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Subject: ADMIN: Amethyst Coffeehouse Frequently Asked Questions

This article was archived around: 21 May 2006 04:22:40 GMT

All FAQs in Directory: Root Directory
All FAQs posted in: alt.pub.coffeehouse.amethyst
Source: Usenet Version


Archive-name: pub-amethyst-faq Last-modified: 1995/01/04 Version: 1.5 Posting-frequency: Monthly
Amethyst Coffeehouse (alt.pub.coffeehouse.amethyst) FAQ File. Contents 1: What is this group FOR? 2: How is this group different to the other alt.pub.* groups? 3: What is this group's charter? 4: What does the "pub" stand for? 5: Why the Amethyst? 6: Why plan on splitting before you even start? 7: So how many people read this group anyway? 8: So, what is this VR layout - how does it work? 9: So, how are we supposed to act here? 10: If I want to talk about me, I just have to stand there talking? 11: So, is this like a big support group or something? 12: Okay, but who ARE you people? 13: Why are some people posting in first person and others in third? 14: And it's all in present tense? 15: No characters at all? 16: But then why do people sometimes mention this Galileo person? 17: Suppose I want to post something about me and another guy/gal here? 18: No alcohol? 19: Where can I get the Amethyst Coffeehouse stories? 20: Can I post stories here? 21: How about poetry? 22: What do we do about flames (ie. abusive or insulting posts)? 23: What if I have an honest opinion that conflicts with someone else's? 24: What other etiquette should I know? 25: Any more rules? 26: What if I see someone else breaking etiquette or other rules? 27: This VR stuff sounds neat - why can't I get a bit more extravagant? 28: I want to post, but I don't want some people out there knowing it's me. What can I do? 29: Is there an archive of Amethyst posts? 30: What is this TTT thing people keep mentioning? 31: What is the silliest song yet written about this place? Answers 1: What is this group FOR? A: It is a Virtual Reality (VR) coffeehouse for conversation, listening and sharing. If the VR bit sounds weird, just be patient and read on. Things will become clearer. Basically, what is posted here is pretty much the same as the things we'd say to each other if we were all in the same room, instead of sitting in front of keyboards all over the world. 2: How is this group different to the other alt.pub.* groups? A: Currently there are three other groups in the alt.pub.* hierarchy: a.p.dragons-inn, a.p.cloven-shield, and a.p.havens-rest. The first two are VR fantasy inns, while the third is a gathering place for space adventurers. Those groups involve people posting about the actions of fictional characters in a VR setting. Amethyst is very different - here we just post as ourselves, and we post about things in Real Life (RL). We still use a VR setting, but we just chat with each other, not weave stories. 3: What is this group's charter? A: Here's a copy: Charter for the Amethyst Coffeehouse. This is a newsgroup for the interaction of people in a virtual coffeehouse, where the other posters can be considered as virtual friends. The idea is that the group is full of friends who live all over the world, rather than in your own city. Some background for the group and the appearance of the virtual coffeehouse stem from the Amethyst Coffeehouse stories, as posted in rec.arts.prose. As a group of friends, posters are able to talk about any subject they like, or which currently interests them. You can also share news about your own life, like your new job, or a relative dying, or your engagement. Amethyst is a social place where you meet people, not a debating forum where everyone talks about what's wrong with the world, nor a club where everyone raves about their favourite things. Posts made to Amethyst are often made using the Virtual Reality metaphor of an actual coffeehouse. You can describe your own actions in third person narrative, to give emphasis to body language, or just stick to normal first person speech. There are a few simple aims in Amethyst: 1. Be yourself. If you're in Amethyst, you're here to meet other real people, not fictional characters. You may use your real name and physical description, or a nickname and/or modified description of your appearance if you like, but _behave_ like yourself. 2. Don't abuse the Virtual Reality. Amethyst is a 20th century coffeehouse, so everybody is a normal human being. There is no magic, no fantasy, no weird science, and no future technology. And mostly we just talk to each other - not take part in virtual activities. 