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I created FOTW because I dreamed of having available a large, full-color flag book, always up-to-date and containing those local or non-official flags that books normally don't show. I was particularly fascinated by new flags that appeared fleetingly on television or in newspapers. In the years in which FOTW was born, this interest was greatly enhanced by the dissolution of the Soviet bloc and the birth or rebirth of many new states.
FOTW used technologies as they became available: First a mailing list that I managed by hand for about ten people, then an automated mailing list, and finally a Web site. For the chronological history of FOTW, see fotwhist.html.
From the first, I made a rule that everything on FOTW would be free: No one has ever paid for viewing FOTW pages, even on CD-ROM, no one has ever been paid for his or her contributions to FOTW, and we have never accepted advertisements on our pages. This rule has motivated people to donate their work generously to FOTW, giving everyone the possibility to make known to the world their own modest or extensive vexillological research.
The third reason for the success of FOTW was the idea to transform the electronic messages into Web pages my means of laborious editing: the mailing list has become the fuel feeding the site. The real miracle of FOTW is the birth of a worldwide editorial staff composed of people who never meet and who dedicate freely tens of hours a year in order to extract from the mine of messages the gold of a new fact, an interesting one, or simply a peculiar one.
At times visitors to the site complain about the publication of inexact or outright mistaken information. FOTW is one-half book and one-half newspaper: As a book it has to report only information that is verified and certain; as a newspaper it can also report news not yet completely verified. I think of FOTW as a research project – based on verified data but able to experiment with ideas that are new and even wrong.
I don't think that the editorial office can do more than what it is already doing. Perhaps it might be useful to add a "scientific committee" that would control – at its own discretion or at the request of site visitors – the content of FOTW pages and then suggest changes to the editorial staff. However, the best guarantee of accuracy is the great number of visitors and the ease with which dissatisfied visitors can communicate with the editors.
My unfulfilled dream is the creation of a formal language for describing flags that would allow the development of software for identifying and cataloguing flags. I had started to prepare some language, but I never had the time to work on it. If someone wanted to continue this dream ...
(Translated from the Italian by Peter Orenski), 31 August 2000Red dog casino