Messaging

Talk is the built-in frontend for the Urbit messaging and notifications protocol, Hall. Today we use Hall to chat and coordinate, but it's really a general purpose piece of infrastructure.

For the time being come join us in ~dopzod/urbit-help by using the 'quickstart' section below. ~dopzod is the host ship, and /urbit-help is the channel on that ship.

Today, Hall is sort of like a distributed, encrypted Slack that can be used from the CLI and the browser. There’s no central Hall server. Any urbit can host one.

Hall is a general purpose tool for both aggregating and publishing streams of messages. Applications can use Hall as their transport protocol, API connectors can push disparate data sources into Hall, and so on. There are lots of things a distributed message protocol can be used for that we haven't even thought of.

Here we'll be discussing how to operate the default CLI frontend, Talk, to send and receive messages. For a more in-depth look at Hall's internals, take a look at its documentation.

Quickstart

The most common uses of Talk right now are communicating over a public chat channel called ~dopzod/urbit-help and sending direct messages. Everyone is more than welcome in ~dopzod/urbit-help. It's the place to get help, ask questions and chat about Urbit in general.

There are two ways of using Talk: from the terminal running the Urbit process, or through the Landscape web UI available at http://localhost/~~/landscape.

If you're using Landscape for the first time, you'll need to enter a code to gain access. You can obtain this code by running +code from the Dojo.

Joining a Channel

In Hall, a medium for a message is called a circle. There are four types of circles, but we for now we'll be dealing with the channel: a publicly accessible chatroom for general use. We'll discuss the other three kinds in the manual section.

Let's join the ~dopzod/urbit-help channel. Use ctrl-x to switch from Dojo to Talk.

Then:

~your-urbit:talk> ;join ~dopzod/urbit-help

Scrolling down your terminal window, you'll probably see the playback of previous ~dopzod/urbit-help messages that you missed.

Post a line to ~dopzod/urbit-help:

~your-urbit:talk= Hello, world!

You'll see your message printed below messages from others that came before it:

~your-urbit= Hello, world!

Subscribing to a Channel in Landscape

In Landscape, you can always navigate to a channel by opening the menu, or using the shortcut cmd-k, then typing go ~host-urbit/channel-name. However, if you want to see messages in your inbox, you'll need to join from the Talk terminal.

Again, that's:

;join ~dopzod/urbit-help

Now, navigate to localhost/~~/landscape. You should see recent messages under the "Recent" tab, and if you navigate to the "All" tab, you should see your subscription to ~dopzod/urbit-help under "Chats".

Direct Messaging

To send a direct message to someone, first set your audience:

~your-urbit:talk= ;~talsur-todres

You'll see your prompt change:

~your-urbit:talk[~talsur-todres]

Now you and ~talsur-todres can exchange messages directly.

~your-urbit:talk[~talsur-todres] Hey buddy!

To set your audience back to ~dopzod/urbit-help:

~your-urbit:talk[~talsur-todres] ;~dopzod/urbit-help

You'll see your prompt change back:

~your-urbit:talk=

You can also use the ASCII "glyph" assigned to your ~dopzod/urbit-help circle as a shortcut:

~your-urbit:talk[~talsur-todres] ;=
~your-urbit:talk=

(Your ship may have a different glyph than = for your circle)

Use ;leave to unsubscribe from a channel:

~your-urbit:talk= ;leave ~dopzod/urbit-help

The web UI ships as compiled JavaScript on your urbit, but has its own source repo here.

Last, let's create a channel we can invite some friends to:

~your-urbit:talk= ;create channel %my-channel 'Some description.'

Now you can tell your friends to ;join ~your-urbit/my-channel.


Manual

Hall's design is similar in spirit to NNTP, the underlying protocol for Usenet.

Our design is pretty simple: Hall messages are called posts. Posts go to circles. Any urbit can host or subscribe to any number of circles.

There are four kinds of circles: a write-only %mailbox for direct messages, an invite-only %village for private conversation, a read-only %journal for curated content, and a public-access %channel for general use.

Posts

A post can be a variety of different data structures. Let's look at the ones you can use from within Talk: lines, URLs, Hoon and replies.

Lines

A line is simply a string of text. Depending on the filtering rules set by the circle's host, these may or may not include uppercase and Unicode characters (see filter).

If the line starts with @, it's an action (like /me in IRC).

~your-urbit:talk= @sends a message.

will print as

~your-urbit sends a message.

URLs

A URL is any valid URL.

~your-urbit:talk= https://example.com/

Hoon

You can use Talk to evaluate Hoon code and share the result with everyone in a Hall circle. To do so, preface your Hoon with #.

