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Giuseppe Bottasini's thoughts on the establishment of FOTW

Last modified: 2007-10-28 by rob raeside
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by Giuseppe Bottasini


My interest in flags has always been as a hobbyist and never as a scholar. Even today, though I feel that my vexillological knowledge is above average, it is still significantly inferior to that of the typical FOTW subscriber.

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.


I am a computer engineer and have been interested in the Internet ever since it became available in Italy outside academic circles. The Internet seemed to me the right path for fulfilling my vexillological dream: a means for exchanging flag information in real time with people all over the world.

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.


When I started the mailing list there were groups on the Internet interested in almost every area except vexillology (in the first months we discussed affiliating ourselves with the newsgroup rec.heraldry). FOTW filled that void: it appears that my dream was shared by many other people in the world.

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.


I am fully satisfied with FOTW: I realized my dream and I have given my small contribution to the community of people connected to the Internet. I am no longer the Director of FOTW, and hence I think that it is up to the new Director, Rob Raeside, to point out possible improvements. I take this opportunity to thank Rob for having made possible the continuation of FOTW when I could no longer dedicate myself to my creation.

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 2000