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Practical Internet Groupware by Jon Udell

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Chapter 9. Conferencing Applications

As we saw in Part I, conferencing supports modes of collaboration that email handles poorly. But NNTP servers aren’t just bulletin boards that people can post messages to. They also provide discussion services that custom groupware applications can exploit in useful ways. In this chapter, we’ll see how you can use an NNTP server as a component that adds discussion features to two different kinds of groupware applications.

The first example connects an XML docbase—namely, the manuscript of this book—to a newsgroup. It enables a group of reviewers to comment on the chapters, subsections, and paragraphs in the book. We’ll use the NNTP API, along with the docbase’s web API, to implement this notion of a reviewable docbase. At the same time, we’ll learn how to write an application that uses an XML parser to read an XML repository, and transform it into deliverable web pages. The second example adds a discussion component to a helpdesk application. The primary data store will be an SQL database; it receives trouble reports by way of a web form. But that form’s handler also echoes the trouble reports into a newsgroup, so that users and IT staff can discuss them. Here we’ll also use the NNTP API to reorganize the newsgroup, moving trouble tickets and their associated discussion from an open to a closed status.

Both applications show that an NNTP discussion need not be an unstructured free-for-all. You can create a framework that ties discussion to the ...

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