Some Meta-discussion

The whole Episode 110 or Roadwork was framed by a discussion about this very website (the one you are reading right now).

John appreciates the fact that I keep myself in the background and do not put my own spin on his stories, but in this meta-discussion I will make an exception and refer to myself as the author of this website as well as make some comments in italic style whenever they are talking about me. John told a number of stories during the episode to illustrate his point and they are part of the rest of the wiki as usual. On this page I have only extracted the parts where the conversation was actually about this websites or about others trying to make similar efforts.

The Story of John Roderick (RW110)

Dan was about to google for a picture of John and discovered this website in the process. He mentioned it to John in the very beginning of the episode, but John had never seen it before. Dan assumes that I have probably not been in contact with John, but at the end of the episode John finds my email from when I asked him if he liked a website like this to exist.

Previous attempts of creating a similar website

Over the last 8 years since John started his first regular podcast Roderick on the Line, a handful of people have written him about a website they were planning to cross-reference different stories and to create hyperlinks from thing to thing. The morning of the recording, somebody had sent him a tweet of a drawing of the shape of his year. John's friend Capn Mariam once did a painting of the Dog Beatles (see RL150). There have been attempts to represent what the show and the stories look like in other people’s minds. John and his co-hosts are building the structure of the space station and because there is no gravity, things can take any form and don’t have to be bolted to the ground.

However, no-one ever attempted to transcribe all of John's 400 podcast-episodes, because it seems like an impossible job. I agree that it is a lot of work, but one episode at the time it is certainly doable. Everyone who has ever talked to him about it has tried to elicit crowdsourcing in order to gather other fans of the show and have it be a market place where everybody can build a thing together, but John has never seen one that really caught fire.

Privacy concerns

This website is precisely the kind of thing that a lot of John’s fans would consider intrusive. Dan used the word creepy and Merlin would be horrified if this would exist for him. Hodgman doesn’t like if this kind of attention is paid to his family and John knows a lot of people who would feel the same way and who are afraid of something like this. Interestingly, I asked John literally "if this is something that you want to exist or if you find it creepy" and his response was that he was flattered, which has to be taken with a grain of salt, knowing now that he didn't actually look at it at the time. Because he is an archivist who wants easy access to past events (see for example the segment about Time Geography) and who wants his creations to remain in the public record indefinitely (see many segments in Internet and Social Media), I was confident he would be positive about it, which he eventually confirmed at the very end of this episode

John mentions his mom in almost every episode and collecting everything he has ever said about her in one spot was one of the prime goals of creating a website like this. In my early days when I hadn't listened to very many episodes yet, Merlin would sometimes mention that John's mom is a very organized person and I wanted to hear some stories about her (obviously Merlin knows her personally). I wanted a complete picture of the people involved and I wanted to be able to find John's stories whenever I wanted to refer to them in my own context, like when I could identify with a certain event and wanted to tell my friends about it, but then I couldn't find it again in the source material.

There is a lot of stuff on this website about John's daughter and it is all stuff he has said. Under a long time he took great care not to mention her name, which was based on an earlier idea of what it meant to maintain some privacy. This is a very important point, because I only use material in this wiki that I gathered from the podcasts or in very rare occasions that I could infer from connecting the dots and doing some basic googling. There is nothing in here that is not already part of the public record. Starting with 2018 John mentions his daughter's name regularly and it is no longer a secret, although there had been some slips long before that, like in RL162 in mid-2015 when she was still 4 years old.

Dan read one story from this wiki of John’s daughter getting her tonsils out and watching Frozen on the iPad. It is a very small vignette and an illustrative story about her relationship to Frozen which was a major feature for about 1.5 years of her life. The joke from the original story, the reason why it was told, did make it into this website (The joke being that she was singing the lyrics of the theme song wrong).

John's open approach to podcasting

Everybody has gotten used to Roderick on the Line and Roadwork as places where John will just tell all the stories. He changes the names of people if the story is unflattering or if it feels too intimate, but for the most part he is telling all the stories, which is something that most people wouldn’t do. John made that decision a long time ago and he has described that decision-making process on the podcast (I can't find a good link, but he definitely has). Tell the stories and don’t be precious! There is no mystery!

