Everyone has their good days. Days when they are at their best; full of energy and confidence, open to the world around them, its people and possibilities. Days when kindness and enthusiasm aren’t hard and creativity comes naturally.
For most people these days come once in a while. Tiredness, stress, hassle and worry all chip away at that version of self. After all, it’s fucking hard work to be open, energetic and kind all the time, to take risks and encourage others, to laugh even when knackered, cold and wet.
Of all the people I have been lucky enough to meet, Jonathan had the most good days. He had an incredible capacity to be at his best, regardless of any external or internal circumstance. Whip smart and charming, through sheer force of will JJ consistently won the battle to energise those around him rather than need energy from them, to look for the hard positive over the easy negative, to be the one saying "Why not?” rather than "Why?"
Without fail JJ would apply logic and intelligence to matters at hand while injecting his surroundings with humour, playfulness and warmth. Funny, gregarious and intense; my mentor, business partner, accomplice and friend; Jonathan died on Saturday 15th June whilst swimming off the South Devon coast.
Professionally JJ turned his intellect to many facets of the ongoing digital revolution, passionately assembling a unique depth of knowledge on all things internet, from mapping to mobile, search to social, data to health. Building on an existing fascination with the mathematics of complex systems his viewpoints were filtered through a rare combination of both left and right brain thinking, frequently cutting through the clutter of accepted wisdom or expertly navigating personal politics to identify the heart of an issue or trend.
A wonderful communicator, his solutions and opinions were always delivered accompanied by gags, some of which you’d have to groan at while you laughed. What do you expect from a man who took the term “Dad Gag” as a compliment? At least I was spared his carry-on style flirting.
When I was at my worst he saw the possibility of my best, investing time, energy and belief in me that I will now never be able to repay. These thanks come too late to be heard, but here they are. The companies he co-founded support the happy lives and secure futures of many people and have touched the lives of many more, something we can all be proud of him for.
He leaves behind a huge hole for all those who knew and loved him, most achingly for his family and two sons Janus and Finn. I hope to meet them one day in happier times - he talked of them often, his stories always laced with pride, enjoyment and love.
In the summer of 2009 the latest of our discussions debating all things digital (via everything else) turned to the recent trend of Twitter users adding a green overlay to their profile pictures in order to demonstrate their support for Democracy in Iran.
JJ was immediately enthused about the possibility of making this process easier for those wishing to show their support in this way but in typical style he immediately wanted to expand the concept to include the ability to offer this type of function to anyone with a cause to promote.
It was late in the evening after an intense day of programming other projects and I was dog tired. While excited about the opportunity to build something we both felt could surf a particular confluence of digital and real-world moments, I tried to protest the idea of firing up a new system from scratch and working through the night to get it out there.
With a customary grin on his face and twinkle in his eye JJ not so gently reminded me that if we didn’t build it then someone else would, and that I’d regret it. Feeding off his energy and reacting exactly as he intended to his chiding the final straw to the camel’s back of my protests came when he exclaimed, “I’ll pour the gins and we can get started!”
17 hours later the first version of Twibbon was live. The site has now been visited by over 21 million different people from 240 countries, with 7 million of them using it over 14 million times to express their support for over 300,000 different causes. It’s impossible to know just how many people globally have now seen one or heard of them, but it’s in the hundreds of millions.
Twibbon is only one of literally hundreds of projects he inspired, created, conceived, advised, supported or designed. A creative scientist, he loved a good data visualisation; the intersection of art with data. If you are ever find yourself looking out of an airplane window at the cars, houses and homes below, take a moment to imagine a small dot glowing on the earth below whereever a person has seen, heard or interacted with something that owes it's existence to him.
The chances are regardless of where you are on earth those dots would be both visible and frequent, I think he’d like that.
Bob Thomson, co-founder Storm Ideas and Twibbon.com