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Glossary of Online Interaction

Nancy White - Updated 6/04

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Archive - (or archived topics) Topics from an online interaction that have been closed for participation, but kept as a record of the interaction. Chat archives are often called transcripts.

Asynchronous Interaction -Online discussions occurring independent of time or location. Participants send messages to a central location (discussion forum) where they are archived for later retrieval from other participants. Examples of asynchronous interaction are web based bulletin boards and email.


Back Channel - electronic communication (email) sent to one or more individuals to their personal email mailboxes as opposed to a public conferencing forum.

Blog or Weblog - "A weblog, also known as a *blog, is a frequently updated website consisting of dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order so that the reader sees the most recent post first. The style is typically personal and informal. Freely available tools on the World Wide Web make it easy for anybody to publish their own weblog, so there is a lot of variety in the quality, content and ambition of weblogs, and a weblog may have anywhere from a handful to tens of thousands of daily readers. Weblogs first appeared in the mid-nineties and became more widely popular as simple and free publishing tools such as Blogger.com became available towards the turn of the century." There are many other terms related to blogging. (Source: http://huminf.uib.no/~jill/archives/blog_theorising/final_version_of_weblog_definition.html)

Blogosphere - "The totality of weblogs or blog-related webs." (From Wikipedia.

Bookmark - (v) To mark a document or a specific place in a document for later retrieval. Most Web browsers support a bookmarking feature that lets you save the address (URL) of a Web page so that you can easily re-visit the page at a later time. (n) A marker or address that identifies a document or a specific place in a document.

Bulletin Board - A name for web-based online conferencing spaces. Bulletin boards are asynchronous tools and can be organized in linear or threaded formats. Also called forums, BBS, etc.


Chat - Same time (synchronous) web-based text interaction. Typically fast moving, chat can be used for large "auditorium" events where there are presenters and audience, smaller group work meetings or social interactions, or small, one-on-one sessions. Some chat applications are now integrating voice as well as text chat.

Checking Subscriptions - In Webcrossing, you can subscribe to any or all folders or topics in the online interaction space. Then, when you log on, if you click on the "Check Subscriptions" button, you will be taken to each of the new posts. This is a good technique if you want to read all the new materials.

Communities of Practice (CoPs) - "Communities of practice are groups that emerge around a discipline or problem - a work-related subject like graphic design or the behaviour of derivative financial instruments. They have no agenda; they are defined by the subject that engages them, not by project, rank, department, or even corporate affiliation. They are where learning and innovation occur ... Learning is social, we have learned. Managers who focus on communities and teams can improve performance ... Bosses used to try to break up the gang by the water cooler. Now they support them with web sites". Tom Stewart in Fortune for 28 May 2001 http://www.fortune.com

Computer Mediated Communications (CMC) - Communication done via online tools such as email, web pages, online interaction or conferencing.

Conference - In an online interaction space, a collection of topics or threads, generally organized around a theme or subject matter. Online interaction spaces are sometimes a collection of conferences. Conferences create a sense of "space" and help users decide where to "go" or read in the online interaction space. Also known as electronic forums, discussions, and bulletin boards.

Content Management Systems - Software suites designed to incorporate tools and processes for document management.

Cybrary - An electronic library or document repository.


Distributed - Refers to a group of people who are not in the same geographic location. Often used in conjunction with teams as in a "distributed team."

Document Management - The computerized management of electronic as well as paper-based documents. Document management systems generally include an optical scanner and a system to convert paper documents into an electronic form, a database system to organize stored documents and a search mechanism to quickly find specific documents. Key to document management is an understanding of the potential uses of the source material and a protocol for identifying content elements (such as key words and other characteristics of a document.)

Download - Copy files from the web space to the user's hard drive for later, offline use.

Drift - (topic drift) When a conversational thread or topic gets off topic.


Edit a Post - To go back and change a posting in an online conferencing space. In the WebCrossing software environment, users can edit their posts for up to 30 minutes after their original post. Posts cannot be edited after that time except by the conference manager(s).

E-Learning (or Distance Learning) - A type of education where students work on their own from any Internet connected location and communicate with faculty and other students via e-mail, electronic forums, videoconferencing and other forms of computer-based communication.

Electronic Forums - Also known as a conference, bulletin board or discussion board. An online discussion group where participants exchange text messages electronically, usually over the Internet.

