without the heavy hand of the moderator or chairperson declaring the topic closed so that the conference can move to the next item on the agenda.

In a computer conference, however, too heavy a hand by the system owner (assuming no Fairwitness to act as a check on this tendency) can assure that a particular message never even reaches the audience, so that, in fact, no dialog ensues. The Fairwitness, we hope, can reduce this possibility in computer conferencing. Moreover, setting policy for what may or may not be brought up in a particular conference can be more-or-less worked out on-line, provided that the Fairwitness also acts as something of an "ombudsman" for the user network. Thus, if two users get into an argument over issues on-line, the Fairwitness might help mediate the debate or dispute and gently steer the conference back into line without having the system operator issue fiats to the offending parties and without exercising arbitrary authority.

A Fairwitness must also have some working knowledge of what constitutes libel and slander. S/he should read the booklet Synopsis of the Lax of Libel and the Right of Privacy, and know what the "red flag" words are, so that messages containing them can be judged for litigous content. (Note: The CommuniTree system comes with this booklet included in the package. See APPENDIX A15 for ordering address.)

Once conferences are well under way, with an ongoing base of solid information and a committed user network, the Fairwitness function begins to include aspects of what, in other media, we have come to know as "editing." Editing computer conferences will probably come to be viewed as being at least as creative as writing articles or computer programs, or editing print-based media. It requires something of a passion for the subject matter, an ability to distinguish the grammatical from the merely stylistic, and a respect for varying levels of ability and understanding on the part of the user network. In addition, the Fairwitness will have to have some ability to simply organize a quantity of information into something resembling accessibility. One of the main criticisms we have heard about EIES and similar systems with masses of data already stored away is that the nuggets or gems of information are often hidden away in the midst of tons of ... well ... garbage. The Fairwitness, as a matter of course, periodically sifts the heap, consolodates the gems, snips away the garbage, and prunes the tree of irrelevancies.

For example, let's say a particular conference contains a sequence of five or six messages with two people dialoging on an aspect of a problem. The first two messages might consist of a question:

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