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Practical Internet Groupware by Jon Udell

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An Alternate, Email-based Comment Mechanism

Even with tight access controls, a newsgroup may be too public a venue for the kinds of collaboration that need to occur. Authors can have thin skin; reviewers must often deliver criticism; sometimes the review process works better using private channels of communication rather than a shared bulletin board. Fortunately there’s always more than one way to do Internet groupware. Why not an email option? This turns out to be a simple matter. The end-tag handler shown in Example 9.10 has two modes: news and email. They’re identical except for the address behind each comment link. In email mode, the address is a parameterized mailto: URL that uses the &body= trick we saw in Chapter 4, to launch an instance of the message composer that’s preaddressed and preloaded with the chapter, section, and text of the target element. Figure 9.6 shows how this can work.

An email-based comment mechanism

Figure 9-6. An email-based comment mechanism

Ideally the message would be in HTML format so that the quoted text could be styled—for example, in a smaller font and a different color. Unfortunately current mail composers cannot override the Content-Type: header in order to force the message into HTML mode.

This email technique offers benefits beyond private communication. Most notably, it requires no news server or web server. The comment form is handled entirely by the client. Users can even ...

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