Email - Short for electronic mail, the transmission of messages over electronic communications networks. Some electronic-mail systems are confined to a single computer system, Intranet or network, but others have gateways to the Internet, enabling users to send electronic mail anywhere in the world. (For some basic tips on effective email, see http://www.darwinmag.com/read/100101/ecosystem.html)

Email List - (or listservs tm) A group email function that sends or "broadcasts" a single email to a group of people. Email lists use a variety of software tools with features that may or may not include multiple modes of participation (individual messages, daily digests containing all the day's messages, etc), automatic archiving of posts on a website (such as http://www.yahoogroups), and varying levels of moderator control.

Emoticon - Also known as smilies, they are keyboard characters used in combination to produce whimsical symbols representing a range of emotions. Examples are happy :-) and sad :-( . Emoticons are used in electronic communication to show humor and express emotions that are difficult to communicate in a text-based environment. For a comprehensive list of emoticons, follow this link: http://www.chatlist.com/faces.html


F2F - Short hand for "face-to-face" to mean offline interaction.

Facilitator - A person who helps a group achieve their goals. Origin from the word "facilitate" or to "make easy." Online facilitators need the same skills as offline group facilitators along with a grasp of the technologies used. "A good leader talks little, but when the work is done, the aim fulfilled, all others will say, 'We did this ourselves.'" Lao-Tse, 400BC

Folder - In many online discussion tools, a folder is the default term for a conference or collection of topics.

Freezing a Topic - An administrative function where the software is set to stop allowing posting in a topic. Often used to close a topic or discussion, but still making it available for reading.


GMT - Greenwich Mean Time - a time standard that is helpful to use when working with global groups. GMT is measured from the Greenwich Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, UK. GMT remains the same all year around (no "daylight savings time" or summer time). http://greenwichmeantime.com



ICT's- Abbreviation for "information and communication technologies."

Internet Terminology - for more Internet related terms (including technical) see http://medialab.di.unipi.it/doc/SEHTML2D/1.htm

Instant Message - A synchronous personal message sent between two users. Examples of instant messaging tools include ICQ, AOL Instant Messenger, Microsoft Messenger and Jabber.

Interaction Tools - See also the article, tools for online interaction. http://www.fullcirc.com/community/connecttools.htm

IRC - Internet Relay Chat - "a chat system that enables people connected anywhere on the Internet to join in live discussions. To join an IRC discussion, you need an IRC client and Internet access." (www.wmo.ch/web/www/WDM/Guides/Internet-glossary.html)



Knowledge Management - "Knowledge Management caters to the critical issues of organizational adaption, survival and competence in face of increasingly discontinuous environmental change.... Essentially, it embodies organizational processes that seek synergistic combination of data and information processing capacity of information technologies, and the creative and innovative capacity of human beings." Dr. Yogesh Malhotra, BRINT Institute. For an interesting "history" of KM, see http://www.research.ibm.com/journal/sj/404/prusak.html


Linear or Conversational Conferencing - Posts appear in chronological sequence, one after another, within a topic. Creates a sense of "conversation" and lends itself to building group interactions, but does not allow response to a particular post.

Listserv - See Email Lists An older technology, listservs are essentially mailing lists that enable you to send multiple copies of e-mail by send a single message to a central address. Some listservs are very useful; some not so.

Log-in - The process of going to a web site which requires the user to input a user name and password to get access to that space. Most online conference spaces require logging in. This allows posts to be attributed to unique users and to track user progress through the discussion space.

Lurking - Someone who reads in an online interaction space, but rarely or never posts. When they DO post, it is said that they are "de-lurking." Also known as "readers". Depending on the purpose of the interaction space, the facilitators may try and engage "readers" to begin responding and posting.

This term sometimes carries negative connotations so in some settings, using the term "reader" is advisable. Lurking can be seen as negative, but in some cases, people who read only can have a significant impact in a community's purpose -- let's say the purpose is to share information. If I read, you have reached me. If the purpose is to generate new information, then there is a stronger reason to get everyone to post -- and generate. Readers provide an audience, they provide page views -- they are an influence, albeit unseen and sometimes hard to understand. Readers can be CONVERTED to posters.

-M -

Message - Text added by a user to an online discussion space. Also known as a "post."


Netiquette - The set of online "manners" generally known as netiquette, or etiquette on the Net. For a comprehensive list of rules for a variety of forms of online communication, see Arlene Rinaldi's User Guidelines and Netiquette at Florida Atlantic University: http://www.fau.edu/netiquette/netiquette.html which also includes some translations.