3. Don't flame people. You can disagree with what they said, but don't be nasty about it. If someone else flames, don't flame back. This is not conceding the point - it is being sensible. One more, very important, point. We know that Amethyst will grow in size because of the inevitable expansion of the Internet. And we know that what happens here might not be exactly to everyone's taste. So this charter makes provision for expansion into new coffeehouse groups. If someone wants a coffeehouse which is a bit quieter, or a bit noisier, or has a different atmosphere, then they can get some friends together and try to create it! Amethyst will help out, and will do so with no hard feelings. Just because someone would like something a bit different doesn't mean they're abandoning Amethyst - they're using it as a base to colonise cyberspace. Which is a good thing. So if someone says they don't really like Amethyst any more, don't criticise them. Help them create a place they _do_ like. After all, we're all in this together. 4: What does the "pub" stand for? A: The original concept was just the word "pub", as in a public tavern. The Dragon's Inn and the Cloven Shield clearly fit this definition. But Haven's Rest and now the Amethyst Coffeehouse aren't quite the same thing. Someone once suggested "publish", since the things posted in the first three groups are essentially multi-author stories. Again, that doesn't quite apply to Amethyst. Perhaps "public meeting place" is more appropriate. At any rate, it probably doesn't really matter that much. 5: Why the Amethyst? A: No reason, but had to have SOME name. Someone hit on the gemstone idea and we decided that if we ever need to create ANOTHER coffeehouse, it would be named alt.pub.coffeehouse.beryl, and so forth, each with a gem starting with another letter of the alphabet. 6: Why plan on splitting before you even start? A: Because Usenet/Internet is GROWING! If this works, a.p.c.a will GROW. At some point the traffic will get so heavy that a.p.c.b will be needed, then a.p.c.c, etc. If a.p.c.a takes on a particular flavour which some of you do not like, we can create another with a different flavour. Stay tuned. 7: How many people read this group anyway? A: According to the last official estimate (posted to news.lists in July, 1994), a.p.c.a has 6,500 readers worldwide. Most of those never post, of course, and quite a few probably just browse every once in a while, but you should be aware that your potential audience is much larger than just the people you see posting all the time. 8: So, what is this VR layout - how does it work? A: Well, The Amethyst Coffeehouse is just a place where we can gather in order to talk to each other. We picked the coffeehouse metaphor as a good way to get people to talk in a friendly manner, to share things they like and things they need to talk about. Think of a 1950's beat coffeehouse, with a long bar where umpteen kinds of bean are fresh-ground and brewed in the latest model espresso machines. Or you can have tea, if you prefer. Cocoa, too. Maybe Italian sodas and ices for hot days. Amethyst is basically one large room, occupying the ground floor of a huge house. Some walls have been knocked out to make the space a bit bigger, but there's still a separate kitchen behind the coffee bar area, where people sometimes go to cook up something special. To one side is an alcove with big bay windows, benches all around, pillows and hanging plants and lots of sun. Then there is a small stage, with a mike, a battered upright piano, and some bongo drums. No recorded music, no rock band. Just low-key stuff. Decor is simple, with things patrons bring in. Theme colour is amethyst, a light purple. Generally, the tables are low, there are lots of easy chairs and sofas, coffee tables (of course) and lamps for reading. A fireplace graces the middle of one wall of the Amethyst. It's mantlepiece containing numerous little nick-nacks and the wall surrounding the fireplace covered with small photos - pictures of people who are important in the lives of the people who hang out there. Another wall is full of bookshelves which contain the most amazing collection of books you can imagine. All the great works. All the great stories, all the important reference works. Encyclopedic. And hundreds of home-made Books, for and by you. The price of admission is a Book. This Book is to be about you. Only you get to read it. Only you are the author. The Book can contain whatever you like, journal entries going back through the years, stories you have written, letters from loved ones, sketches of places you have been or anything else that seems appropriate, but bear in mind that it is the story of your life. It can be a very private thing, you can show parts to people, or read them out loud, but you cannot read anyone elses without their permission. Most of the Books seems to stay on the shelves and don't get brought down all that often, it depends on the individual. Use it often if you like, or simply leave it sitting there comfortably, knowing it will be waiting for you if you decide you need to use it later on. 8: So, how are we supposed to act here? A: You act like yourself! This is a place for you to be you. There are just a few simple guidelines: 1) No fictional personas. You act like yourself, not a character you (or someone else) have invented. You can, however, choose to use a net-nickname, rather than your real one. More on this later. 