In order for John to call this website intrusive, he would have to go back to the very beginning and re-evaluate his whole approach to podcasting. John can't do that and he would absolutely do it all over again and wouldn’t take a thing out of it, because it has been very important to him. John speaks candidly instead of wondering if this story is going to be entertaining or if that story makes him look good. John is able to talk as his mind comes online between the hours of 10:00am and 11:00am when he wakes up to do his stories. John hopes that someone finds this website useful so that the person who has built it feels like their work is valuable to other people, because it seems to be meant as a resource for others as well.

This wiki is just a collection of what John has told the world, but put into print for easy access. He can imagine the motivation behind it, because he is someone who takes all his 800 tie-tacks and re-arranges them in a way that makes sense architecturally. Knowing he has a bucket of un-arranged tie-tacks somewhere nags at him until he puts them in their matrices. This website seems like an expression of a similar kind of desire to order information that is important to the person. That is absolutely correct. I do strive to order all the world's information och find things like Wikipedia to be extraordinary, because it is a place where we can collect everything we know. This wiki is a place where we can collect everything we know about John Roderick.

John is also correct in assuming that his stories are helping people. They absolutely helped me! We are two very different people and do not have many things in common on the surface (I'm also a huge middle-aged white guy, though). But when it comes to our beliefs and our vision and our general attitude towards the world and towards other people, when it comes to mental challenges, being introverted, lonely or depressed, I can relate to John very much. I do not introduce him to my friends primarily as a musician and podcaster, but as a philosopher who speaks about his life on a podcast and who has other creative outlets like music and writing. Exactly as John says, hearing from others that they have the same problem already helps tremendously. Many times a week I want to say to somebody "See, that is exactly what John said on his podcast", but then I have no idea what episode it was and can't share a source. That is why I started to "takes notes" and created this wiki, but then it derailed a bit and became an all-encompassing project, which is quite a typical situation for me.

Privacy concerns about other people in John's life

Whether or not David Brest was a good guy or a bad guy, whether or not Kelly Keefer went out with David Brest just to get John’s goat or because David was handsome and also to get John’s goat, that is a pretty funny thing to think about. Maybe in a future world other people who David Brest has met in his life have also recorded their thoughts about him. Maybe he is working in a Natural Pantry somewhere trying to sell people on creamy nut-butter. Somewhere on the Internet a bot will gather together every reference to David Brest and put them all in one place, which will somehow become the way we will interact with David Brest. There are a lot of people in the world, John included, who may not want all of that. If they are going in for a job interview, they don’t want the person to just type a few words and pull up a thing where someone they went to high school with called them a jerk!

It is a bit like a Black Mirror episode where all the stories about you end up giving you a 4.1 rating or something. John wants his world to interact with the larger world, and yet he also wants it to be a complete world, like an enclosed world that makes sense internally. There are all these stories about John’s girlfriends and some of them are the same girl, but John was careful as he was telling the story to not reveal too much about it, because he was telling a specific story rather than the overall narrative of a person. He has never done an episode where he just talked about Millennial Girlfriend and their relationship from start to finish. He will talk about her to his close friends who will come and sit on the couch for 2.5 hours and give his impression and his version of the scope of their whole relationship and what he concludes from it, but he would never do that on the show, because it is too intimate and too personal. It wouldn’t be fair to her, because she doesn’t have a platform where she can tell her side of the story.

John tries not to do that to someone he is intimate with. He is talking about his daughter’s mother all the time and she is one of the closest people in his life, but he doesn’t sit and dissects her on the show, because it is not the legacy he wants to leave. She doesn’t have a show and it would be wrong. John hasn’t checked if she is in this website, but does he want his daughter to read his thoughts about her mother in 20 years when she finds this? No! John hasn’t kept it out of the show because he was afraid of something like this, but because it is not his right to do.

All the stories John tells are anecdotes. They could be about anyone and they are meant to give a picture of these people, but they are not meant to be definitive. They are meant to give a picture of what it is to be human. If this wiki was cross-referenced with a similar wiki that had been built about any of John’s friends, it would make a super-fascinating larger web of detail that would be exponentially more helpful.