ODR - (Online Dispute Resolution) - a process of providing mediating services to reconcile disagreements using the online environment. This is an emerging practice out of offline dispute resolution. (for more see www.mediate.com )

Outlook - (Microsoft Outlook) - An email software that allows a user to send and receive email, keep an address book, sort and organize messages, filter messages. Often it is just used as an email client and users are unaware of the other information management features of the tool. This is true with many email software tools.


Placeware - One brand of live, Internet-based conferencing offering a variety of tools and features to allow distributed groups to "meet" together at the same time online. http://www.placeware.com . Other similar companies offering such tools include: http://www.webx.com

Post - A message added to an online discussion. Also known as a "message."

Presence Indicators - A software tool built into an online interaction space which show who is online in the space at any given time. These are useful to help build a sense of "group" and are often bundled with instant messenger tools enabling users who are online at the same time to send quick messages to each other.



Registration - A process of providing some set of information to get a user name and a password to an online interaction space to enable logging in.


Satellite Conference - Broadcast one way and two-way conferences that use audio and video for real time meetings linking diverse locations.

Seeding - Posting an initial message or series of messages in a discussion space to get the discussion started.

Slip - When two users in an asynchronous online interaction space post at the same time. The importance of being aware of slipping is that on some conferencing systems, you can miss messages from other users if they were posted at the same time.

Synchronous Interaction - (Real Time) - Online discussions occurring independent of location, but at the same time. Participants must agree on a time to log into the discussion forum and messages are received at the moment they are sent. This form of electronic communication is also called "chatting," and can include audio and/or video.


Terms of Service - (TOS) The written rule of an online interaction space. In commercial or public online spaces, TOS usually refers to the legal agreements commercials sites require of users before they either access and/or post in an online interaction space.

Thread - (or thread) A series of posts on a single topic. This term is used in a variety of ways. When the topic starts drifting from its original intent, sometimes people suggest starting a new "thread." See also Topic.

Threaded Conferencing - web based text interaction where posts follow a branching "tree" structure. Replies can be appended to particular posts. This format is good for technical question and answers or for organizing large amounts of information.

Topic - (or topic) A series of posts on a single theme or idea. See also Thread.


Upload - To copy a file from a user's hard drive to the web based interaction space, thus making the file available to other members of the online interaction space.


Videoconferencing - A conference or interaction between two or more participants at different sites by using computer networks to transmit audio and video data. Some times the audio is done via separate telebridge. A point-to-point (two-person) video conferencing system works like a video telephone. Each participant has a video camera, microphone, and speakers mounted on his or her computer. As the two participants speak to one another, their voices are carried over the network and delivered to the other's speakers, and whatever images appear in front of the video camera appear in a window on the other participant's monitor. Multipoint videoconferencing allows three or more participants to sit in a virtual conference room and communicate as if they were sitting right next to each other.

Virtual Community - (Also called online community, ecommunity) A virtual community is a community of people sharing common interests, ideas, and feelings over the Internet or other collaborative networks. A possible inventor of this term and one of its first proponents was Howard Rheingold, documented his book, The Virtual Community. Rheingold defines virtual communities as social aggregations that emerge from the Internet when enough people carry on public discussions long enough and with sufficient human feeling to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace. See also http://www.fullcirc.com/community/definingcommunity.htm


WebCrossing The software tool we are using for this online event. You can read more about Webcrossing by clicking on the Help buttons on the site, or check out their website at http://www.webcrossing.com

Who is Live? A simple instant messaging service in Webcrossing that allows an individual user to send a live message to another individual user.

Wiki (from http://www.wiki.org/wiki.cgi?WhatIsWiki) "Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. Wiki supports hyperlinks and has a simple text syntax for creating new pages and crosslinks between internal pages on the fly. Wiki ... allows the organization of contributions to be edited in addition to the content itself... Allowing everyday users to create and edit any page in a Web site is exciting in that it encourages democratic use of the Web and promotes content composition by nontechnical users."



Illinois Online Network Glossary - http://www.ion.illinois.edu/IONresources/conferencing/glossary.asp

Webopedia - http://www.webopedia.com/

Whatis.com - http://www.whatis.com

Wikipedia -

For more technical web terms, see http://www.cdf.org/webtalk/webtalk.html and The Jargon Lexicon

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