2) No fantasy or science fiction activity. No magic, no space warps, no future technology. They said that life imitates art; here, Virtual Reality imitates life. 3) No alcohol! (Q: WHAT!?! Then how can you have fun?) 4) Only one room, plus a kitchen. 5) Follow the general net etiquette guidelines for posting to newsgroups. If you haven't read these yet, no matter _how_ long you've been on the net, please grab a copy from the group news.announce.newusers, where they're posted regularly. 10: If I want to talk about me, I just have to stand there talking? A: Possible approaches include writing a conversation with one of the fictional personas (See 16 below...) , or picking up your LifeBook and starting to read. We will get the idea. Or if you feel a bit strange reading from a Book or making up both sides of a conversation, sure, just talk to us or tell us your thoughts. e.g. "As John sits there, his mug warming his hands, his thoughts wander back to what had been happening earlier that day...". Tell us whatever's on your mind or heart. And it doesn't have to be about you in particular. 11: So, is this like a big support group or something? A: That's not the primary purpose of the Coffeehouse. We just want to talk to each other about whatever's on our minds. Now, sometimes that can be something personally stressful, but that's life. If you tell us about it, we won't tell you to go away. We don't claim to be professionals here, but maybe someone here has been where you are. Talk about what you feel. We'll listen, and if you ASK for help, we will try. But if you want, we will just listen. In fact, often we do just listen, because we don't like prying into people's lives when they don't ask us to. So if you really want help, please ask. And then hopefully you'll be overwhelmed by responses. 12: Okay, but who ARE you people? A: Well, we're a bunch of friends who just happen to live all over the world instead of in the same neighbourhood. But we're not at all an exclusive bunch, and anyone is welcome to join in. But you figure you're at a disadvantage because you don't know who we are yet? Well, everyone has to meet new friends at some stage! A good first step is to learn something about each other. To save people from reposting descriptions of who they are every time someone new arrives, some of us have written brief biographies which are kept in a file. If you want the latest version, you can get it by anonymous ftp from physics.su.oz.au (129.78.129.1), as the file /pub/mar/amethyst/bios. And if you don't know what ftp is, you can just e-mail me and I'll send you a copy. PLEASE don't ask people to describe themselves for you. In a group like this, that can take a LOT of time and space. You, however, as a new person in Amethyst, can introduce yourself to us just by posting a description! You'll probably get e-mail from a few of us to say welcome. Welcome to the Amethyst Coffeehouse! 13: Why are some people posting in first person and others in third? A: Because they prefer it that way. Some people find it easier to write in first person, for example: I've been thinking... Or maybe something with a bit of description and quotation marks: I get a mug of tea and start talking, "I've been thinking..." Some other people prefer to describe their own actions in third person like this: David gets a mug of tea and starts talking, "I've been thinking..." With third person, it seems easier to describe what you are doing and to convey motion, body language, and facial expressions. These sort of things can be very helpful in the written medium of a newsgroup, to give shades of meaning that are lost because we can't use tone of voice. Some people can do this fine in first person too, and that's perfectly okay. 14: And it's all in present tense? A: Yes, that seems to work best. Because of the immediacy that this electronic communication conveys, it seems easier to read and reply to descriptions of action in the present tense. 