In the AiSC STI, we are using both WebCT and Yahoo IM (when WebCT is unavailable), for online conferencing. Both of these tools have conversation archiving facilities; however, accessing these archives (and even enabling them, in the case of Yahoo) is not always intuitive. Even after we have found the archive for a conference, the format in which the archive is saved/displayed is not always the most legible.
This document provides basic instructions for accessing the conference archives in WebCT and Yahoo IM, and for using the Transcript Converter tool, to translate these archives into an easy-to-read format.
For logged chat rooms, WebCT maintains the archived conversations in the My-Files/chat/ directory. Those with Designer (or higher) access can read these files using the Manage Files function in the Control Panel; the files are named Room1.txt, Room2.txt, etc., following the order that the rooms are displayed in the Chatrooms page.
In the case of the STI 2004, we have also made these files available (in a read-only format) to participants and instructors, through the Chat Transcripts item on the home page for the course.
Chats in each of the logged rooms are appended to the end of the corresponding file, and (unless the files are edited in Manage Files) the files continue to grow as more chats are conducted. Thus, it is entirely possible that these files may contain all of the conversation in the logged chat rooms, all the way back to the start of the course; in general, we will want to trim such a file to the specific conference of interest, before converting it.
When the file corresponding to the desired room is displayed (in Manage Files, or in the Chat Transcripts page), scroll through the file to find the specific conference of interest. Click and drag to select the text from the start to the end of the conference (or use the Edit/Select All browser menu option, to select the entire contents of the chat log); in Manage Files, you can also use the Download button to save the entire file on your local machine. If you save the file locally, you may then open it in your preferred text editor, and select the text corresponding to the desired conference, in the usual manner. (Important: If you open the file in a text editor, be sure you don't insert any carriage returns in the middle of any lines in the transcript! The converter looks for specific text at the start of lines, to identify the text it will carry over into the converted transcript; any changes may result in some typed lines of the conference not appearing in the converted version.)
When the log contents corresponding to the conference of interest are selected, copy this text to the clipboard using Edit/Copy, or Ctrl-C.
If archiving has not been enabled in Yahoo IM, no archiving of conferences will be performed. Thus, it is critical to do this step, before participating in any conference for which you will later want to retrieve the archived log. (Please note: Archiving is not available in the current version of Yahoo IM for Macintosh.)
To enable archiving, select the Messenger/Preferences menu item, and click on the Archive option in the list of preference categories that is displayed next. Make sure that the Enable Archiving and Archive Conferences checkboxes are both checked; also, set the appropriate number of days after which archives will be deleted.
Depending on the version of Yahoo IM, the archives are found under the Contacts or Friends menu, by selecting the Message Archive item. When opened, the archive is organized hierarchically, with conference archives separate from private messages, system alerts, etc. In the list of conference archives, the individual conferences are denoted by the date of the conference, and the Yahoo screen name of the person who initiated the conference.
Select the conference of interest from the list of archived conferences. You can now select the text of the conference by clicking and dragging the text in the lower-right pane; you can also save this conference as a standard text file, with the Message/Save menu item. If the opt to save the conference as a text file, open it in your preferred text editor, and select the text in the usual manner.
When the text corresponding to the conference of interest is selected, copy this text to the clipboard using Edit/Copy, or Ctrl-C.
The Transcript Converter is a web-based tool, which allows you to paste text from WebCT or Yahoo IM conference (which you selected and copied, following the directions above) into a text area on the page, and convert this into an HTML format which can be copied and pasted into an HTML file, online forum posting, etc.
The HTML element into which a pasted transcript is converted is the "dictionary list", or <dl> element. In a dictionary list, "dictionary terms" (which we will use to display the name of the person speaking — typing, really — in a conference) are displayed on the left, with "dictionary definitions" (which we will use to display the actual text typed) displayed below, and offset slightly to the right.
Minimally, there are only six simple steps to using the Transcript Converter:
Following the steps above will generate the HTML dictionary list from the conference transcript, after stripping out system messages and other non-essential information. However, you may want to specify CSS information for the generated <dl>, <dt>, and <dd> tags; you can do this by providing the inline styles in the associated input fields, before clicking the Convert button. This is particularly useful when you intend to copy the converted transcript into a forum post, in which you will (usually) not have the ability to add a <style> tag to the page.
If you are pasting the transcript into a web page over which you have complete control, it is generally preferable to specify CSS information for the <dl>, <dt>, and <dd> elements in a <style> tag in the <head> of the page.
If the transcript contains sections of text which should be displayed in a different format from that of the of the rest of the transcript (e.g. code fragments, which are often displayed in a monospaced font), it may be necessary to edit the generated HTML code, after pasting it into the target document.
Assume we have copied & pasted the following text (from a Yahoo conference archive) into the Transcript Text area:
nickbenn (09:36:37): Does anyone have questions on the assignment, or on the Kangaroo class file we looked yesterday, or the Zoo class file we run (but didn't really look at).
shirleybirdteach (09:36:27): I ran the model for 5000 kangaroos and it was still similar to the smaller results
nickbenn (09:37:29): Exactly, Shirley...and, given that kangaroos have been around a long time, without any help from us, what should that tell us about our model?
shirleybirdteach (09:38:07): it's flawed
Now, assume we want to display the name of the person "speaking" in bold. We can do this by typing "font-weight: bold" (without the double quotes) into the input field labeled "Speaker's name". (Remember, we are using CSS to specify the style; thus, we use the CSS font-weight attribute, and not the HTML <b> or <strong> tag.)
When we select Yahoo as the transcript source, and then click the Convert button, we will get the following code in the HTML Format text area:
<dt style="font-weight: bold">nickbenn (09:36:37):</dt><dd>Does anyone have questions on the assignment, or on the Kangaroo class file we looked yesterday, or the Zoo class file we run (but didn't really look at).
<dt style="font-weight: bold">shirleybirdteach (09:36:27):</dt><dd>I ran the model for 5000 kangaroos and it was still similar to the smaller results
<dt style="font-weight: bold">nickbenn (09:37:29):</dt><dd>Exactly, Shirley...and, given that kangaroos have been around a long time, without any help from us, what should that tell us about our model?
<dt style="font-weight: bold">shirleybirdteach (09:38:07):</dt><dd>it's flawed
In a web page, this code would appear much as it appears in the Preview area of the Converter:
Note: Yahoo IM includes time-stamps on each message in the conference; WebCT does not, so such time-stamps will not appear in the converted transcript.
© 2004, Nick Bennett & Grass Roots Consulting. All rights reserved.