Sunday, April 29, 2018

Willis, Tony and Me

These guys Willis Nowell and Tony Barther were hanging around on a forum at Shannondale.TV in the early 2000's when I first ran into them online.  This was before Shannondale & Beyond existed. My employer at the time had a server which I offered as a location to host the first S&B forum and thus I was the de facto system support person. This arrangement was fine when the server was in a colocation (run from Greenbelt, Md. by Allen Hoffman) but when it was moved to a residence, access to S&B from the internet became tenuous and Tony found paid hosting elsewhere.

(L to R) Wills, Katherine, Tony
What Willis and Tony tried to do was moderate the forum discussions with a fairly high degree of granularity. They and the other moderators, myself included at some times, developed categorizations for the forum areas that characterized the potential for reader upset. These ranged from "General," which would be suitable for all readers to "Thunderdome," containing inflammatory content. I contributed the thunderdome moniker which was suggested by the Mel Gibson film of the same name.

Willis also was a patron of exploration by air, in our case over Jefferson County, WV. I flew three times at his behest as photographer, with one of the forum members as pilot. Here are some photos taken on the first trip and made into a video with music: Willis Fly By Air

Later in my tenure as S&B advisor, I helped shepherd a survey which was sent to past and present members. To my eye the results showed that many would appreciate less intervention by moderators which was perceived as censorship. Tony in particular did not agree with lessening the control. There had been a few examples of forum disagreements or feuds extending into Real Life wherein an upset reader would appear and confront another individual.  Since many people on the mountain own firearms, the concern by management was that someone would be injured or worse. Political topics usually were the worst although I eventually left the forum over its support of aerial spraying for gypsy moths, a potential health risk to area residents. One of my critiques of the practice was deleted by another moderator and when I complained to the Shannondale & Beyond Board of Directors, nothing of substance was done to remedy the situation.

If you are interested in seeing the information I presented, it is available for download on my file site: Foray 48B files.

Tony died around June 2014.  I have not been able to locate an online obituary and Willis went on Tuesday, January 3, 2017. They lived in the area of Shannondale on the Blue Ridge Mountain where Foray 48B spraying was done several times and while two deaths isn't proof, it is a coincidence that concerns me. Read the files and see if you agree that more investigation by public health is in order.

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