15: No characters at all? A: No. You come as you are. Use your own name, or a nickname if you prefer. You are a normal 20th century person, although you may choose to describe your physical appearance a bit differently to your real appearance - including being the opposite sex, if you feel more comfortable that way. Or you might not bother describing your appearance at all. You wear normal clothes, no fancy costumes or anything. But most importantly, you behave like you do in RL. What you say here should be the same sort of things you say to a group of RL friends, when you are being yourself. And remember that everybody else is a real person too - so be polite and treat them like fellow humans. 16: But then why do people sometimes mention this Galileo person? A: Ah. Okay, we do have a few characters here. But they're not played by real people. They are sort of 'props'. People you can talk to or interact with if you need them. They're useful because it is generally considered rude to use real people as props and put words in their mouths. This way you can have a dialogue, without being rude. Let me introduce you to the proprietor, Mrs Shelley. She is a middle-aged lady who spends much of her time mingling with the people in her coffeehouse. She is rather outspoken on social and human rights issues, and sometimes talks about the ethics of science and whether or not people should be playing with the forces of life. If asked, she says her first name is Mary. Hmmm. Is she _the_ Mary Shelley, author of _Frankenstein_, and wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley? Don't be silly. But perhaps she THINKS she is, and if you want fair treatment, you might just humour her. Then there's the chap who operates the espresso machine, brews the tea, and fixes all the other sorts of drinks. He's an old man with a faint Italian accent and flowing curly white hair and beard. He's a keen follower of the space program, and he answers to the name of Galileo. You might also get to talk to Father Charles Darwin who comes in now and then. He can talk your ear off about how the Lord has built such a beautiful, orderly system of biological succession. But if you have a confession or two, he will hear you out and never put you down. 17: Suppose I want to post something about me and another guy/gal here? A: Sure. Just get their agreement, preferably by e-mail, first, okay? 18: No alcohol? A: No alcohol. Or any other mind-altering substances, apart from sugar and caffeine. 19: Where can I get the Amethyst Coffeehouse stories? A: You can ftp them from suphys.physics.su.oz.au (129.78.129.1) in the directory /pub/mar/amethyst. They are in files called amethyst#, where the '#' is a number. Or you can send an e-mail request to mar@physics.su.oz.au. 20: Can I post stories here? A: Sure, but other groups may be better for that. Try rec.arts.prose or alt.prose, dozens of others. People in these groups will also be happy to provide you with constructive criticism of your work, if you ask them. Still, if the urge comes to share here... Oh, two things we DO ask. If you post a story here, it should be because you are sharing a part of your Real Life writing ambitions. Read it to us from your Book. Stories should be obvious works of fiction, and NOT involve any of the people in the coffeehouse as characters. If you want to do stuff like that, try the other VR groups mentioned further below. And secondly, stories should always have the word "STORY" in the subject line of the post, so people who are short on time and don't want to read fiction know to skip it. 21: How about poetry? A: Poetry is usually well received, but by the same token you should not deluge the coffeehouse with everything you have ever written. If you want to read a poem it should be because it is something that means a lot to you personally at the moment, or it seems appropriate to the conversation. By only posting poetry occasionally, what you do read will seem all the more special. If you simply want critiques of your work or an audience perhaps you could try rec.arts.poems. 22: What do we do about flames (ie. abusive or insulting posts)? A: Well, we want to avoid flames. We cannot enforce this, of course, only YOU can. There are two ways to avoid flames: 1) Ignore them when they start. DO NOT RESPOND. This is not backing down or being cowardly, it takes strength. And it works. 2) Make fun of them. If someone says something unkind, make a comic poem of it. Write a humorous review. Use your imagination. And it should go without saying, but don't post flames yourself. People might start making fun of you. 23: What if I have an honest opinion that conflicts with someone else's? A: If you strongly disagree with what someone says, you can always say so calmly and clearly, giving your reasons. You will get a lot more people listening to you that way than if you simply flame. Always treat people with respect, or you risk having people start thinking that YOU are the one being unreasonable. If you think someone did something wrong, offer constructive criticism. We welcome that, but keep any "you're wrong" style posts to alt.flame where people like that sort of thing. We realise that, to many people, truth is relative to different perspectives. We don't try to convert people to absolute truths here. We welcome rational discussion, but not preaching. In fact, we're likely to treat preaching the same way we treat flames, so consider yourself warned. 