Backtalk Administration Guide:

Editing Items

Version 1.3.29

© 1997-2003 Jan Wolter, Steve Weiss

Backtalk has built-in tools for editing items and responses. Generally these should not be over-used. In fact, they should almost never be used. If people make mistakes or misstatements, they should just post another response correcting it. If something really needs to be removed, the response can be erased or the item killed.

However, there are rare circumstances where editing items makes sense. You can do so through Backtalk simply by logging in as the conference administrator, and reading the item in question. There should be `Edit' buttons near each response.

This document tells how to use a text editor to edit the raw item files.

  1. Log onto the Unix conference administration account.

    This is the account that owns all the conference files and the backtalk program itself.

  2. change directory to conference directory

    Each conference has a directory where all its files are kept. There is a pointer to this directory in the conflist file. The location of the conflist file depends on how your system is configured.

  3. Edit the item file

    Inside the conference directory, you will find (among other things) various files named _1, _2, _3 and so on. This are the files where the items with the corresponding numbers are saved. They are text files, so you can use any ordinary text editor on them.

    A typical item file looks like this:

        ,HWelcome to the Martian Veldt
        ,AJohn Carter
        Welcome to the Red planet of Mars.
        May I see your passport please?
        ,AMarvin The Martian
        What's up doc?
    The first line is always "!<ps02>" and identifies this as version two of the picospan response file format. The lines starting with commas are tags. The tags are:
    ,HItem title line
    ,RResponse flags (hidden, erased, etc).
    ,UAuthor id (uid number and login name).
    ,AAuthor full name (or pseudonym).
    ,DDate response was posted
    ,TStart of response text
    ,EEnd of response text
    Note that in the file the item text is simply treated as the first response.

    If you are reasonably cautious about not reordering or deleting tags, you should be able to edit things here easily. It isn't a good idea to delete or insert new responses, since this will renumber all succeeding responses and confuse all the user's participation files.

  4. Empty item index file

    For efficiency, Backtalk maintains index files for each item that tell it where each response begins in the item file. If you've edited the item file, the index file is probably incorrect now. Backtalk is pretty good about detecting errors in index files and repairing them, but it won't always work right away. So the best thing to do is to empty the index file. Backtalk will always detect this and regenerate it. You shouldn't delete the index file, because this will cause problems for linked items.

    The index files are in the indexdir subdirectory of the conference directory. (If the directory doesn't exist, by all means create it). Inside the indexdir subdirectory, you will find files with names like @1, @2, @3, and so on. These are the index files for the different item numbers. So if you have been editing item number 24, you should do:

        cat /dev/null > indexdir/@24