Making all the facts about his friends, girlfriends and family members that were previously spread over 600 hours of audio easily searchable is of course an important point to consider. When going through the episodes I do not want to leave anything out, because if I would want to add it in later, I would have to duplicate a lot of work. Collecting everything about his mom and his Millennial Girlfriend to get a better overall picture is of course one of the interesting benefits of doing a wiki like this and was, as mentioned earlier, one of the initial goals.

The editing process and the language used in this website

Dan and John agree that this website is written very telegraphically and not in florid language. It is very matter of fact and reads like the work of a single person with an articulate command of English. There is also a little tinge of foreignness and an European cadence that suggests it has been written by someone who is extremely good in English, but doesn't have English as their first language.

When talking about David Breast, John mentions that I got the joke, but I wrote it very matter-of-factly, which is really interesting to John! According to John I took all the LOLs out of the joke, but I still got the joke and it does transmit in my writing style, which is impressive.

John is correct, I am not an native speaker, but I am born in Germany and moved to Sweden in 2006. I do read and hear English every single day on the job and during my commute, and I speak it frequently enough to call myself a fluid speaker.

I thought about doing a wiki like this for quite some time before I actually did it. The concept was that I would listen to the podcast and whenever John mentions something interesting, I would write it down in the respective section of the wiki. Like he would mention his mom, I would open her page and add to it. Or he would mention a place he worked at and I would open the Employment History page and add to it. I literally signed up for Wikidot while I was on the bus listening to Episode 238 of Roderick on the Line, because it contains some valuable info about his jobs, his girlfriend, his sister, his style and a very interesting story about being in Berlin when the wall came down. That episode finally pushed me over the edge to getting started.

When reading those stories now, they are very basic and very condensed, which is a contradiction to me being fascinated by John's colorful and metaphoric language, which I wanted to preserve. Therefore, my "notes" became longer and longer until they almost turned into a transcription, although transcribing every word has never been the goal. John is a true raconteur, but his language has false-starts when he starts a sentence again, he says "you know" a lot, he strings his sentences together with "and" to infinity (I replace some of those "and" with "but", "while" or ".") and it is much easier to read if the language is cleaned up. He also says "that" a lot instead of "who", "which" or nothing at all (avoiding a sub-clause altogether). Replacing words is not something you can do in a transcript and I really didn't want to mark every change with square brackets.

Because I started out "just taking notes", I decided to write the wiki in third person with "John" and "he" instead of "I". I also state John's opinion as a fact, because being quite opinionated and having unusual attitudes toward stuff makes him unique and interesting. Reading those opinions or thoughts as facts gives them more weight. Then of course Merlin will interrupt him a lot, which I'm maybe not the biggest fan of, especially when he talks over John exactly at the key moment when John says some important word that is impossible for me to understand. Then they burst out laughing about that word and I miss the joke. I only add what Merlin says when it is an interesting story that is telling something about Merlin, or if John agrees clearly to what he says.

Shortly after I started, I modified my process to take its current shape: I will listen to an episode and take notes, meaning I will write down what John says in third person and already cleaned up. If there is anything I don't quite understand, like difficult English words or band names, I will look them up on the Internet in order to make sure I'm referencing the right thing. This allows me to get through the current episodes as quickly as possible and not be behind on the current state of affairs.

Whenever I have collected about 20 of those note cards, I will switch from listening-mode to editing-mode and I will read through my notes and edit everything to make it as readable as possible. I will change "and" to "but" or "while", but I will never add complex words that John didn't say. For example, if the text says "precipitated" or "visceral", then John did literally say them on the show. I will sometimes re-arrange sections if he went from one story to the next story and back to the first story. I will try to make an own section out of the next story and present the first story on its own.

In the beginning, the editing-mode was also the stage where I added links to Wikipedia and to the dictionary. One of the big gains of actually listening to every word and trying to understand John's colorful language and the many connections and references he makes all the time has been one of the most fun things on this journey. In the beginning I skipped all parts where they were just throwing names of bands or actresses at each other, but deciphering those turned out to be fun as well. Especially after I had collected some of them, cleaned up the language and read through them slowly and methodically, I could actually make out a purpose behind them, like the history of the butt-lifting pants or the difficult times of early 1980s Pop music. Before I started the wiki, those things would just wash over me.

