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Practical Internet Groupware by Jon Udell

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Uses and Limitations of HelpDesk

HelpDesk’s biggest problem is that it lacks a single, coherent user interface. The Web and news views refer to each other using URLs, but they’re only weakly coupled. Most users would likely prefer tighter integration. The following are some ways to achieve that effect:

A Web-based conferencing system

Using this approach, you could park the database viewer in one HTML frame and the conference component in another. Then you could use JavaScript to synchronize these two views—for example, by binding navigation of the database to navigation of the discussion (and vice versa).

A Java-based newsreader

This solution would retain the NNTP server as a backend but replace the newsreader with a Java applet. Here, too, it would be possible—though tricky—to synchronize the database view and the conference view using JavaScript.

A scriptable browser-based discussion widget

The kinds of user-interface controls that make today’s newsreaders more attractive than web-based alternatives—notably, collapsible trees, sortable views, and rich-text message composers—could become first-class scriptable browser widgets. At that point there might be no need for a standalone newsreader or, for that matter, a mailreader.

A componentized newsreader

Alternatively, instead of moving the newsreader’s rich UI into the browser, why not make the standalone newsreader a scriptable component? As I’ll point out again in the epilogue to this book, it’s odd that the Internet messaging ...

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