your DISCUSS account

In order to begin using the many features of the DISCUSS platform, you will need to establish a DISCUSS account. Please note that your DISCUSS account is unique to DISCUSS, and different from the account you use to access other ChivaNet services.

In order to set up your DISCUSS account, type new at the DISCUSS command prompt. You will need only a few pieces of information in order to create this account:

  1. The DISCUSS username you desire. This must be 8 characters or fewer, and have no spaces or special characters.
  2. The password you wish to associate with your username. There are no restrictions on this password, but use your brain.
  3. Your name, or the handle by which you would prefer to be known on the DISCUSS platform.
Following is an example of creating user "harry" from the DISCUSS guest user's command prompt:
B:NONE/P:0 [guest]> new
>>> Create a new account
Username: harry
Password: (your password will not be shown)
Full Name: Harry Ramaframas
At this point, you may log in:
B:NONE/P:0 [guest]> login harry
>>> Login to existing account

Please enter your password:   (again, your password will not be shown)
USER = harry LANG = en
Welcome to DISCUSS, Harry Ramaframas!

B:NONE/P:0 [harry]>
Now that you are logged in, DISCUSS has opened up the full range of commands to you:
B:NONE/P:0 [harry]> ?
>>> List available actions
  ?               List available actions
  assign          Assign moderator privilege on current board to another user
  delete          Delete post
  enforce         Enforce moderator approval for new posts on current board (you must be the moderator to do this) 
  exit            Exit DISCUSS
  go              Go to another board
  history         Show my command history
  id              Identify a DISCUSS user
  lang            Change language
  list            List posts or boards ('list post' or 'list board')
  me              Show my user information
  moderate        Process posts awaiting moderation
  new             New post or board ('new post' or 'new board')
  read            Read a post
  reply           Reply to post ID
  unenforce       Unenforce moderator approval for new posts on current board (you must be the moderator to do this)
  w               Write a private message to another user
  who             List users currently online

Navigating Discussion Boards

Navigating discussion boards in DISCUSS involves the go and list commands. Let's get a list of available discussion boards using the list board command:

B:NONE/P:0 [harry]> list board
>>> List posts or boards ('list post' or 'list board')
             ID      MODERATOR                                                  BOARD NAME
           CARS            jpw                                                        Cars
          CIPSG            jpw               Cooperative Internet Provider Standards Group*
         COMEDY            jpw                                                      Comedy
       COMPUTER            jpw                                                   Computers
        DISCUSS            jpw                                 DISCUSS Software Discussion
         FAMILY            jpw                                           Family Discussion*
           FOOD            jpw                                             Food Discussion
         GAMING            jpw                                           Gaming Discussion
          LINUX            jpw                                            Linux Discussion
       POLITICS            jpw                                                    Politics*
       RELIGION            jpw                                         Religion Discussion*
           TEST            bob                                             Test Posts Here
           UNIX            jpw                                             UNIX Discussion

* = moderator approval required for each post

Notice there are three columns in the list board output:

  • ID: The 1-8 character ID of the board, used as an argument to the go command.
  • MODERATOR: The 1-8 character username of the board's moderator.
  • BOARD NAME: The description of the board. If the description has a * following it, the moderator from the MODERATOR column must approve all posts on that particular board before they will be made accessible to the wider community.

When you see a board you like, you access it by typing the go command followed by the desired board ID. Let's go to the UNIX Discussion board:

B:NONE/P:0 [harry]> go unix
>>> Go to another board
Changed to board 'UNIX Discussion'
This board is for discussing the UNIX operating system family.
Please put Linux-related posts in the LINUX board.

B:UNIX/P:0 [harry]>

DISCUSS responds by navigating you to the UNIX discussion board, presenting you the board's welcome message (as determined by the board's author and/or moderator). Notice also that the DISCUSS prompt changed to B:UNIX/P:0 [harry]> to reflect that the current board is UNIX instead of NONE.