~your-urbit:talk= #(add 2 2)

will print as

~your-urbit# (add 2 2)
4

Replies

To indicate what you're saying is in direct response to a specific message, select the message (see Activating Lines below) and type your response.

~some-urbit= Hello! How are you?
~your-urbit:talk= ; Well, thanks!

will print as

~your-urbit=^ Well, thanks!

Activating Lines

A line number identifying the subsequent line is displayed every 5 lines.

---------[0]
~your-urbit= This is my message.
~your-urbit= This is another message.
~your-urbit sends a message.
~your-urbit/ http://example.com/
~your-urbit# (add 2 2)
             4
---------[5]
~your-urbit=^ That's my message!

You can use a line number to activate a line:

~your-urbit:talk= ;5

which prints the number, line identifier, timestamp, sender, audience, and contents:

? 0
0v3.hl51p.jhege.amhec.vb37r.3rejr at ~2016.6.24..04.48.21..a235
~your-urbit to ~another-urbit
in reply to: ~your-urbit:
> This is my message.
That's my message!

If information got truncated — like what happens for long URLs or expressions, or if there's additional information available — as is the case with replies and attachments (e.g. stack traces) — activating the message will show you all the details.

You can also activate the most recent line with ;, the second-most recent with ;;, and so on.

Creating and managing circles

As mentioned before, any urbit can host any number of circles. Existing circles can be deleted or modified with various commands. All commands in this section shoild be sent from the talk> prompt.

Create

Syntax: ;create [type] %name 'description'

Creates and joins a circle, where [type] is any of the following:

  • channel: public circle. Has a blacklist for write control.
  • village: invite-only circle.
  • journal: publicly readable, invite-only for writing.
  • mailbox: publicly writeable, can only be read by its host.

Let's create an example mailbox:

sampel-palnet:talk> ;create mailbox %coolbox 'cool messages only'

Something like this should print:

--------------| ;create mailbox %coolbox 'cool messages only'
--------------| :: onn %coolbox
--------------| bound '>' {[hos=~sampel-palnet nom=%coolbox]}
--------------| %coolbox: see ~sampel-palnet hear
--------------| new > %coolbox
--------------| %coolbox: cap: cool messages only
--------------| %coolbox: fit: caps:Y unic:✔
Delete

Syntax: ;delete %name 'optional reason'

Deletes a circle. If a reason is specified, that gets sent to all subscribers before the circle gets deleted.

To delete our example above:

sampel-palnet:talk> ;delete %coolbox 'people sent uncool messages'

Change Description

Syntax: ;depict %name 'description'

Changes the description of an existing circle %name.

For example:

sampel-palnet:talk> ;depict %coolbox 'cool messages only. NO EXCEPTIONS.'

Filter

Syntax: ;filter %name [capitals] [unicode]

Configures the message filter for circle %name: whether to allow capital and/or unicode characters. y/&/true for allowed, n/|/false for disallowed.

So, to allow capital letters and disallow unicode in the circle %coolbox:

sampel-palnet:talk> ;filter %coolbox & |

or

sampel-palnet:talk> ;filter %coolbox y n

And we get the output:

--------------| ;filter %coolbox & |
--------------| %coolbox: fit: caps:Y unic:n

Invite

Syntax: ;invite %name ~someone

Invites someone into your circle %name. If they were previously banished, removes them from the blacklist. Can also invite multiple ships at once, ~comma, ~separated.

For example:

~sampel-palnet:talk> ;invite %coolbox ~lodleb-ritrul

Banish

Syntax: ;banish %name ~someone

Removes someone from your circle %name. If they were previously invited, removes them from the whitelist. Can also banish multiple ships at once, ~comma, ~separated.

Source

Syntax: ;source %name ~other/circle

Adds ~other/circle as a source for circle %name. This causes all messages sent to ~other/circle to also appear in %name.

For example:

~sampel-palnet:talk> ;source %coolbox ~marzod/urbit-help

Unsource

Syntax: ;unsource %name ~other/circle

Removes ~other/circle as a source for circle %name.

For example:

~sampel-palnet:talk> ;unsource %coolbox ~marzod/urbit-help

Circle Membership

If you have joined a circle, you can make this information publicly available to help others find that circle as well.

Show Membership

Syntax: ;show ~some/circle

Adds a circle to your public membership list on your Hall profile. Hall profiles are not used yet.

Hide Membership

Syntax: ;hide ~some/circle

Removes a circle from your public membership list on your Hall profile. Hall profiles are not used yet.

Status

You'll see status notifications when people enter or leave circles you're subscribed to.

Notifications Off

Syntax: ;set quiet

Turn off status (and config) notifications.

Notifications On

Syntax: ;unset quiet

Turn on status (and config) notifications.

