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Interview – What’s the Big Idea?

  Interview with the jot101 team 

Q. Where did the idea of jot101 and 'jotting' come from?

A. Back in the 1980s I knew a guy called Linus in Bedford Park, London. He was a great collector of esoterica, folklore and myth, writings of mystics and seers. He had made money in stock speculation and lived the life of a Victorian gentleman scholar. He used to write notes and comments about his reading which he referred to as his 'jottings.' They contained much wisdom and knowledge and he kept them in a sort of commonplace book...by the time the web came along he had died and his books and notes had gone to the four winds. They would have been ideal for jot101 and he would have been a great contributor. Knowledge like this is still being lost forever.

Q. So you would like jot101 to be a place where people archive research and notes from their readings?

A. Yes, but also information that they have come across in their work, in travel, from friends, in anecdote, in their family and in old books, periodicals, pamphlets and letters, manuscripts, notebooks and ephemera. Also obscure data synthesised from the web and media, eyewitness reports, documents, photos, snapshots, press cuttings, diaries etc., People are sitting on terabytes of information.

Q. How does it differ from Wikipedia?

A. Much of the material is outside of the scope of an encyclopaedia, and it is not peer reviewed. For example in my trade I come across rare books by authors with Wikipedia entries where the book is not listed in the author's works and I go in there and add it. However there is no good place to record an anecdote about the author from someone who had met them, or a manuscript or letter from an author discussing their life or work and adding to our knowledge and understanding of them. Such items get sold and enter private collections where they are lost for decades, centuries - or for good. This is the kind of thing ideally suited to jot101 and we have recorded  letters, original writings and accounts of meetings.

Rather than Wikipedia, jot101 is nearer to a mix of YouTube and the Victorian journal Notes and Queries. YouTube in the way that people simply upload things they have found which are then in categories and searchable, and Notes and Queries in its dogged curiosity and thirst for knowledge - however abstruse. Mass Observation with its eyewitness reports is another influence. On our home page we have used the original motto of the early issues of N & Q, spoken by Captain Cuttle in Dickens' Dombey & Son - "when found, make a note of..."

Q. Why is jot101 just a blog? Have you considered building a website and attracting contributions?

A. It's early days. Festinare Lente. We already have a few contributors and have been going less than a year. We are feeling our way. The long game etc., I am surprised at the amount of stuff worthy of posting. If I didn't have to make a living I could probably do 30 postings a week. It is inexhaustible. My California based tireless tech support in this enterprise, Soren Wagner, is looking at building a site for people to contribute 'jots'. Where people seamlessly upload new information that they have found without having to create a website or a blog. Back in Europe I am raiding our endless expanding archives for more material. Every posting here is a form of 'jot.'  See our concise definition using actor Terry-Thomas as an example. [Interview to be continued] Nigel Burwood + Soren Wagner

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