24: What other etiquette should I know? A: Cooperate with us to try and keep the volume down to a reasonable level. It's not that hard. Here are some general guidelines: When a post generates a response (and they will!) there is sometimes a tendency for two people to hold drawn out conversations in the group format. We ask that you use your judgement; when you're no longer talking to _all_ of the group, take the discussion to e-mail. This may be appropriate straight away! Never post a reply if a private message will do. We want to keep it quiet here. We recognise free speech, but we also recognise that we cannot read everything! This doesn't mean you shouldn't post replies at all. Just use your judgement to decide if what you have to say might be of interest to lots of people, or only the person you're replying to. This goes double for when you want to express simple agreement with someone. Send e-mail. Nobody likes reading a post and seeing it followed by a hundred others which all say "Yeah, me too". Please keep your "quotetient" (ratio of lines quoted to lines you add in a follow-up) to a minimum. Almost all newsreaders will let you edit a quoted article before you post your reply. Learn how to use this feature and use it regularly. Cut out anything which is not absolutely vital to your response. We've all read it already, anyway, so don't feel you need to leave it all there. General net etiquette says you should never start a post with more than about 10 to 15 lines of quoted material. You can almost always get away with much less than that. This is a friendly place, and we like seeing new people. If you want to say hello to someone new, send them e-mail. Don't post a message to the group just to say hello to one person! 25: Any more rules? A: Help us preserve the VR of the place - it has to be like a real coffeehouse, with real humans, real situations. We think this is the best way to let people relax and trust each other. We want it to be a safe place. And it can be interesting without being a fantasy. Please, no non-20th century stuff. You can use any technology in existence to the present if it is appropriate for taking into a coffeehouse. A laptop is okay. But no radios or boogie boxes. Thanks. 26: What if I see someone else breaking etiquette or other rules? A: If you feel so inclined, just send them some private e-mail and, POLITELY, point out that what they are doing doesn't really belong in Amethyst, and ask them to stop. In the group, IGNORE IT. Maybe they made a genuine mistake and already know it. There's no need to embarrass them and there's no need for you to make a fool of yourself in public. 27: This VR stuff sounds neat - why can't I get a bit more extravagant? A: We know that the Amethyst is not the place for everyone; we like things kind of quiet, safe, and realistic. For those of you who are looking for more excitement or a chance to go nuts with Virtual Reality, there are several places down the road you might like. Here are some of them: alt.pub.dragons-inn, alt.pub.cloven-shield: These are fantasy VR inns, where you can meet all sorts of mythical beings and magical creatures. And go on fantastic adventures, too. alt.callahans: This is a place similar to here, and it holds a lot of the same values that we do; they just tend to hold them with more Virtual enhancement and fun&games. alt.cyberpunk.chatsubo: This place is for futuristic cyberpunk-style interaction. Remember the Chatsubo from William Gibson's _Neuromancer_? This is it! Stories are _encouraged_ at the Chatsubo, and if you post them you should get _lots_ of constructive feedback from other cyberpunk fiction writers. alt.pub.havens-rest: This is a resting point for all sorts of alien creatures and space adventurers, straight out of the golden age of science fiction. If you want to visit the stars, this is the place. And if none of these seems to fit what you're looking for, maybe you have a great idea for a brand NEW newsgroup! Check out the guide to creating new alt.