Who

Syntax: ;who

List everyone in all your subscribed circles. Optionally specify a specific circle to list members of just those: ;who ~some/circle

For example:

~sampel-palnet:talk> ;who ~marzod/urbit-help

Attend

Syntax: ;attend ~some/circle [presence]

Manually set your presence to show up as one of the following. (In the future, a sufficiently advanced client can automatically set these for you.)

  • talk - typing
  • hear - listening
  • idle - inactive
  • gone - not present

For example:

~sampel-palnet:talk> ;attend ~marzod/urbit-help idle

Set Display Name

Syntax: ;name ~some/circle 'my handle'

Set a handle ("name") for yourself in a specific circle. It will display to users who have done ;set nicks, but gets truncated if it's longer than 14 characters.

Audience

An audience consists of one or more messaging targets. These can be circles or ships. (In the latter case, it's secretly the ~ship/inbox circle.)

Circle Glyphs

Glyphs are found at the end of your prompt to as a quick indicator of where your messages will be sent.

Glyphs are assigned by circle hash out of the following list:

> = + - } ) , . " ' ^ $ % & @

Alphanumeric characters and |#;:*~_ are reserved; all others (the above list, and \/!?({<) can be manually assigned.

For example, - the glyph at the end of the prompt below might indicates that messages sent from this prompt will go to some circle with that glyph:

~sampel-palnet:talk-

To see what circle is bound to a glyph, use the ;what command followed by the glyph in question. For example, to see =:

~sampel-palnet:talk> ;what =
/urbit-help

Not every audience has a glyph, however. When the audience doesn't have a glyph, such as in the case of direct-messaging a ship, we see their name at the end of the prompt instead. Here we're talking directly to ~dannum-mitryl:

~sampel-palnet:talk[~dannum-mitryl]

Bind

Syntax: ;bind [glyph] /circle-name

Assigns the chosen glyph to a circle owned by your ship.

For example:

~sampel-palnet:talk> ;bind + /my-circle

Unbind

Syntax: ;unbind [glyph] /circle-name

Unassigns the chosen glyph from a circle owned by your ship.

For example:

~sampel-palnet:talk> ;unbind + /my-circle

Prefixes

Received posts are prefixed with a glyph to let you know what the audience is. You can activate an individual post to see the full audience.

There are a few special-purpose glyphs:

  • | - Informational messages
  • : - Posts directly to you
  • ; - Posts to you and others (a multiparty conversation)
  • * - Posts to a complex audience that doesn't directly include you.

Configuration

Set Audience

;~ship/circle

Set audience to ~ship/circle.

Set Audience by Glyph

Syntax: ;[glyph]

Set audience to the circle previously bound to the chosen glyph.

Set Audience to Ship

syntax ;~ship

Set audience to another ship.

Set Audience to Own Circle

Syntax: ;%circle

Set audience to a circle on your own ship

Set Audience + Send Message

Syntax: ;~dannum-mitryl this is a private message

Set the audience and send a post in the same line. This works for all of the above audience commands.

Your audience is configured with regard to the following rules (in order):

  • if you manually set the audience, that audience.
  • if you activated a post, the post you activated.
  • audience of the last post sent.

Local nicknames

See Nicknames

Syntax: ;nick

List all local nicknames.

Find Nickname

Syntax: ;nick ~some-urbit

Look up a nickname using the known ship-name.

Reverse Find Nickname

syntax: ;nick plato

Find a ship's name using its nickname.

Set Nickname

Syntax: ;nick ~some-urbit plato

Create a new nickname.

Clear Nickname

Syntax: ;nick ~some-urbit ~

Clear an assigned nickname.

Display Nicks, Not Ship-Names

Syntax: ;set nicks

Show nicknames instead of ship-names. If no local nickname is set, uses that user's handle. If the user has no handle, just the urbit name.

Display Ship-Names, Not Nicks

Syntax: ;unset nicks

Show ship-names instead of nicknames.

Nicknames and handles longer than 14 character will be truncated in output. Nicknames are strictly local - like the names on entries in a phonebook.

Miscellaneous configuration

Show Timestamps

Syntax: ;set showtime

Show the timestamp for each message.

Hide Timestamps

Syntax: ;unset showtime

Stop showing the timestamp for each message.

Change Time Zone

Syntax: ;set timezone [+/-][hours]

Adjust the display of the timestamps to a specific timezone. Relative to UTC.

Sound Notification On

Syntax: ;set notify

Emit a terminal bell sound if your six-syllable ship name is mentioned in a message.

Sound Notification Off

Syntax ;unset notify

Do not notify when your ship name is mentioned.

Set Width

Syntax: ;set width [number]

Set the rendering width of :talk to a specific number of characters. (Minimum of 30.)