After a while I noticed that copy/pasting Wikipedia links takes a lot of time, especially on the train with spotty Internet, which is where I do most of the work on this wiki. I decided it was more important to publish the material as quickly as possible and so I streamlined the editing stage to not include Wikipedia links and to just post the whole episode on its episode page as a "Draft Version". When I am at home I could then add links much quicker than on the train and divide everything into topics. This final tweaking of the editing process allowed me to keep pace with new episodes and also add the back-catalogue. The content is still searchable, but it is not as well-ordered as it eventually will be. I do not divide things into topics until the text is "final" so I can keep track of what I still need to work on. Of course, almost every time I read through an older text, I have some slight modifications to make, so this wiki will probably never be fully complete. As long as I still have many episodes of the back-catalogue to go through, adding content as quickly as possible will probably stay my priority over excessive fine-tuning.

When John says that my language is "telegraphically", "not florid" and "matter-of-factly", I am actually a bit surprised, because all I do is convert his literal words into third person, take out the false starts, replace some of the conjunctions and take out some repetitiveness. Otherwise this is how John actually talks on the show, especially on topics of his political campaign or his mental challenges where I am extremely careful not to change anything that would give the story a different meaning. Of course all the "LOL"s, the laughter and the subtext disappears when you just write it down instead of listening to it, but because I have a source-citation on everything, it is very easy for the reader of this wiki to just listen to the respective episode if you want to experience the story its whole glory.

The purpose

At one point during the episode, John read the homepage of this website, explaining the purpose of it. If the first paragraph would instead be 11 paragraphs long, it would color the thing, because I would be trying to make it about myself. Sometimes people have edited John’s Wikipedia page and have written big paragraphs where they were trying to explain their fandom, their intimate knowledge, or that they were in on the joke, but things like that get combed out of Wikipedia pretty quickly. John comments on me not making this website about myself and about me only using the pronoun ”I” two times, otherwise staying invisible. John mentions the link to the Listening Guide by Brett Chalupa, who has contacted John previously.

The Long Winters library, a website collecting every show and newspaper article about The Long Winters was flattering and has been a good resource, but this wiki… long pause… It gets to what they have talked about a lot: What is the point of all this? What is the point of anything? The only conflict John feels about this website has to do with trying to imagine its usefulness down the road. It is useful as a place where listeners can feel a respite. Maybe it is a thoughtful place where they can think about their own responses to things. The podcast is mostly in the listener's headphones and because of the intimacy of the stuff they talk about, the website may provide an opportunity for the reader to have those intimate thoughts about themselves.

It was absolutely my intention to keep myself out of it and just present the stories without any of my personal context. This page will be the sole exception where I explain myself and add my part to what John and Dan thought about the website.

I do think that this wiki will become more useful over time as most or every episode of John's podcasts will be added. Whatever reference he makes or story he tells, it will be very easy for the listener to find the original source and read up about it. When it comes to personal stories, I find it oftentimes easier to go back and read the text instead of listening to the hour-long segment again, because if I want to relate to it, I have to dissect it in my own pace and especially without interruptions from his co-hosts or side-tracks.

John's wish list about this website

John would change the title to something more encompassing. It is not ”The Story of” because John is not on a quest to Jerusalem to find the grail. The different sections are stories, but they are not crucially connected and there is no single goal, but a lot of contradictory goals.

I disagree here. Of course, if somebody comes up with a killer title, I am open to accept it, but I chose this title deliberately. On an infinite time scale (a reference to John Siracusa, as you know) if John continues with his podcasts indefinitely, he will at one point have told all the stories about everything that has ever happened to him and that will turn this wiki into the complete story. Already now it is his story from his time in High School in Alaska to college, his political campaign and into the present day.

John wants this website to be a true wiki. He understands why I do not want other people editing it, because it is comprehensive and singularly made. John is sure I don't want to argue with other fans about this and that. I don’t want my clean prose muddied by somebody else’s dirty prose. The way the humor is presented indicates that I get the joke, but that I do not want to make myself part of the joke, which is often the problem. I am not allowing other people to hyperlink outside sources or other entries, which would make it interesting and interactive. Some of the girlfriends are the same people and John should probably go in there and say that, or he shouldn’t. He doesn’t know what his responsibility would be.