DISCUSS will remember which board you were on, even if you exit and then log in again later. There is no way--by design--to return to board NONE.

Note that the go command allows you to abbreviate board IDs. You could have, for example, typed go un to go to the UNIX board. Since no other board ID begins with UN, DISCUSS will assume you meant UNIX, inform you of its guess, and navigate you to the appropriate board:

B:UNIX/P:0 [harry]> go un
>>> Go to another board
I assume you meant UNIX (UNIX Discussion)
Changed to board 'UNIX Discussion'
This board is for discussing the UNIX operating system family.
Please put Linux-related posts in the LINUX board.
Note that DISCUSS said I assume you meant UNIX (UNIX Discussion). Had there been an ambiguity in your input (such as typing go com, where com matches both COMEDY and COMPUTER), DISCUSS will show you the relevant matches and ask you to clarify:
B:UNIX/P:0 [harry]> go com
>>> Go to another board
Did you mean:
 COMEDY:       Comedy (command: 'go comedy')
 COMPUTER:     Computers (command: 'go computer')

B:UNIX/P:0 [harry]>
To minimally abbreviate COMEDY or COMPUTER so that your intentions to DISCUSS are unambiguous, you would need to enter go come or go comp, respectively.

Reading Discussion Board Posts

To read posts, you will need to first obtain a listing of posts with list post. Let's see what's been going on in the UNIX world:

B:UNIX/P:0 [harry]> list post
>>> List posts or boards ('list post' or 'list board')
ID          DATE                   USER      VIEWS  SUBJECT
--          ----                   ----      -----  -------
  1         JUL 31 2017 02:31PM    jpw       0      Text editor wars
R 2         JUL 31 2017 02:34PM    harry     1      groff/nroff
As you can see, there are two posts in the UNIX discussion board. The five columns of the listing are as follows:
  • ID: The ID of the post, used as input to the read, reply, and delete commands. If the ID is preceded by an R, you have already read that post.
  • DATE: The date the message was posted to the discussion board.
  • USER: The user who authored the post.
  • VIEWS: The number of views this post has received.
  • SUBJECT: The subject of the post.
Let's read the "Text editor wars" post, and see what kind of flames jpw has in store for us:
B:UNIX/P:0 [harry]> read 1
>>> Read a post
Subject:    Text editor wars
Author:     jpw
Please share your opinions about favorite text editors.

This will probably turn into a flame war, but since
DISCUSS is limited to a restricted version of nano,
we are unlikely to see the resulting fallout ;)

Press 'R' to reply; 'Q' to quit: 
DISCUSS has presented the subject of the post, its author, and the post body, followed by a prompt to reply or quit. At this point, you can type R to reply to the post, or Q to return to the DISCUSS command prompt. For more information on replying to posts, see the following section.

Replying to Discussion Board Posts

To reply to a post, either type R at the Press 'R' to reply; 'Q' to quit: prompt produced by the read command, or use the reply command at the DISCUSS prompt, followed by the post ID to which you wish to reply:

B:UNIX/P:0 [harry]> list post
>>> List posts or boards ('list post' or 'list board')
ID          DATE                   USER      VIEWS  SUBJECT
--          ----                   ----      -----  -------
R 1         JUL 31 2017 02:31PM    jpw       1      Text editor wars
R 2         JUL 31 2017 02:34PM    harry     1      groff/nroff

B:UNIX/P:0 [harry]> reply 1
This will pull up the nano text editor containing the text of the original post, and allowing you to craft your own reply. When you are finished, type <CTRL>-<X>. See The Beginner's Guide to Nano, the Linux Command-Line Text Editor for more information on using nano.

Now that your reply is posted, you can use list post to determine its ID, and read to read it.

