classroom training sessions for lawyers in which a crime is enacted in front of the class to demonstrate the problems of ordinary witnessing: everybody sees the same event (say a knife flashing mugger taking wallet, watch, and chewing gum from the good professor) slightly differently. No one sees everything. Most people even distort the few facts they do manage to allow into consciousness.

A Fairwitness, then, is pretty extraordinary: s/he sees everything, and reports it accurately, without distorting it with hir own prejudices.

I know that's asking a lot from someone who would Fairwitness a CommuniTree conference. In fact, all that is really necessary, for a start, is to note the personal prejudices one has, and then try to set them aside in adminstering the conference at hand.

But what does a Fairwitness do?

In traditional conferencing systems -- most notably on EIES -- it has been observed that most on-going, asynchronous conferences require an individual or individuals to keep them "alive," or to nurture them in their early stages in order to get a fully functioning and "healthy" one going. ( The matter of what constitutes a "healthy" computer conference can't concern us here.) From this more-or-less empirical observation, then, comes the first definition of "Fairwitness."

A Fairwitness is someone who guides or shepherds a computer conference from a topic-idea beginning into an ongoing exchange and creation of information. In the early stages, the Fairwitness might promote the conference through other communications channels; cajole and otherwise entice various "experts" to spend some time with the conference; add proportionally more messages than other users simply to get the information up to a "critical mass" of interest. The Fairwitness introduces new users and welcomes them to the conference (assuming the latter choose to identify themselves, of course). The Fairwitness "polices the garbage" in hir branch of the tree, so that the system operator doesn't have to do it alone.

It is in this "garbage" or "shitwork" aspect of things that issues of territorialism, information czardoms, and related issues crop up. What is utterly fascinating and to the point, to me, might be just so much hot air and off the subject, to you. In an ordinary conference, with face-to-face participants, dialog or exchange can usually go on to "closure"

8107.16 CommuniTree -- First Edition Page 100