First of all, I started this website on a public wiki platform because I want to retain the possibility to open it up in the future. If I will lose interest or if I will reach a stage where I do welcome contributions, I don't want do restructure everything, but I just want people to be able to create accounts and start editing. For now, this is my personal project and I want to keep it this way, mostly for two reasons:

  1. Editing text and ordering stories into categories is a lot of fun. Currently I have to focus on adding as much content as possible, leaving less time for editing. Although taking notes is fun as well, I am very much looking forward to a time when there will only be two new episodes a week and I will have a lot of time for fine-tune the existing material. I do not want others to do the fun parts now, because I want to do the fun parts later myself. If I ever change my mind, nothing is lost and I can open the wiki for editing any time.
  2. I started this wiki in a difficult time of my own story when I realized that all I do in my leisure time is somehow stuff I do for others or that others expect from me. After all these years I was really tired of that and I wanted to do whatever I am interested in without having to think about if it will give me social points. A few weeks into this wiki I realized that this is my project that I do because I want to do it and nobody in my social circle even knows who John is or would be interested in this wiki at all. I do it for myself and nobody else. It is kind of my middle finger to the world, saying that I can put my leisure time on this without anybody stopping me. I have done my fair share of contribution to others, now I do this for myself. John is right, at the moment this is very personal to me and I don't want anybody else helping me.

I never really thought of muddling my prose with other people's prose, but that is a factor as well. I want this website to be my way and I want it to be my words only, for now. Also, if I listen to all the episodes, then I can remember all the references. If we would divide all the episodes among many contributors, we could reach content-completion much faster, but then I would not get all the references because I would not have listened to all the episodes. All by way of saying: This is my website for now until somebody really convinces me otherwise or until I lose interest.

Of course anybody can hyperlink to part of this wiki (and I will continually add better table of contents that will allow links to specific sections). If I miss a reference and somebody points it out, I am happy to add it.

John discovering our email conversation

After John and Dan finished recording the episode John did a bit of research and found out that I am a man named Jochen Römling. I have a Twitter account I do not keep current and I have an Instagram account I have not used since 2014, but my name was ghosted out in John's search engine, meaning he had looked for me before. Then John was looking into his email inbox and noticed that I did reach out to him in April of 2017, explaining my intentions. John replied that he is very flattered and excited to dig into the project, cc-ing Capn Mariam. In other words, John was very aware that this website existed, but he didn’t look at it because he typically never does that, just as he never listens to his things.

John responded politely that he is flattered and now that he has looked at it under Dan’s supervision, he is astonished and impressed. I replied again that I was glad John liked it and I will keep working on it. The discovery of this website should not have been a mystery nor a surprise to John if he weren’t someone who is trying to blot out all this kind of thing. Every time he receives these kind of emails he is like ”Thank you!” and he is trying to draw the curtain as fast as he can.

My social network is Facebook. I use it since 2009 and all my friends are on there. I have engaged in social dancing for a long time and coordinating dance-events with Facebook is really easy. When Instagram came along, I didn't find it interesting because it only allows pictures. Today I would say that Instagram has become the most important network, but I have stuck with Facebook. Most of my friends who use Instagram as their primary network post to Facebook as well. The only reason I use Twitter is to look at or reply to other people's tweets. I follow mostly people from the Apple community.

John cc-ed Capn Mariam on his email, but because he said something about his book, I assumed that she had something to do with the book. The real reason why John included her was that she knows the back catalog very well and she is a close friend to both Merlin and John. I talked to her after RW110 was released and she was a great help pointing me to episode numbers where important stories were told and sending me links to certain tweets.

I was very surprised when I sent my initial mail to John that he replied to me the next day. I actually thought he had at least looked at the site and I took it as a permission to continue. Because he is a public figure, I don't think I need his approval, except maybe because there is copyright on the podcasts and I can't just transcribe them, but I don't transcribe them, but I add my own language and my own structure to it. I don't know. But whatever the legal situation, I would not want to maintain a website like this if I knew that John would dislike it. Therefore I was really happy that he told me he felt flattered.

I was also really happy that he found my email at the end of the episode and that he eventually recommended his listeners to check it out. Creating this solely for myself would be one thing, but being able to share it with other listeners is something completely different. I have put many hundred hours into it and there are many hundred hours more to go. After 15 months of working on it, the level of enjoyment I get out of it has not tapered off the slightest. It gives me something very creative and productive to do on my commute and my frequent train rides.

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