* groups, which is posted to alt.answers regularly, and go for it, with our blessings. Oops, another rule: PLEASE do not spend all your time reminiscing about other newsgroups! This is here, they are there. Okay? 28: I want to post, but I don't want some people out there knowing it's me. What can I do? A: Well, we're pretty friendly to everybody, so we hope people won't feel the need to hide who they are. If you have a _really_ good reason, though, there are a few people here who are willing to help by posting stuff for you. Just send e-mail to any of the following people; they will all try to help as much as they can. But remember, most of us can get pretty busy with our own lives, so please be patient with us! Evan Gibson: ecscetg@luxor.latrobe.edu.au Alan Flesch: flesch@chaph.usc.edu Springer: sjf3@midway.uchicago.edu David Mar: mar@physics.su.oz.au Alternately, you can post through an anonymous mail service. Here is an e-mail contact for such a service: help@anon.penet.fi Of course, there is already the ability simply to not tell anyone your real name. But remember, if you want people to trust you when you tell them stuff, you have to trust them. The best way to show this is to be as open and honest about yourself as possible. 29: Is there an archive of Amethyst posts? A: Yes. Spider Boardman (spider@orb.nashua.nh.us) is running an automated post archiver which collects everything posted to the group. You can access this archive by sending mail to majordomo@orb.nashua.nh.us Your message will be handled by an automatic program, which ignores the Subject line, and interprets commands given, one per line, in the body of your message. Some commands and what they do are: index amethyst # e-mail back a list of articles in the archive get amethyst <n> # e-mail back article <n> from the archive help # e-mail a help message to you subscribe amethyst # get all future posts delivered to you in e-mail unsubscribe amethyst # undo the above 30: What is this TTT thing people keep mentioning? A: TTT stands for the Thought Transponder Thingy. Originally it was a joke, but through persistent use it has become a permanent part of the Amethyst's fixtures. Basically it is a device that picks up the surface thoughts of the people in the room and broadcasts them to everyone else. It is used primarily to enable replies to non-verbal posts. That is if someone writes something like: "George closed his eyes and sighed, he'd had a very difficult day at work and was quite upset." rather than: "George says to everyone as he collapses in his seat, "I just had a very bad day at work. I'm really not feeling the happiest."" the TTT makes it possible to know George's internal state of mind and respond even though he has never directly said exactly what has happened. Of course, a device that enables some limited mind reading capability can be embarrassing at times too, and it has been known to breakdown from overuse or be switched off at appropriate times. It is not something that has to be used, or that is even encouraged, but is a kind of "in" joke, to be brought up again whenever it seems appropriate. 31: What is the silliest song yet written about this place? A: From: flesch@phakt.usc.edu (Alan Flesch) Alan switches from The Ancient Dance of Joy to the theme from the Muppet Show. When the Sunshine Band follows his lead, he lowers his kazoo, and starts to sing: (Ladies:) It's time to drink the coffee! It's time to start to type! It's time to show your humor in Amethyst tonight! (Gentlemen:) It's time to eat the crullers! It's time to dim the lights! It's time to paint it purple in Amethyst tonight! (Alan, solo:) Why do I always come here? I guess I'll never know! I guess I'll stick around until out the door I'm thrown! Well, I'm glad that you got started! (Everyone:) What took so long to get started? (Alan, solo) Well, just jump right in, get started With the most conversational So sensational corner-residin' poetry-writin' recreational non-denominational This... is... what... we... call... our ...Coffeehouse!!! (kazoo raspberry) Alan (aj) (yes, this was done on the spur of the moment...) ======================================================================== Credits Louis J. Bookbinder wrote much of this FAQ file. David Mar added some stuff to it and rearranged it a bit. Jay Brandt made many helpful suggestions and editorial comments. Mike Holmes, Michael Wasson, Meredith Rosser, Barbara Trumpinski, Aahz, James Walden, Mike Whitaker, Janet Huss, Johanna Turner, Elana Beach, Abner Mintz, Gian-Paolo Musumeci all helped to refine the text. Spider Boardman provided info on the Amethyst archive. Evan Gibson finally got around to bringing it a little more up to date. Alan Flesch wrote the song. __\/__ . / ^ _ \ . |\| (o)(o) |/| THUNDERFOOT#-.OOOo----oo----oOOO.-------#----Immortality-for-sale,-- The # Evan "ThunderFoot" Gibson. # Lifetime Guarantee! Legend # ECSCEG@lust.latrobe.edu.au # Continues #ecscetg@luxor.latrobe.edu.au# Old Immortals never die. #____________Oooo.___________# They just.... DON'T... Certified .oooO ( ) Caffeine ( ) ) / "Dancing on air, just over the edge, Addict. \ ( (_/ and it's only a matter of time till \_) gravity notices." - Me