Creating New Posts

To create a new post in the current board, type new post at the DISCUSS prompt:

B:UNIX/P:0 [harry]> new post
>>> New post or board ('new post' or 'new board')
Post subject? Vile parens in Emacs LISP
You will be prompted to provide the subject of your post, and again be presented with the nano editor to compose the body of your post. Ctrl-X to save and make your post. If the board has moderation enforced, you will get a message indicating that your message has been sent to the board moderator for approval or rejection.

Deleting a Post

The author of a post may delete any messages he or she created, and board moderators may delete any message at any time on boards they moderate, by typing delete followed by the post ID of the desired message (the ID can be obtained from list post).

Creating a New Discussion Board

To create a new discussion board, type new board at the DISCUSS prompt:

B:UNIX/P:0 [harry]> new board
>>> New post or board ('new post' or 'new board')
Board topic? Microsoft Windows discussion
Board shortcut? WINDOWS

Require moderator approval for new posts? (Y/N) y
The board topic is the name of your board, the board shortcut will be the identifier used with the go command to navigate to your discussion board. Replying Y to the Require moderator approval for new posts? (Y/N) prompt will mean that any post made in your new board will require your approval before being made accessible to the wider DISCUSS audience. Replying N will make each post immediately accessible.

Once these options have been set, nano will be loaded in order for you to craft a welcome message for your discussion board. This is the place to put an introduction for your discussion board. You could introduce yourself, explain the type of audience your board is intended to reach, and perhaps lay out some guidelines for your audience to follow. It's all up to you.

Moderating a Discussion Board

To view the moderation queue for the current board, type moderate at the DISCUSS prompt:

B:WINDOWS/P:0 [harry]> moderate
>>> Process posts awaiting moderation
SUBJECT:            Windows NT 4.0 service packs
AUTHOR:             harry
TIME:               64495,60848
Why are these no longer available from Microsoft?

Do you A)pprove, R)eject, or P)ostpone this post? a
Post approved.

JUL 31 2017 04:55PM [harry]: [MODERATOR]: Your message 'Windows NT 4.0 service packs' in board 'WINDOWS' has been approved by the board moderator.
You can choose to approve, reject, or postpone the post. If there had been more posts awaiting moderation, you would have been shown each one of them in order. Notice that the moderator automatically sends out a private message indicating approval or rejection to the post author when a post is moderated.

Controlling Moderation Settings

You can enable mandatory moderator approval for each message in the current board with the enforce command, or disable it with unenforce, provided you are the moderator of the current board.

Moderators may also give moderator privileges to a different user by typing assign followed by the username of the new moderator at the DISCUSS prompt. Please note that there can currently be only one moderator per discussion board, and once you assign your moderator privileges to a new user, they can delete any posts on your board, and you will have no way of regaining moderator privileges unless the new moderator assigns the moderator privilege back to you. Even if you regain moderator privileges, there will be no way for you to recover anything they deleted. Do not take the assign command lightly!

Setting the DISCUSS Language

You may choose a new language by typing lang at the DISCUSS prompt. Some translations may not yet be complete.

Seeing who else is currently using DISCUSS

Typing who at the DISCUSS prompt will list the DISCUSS users who are currently online:

B:WINDOWS/P:0 [harry]> who
>>> List users currently online
USER              NAME                  CURRENT BOARD
harry             Harry Ramaframas      WINDOWS
hector            Hector Bang           TEST
jpw               John P. Willis        UNIX
From this output, you can see the username, full name, and current discussion board of all currently signed-in DISCUSS users.

Sending and Receiving Private Messages

The w command will send a private message to a user. In the following example, harry will send a private message to jpw:

harry's screen:

B:WINDOWS/P:0 [harry]> w jpw Hey there! How about lunch?
>>> Write a private message to another user
Message sent.
jpw's screen:
JUL 31 2017 05:10PM [harry]: Hey there! How about lunch?
B:UNIX/P:0 [jpw]>
Note that messages will not appear in real time, but will appear the next time the recipient types a command.

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