Gwulo in 2018 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Gwulo in 2018

Time for the annual round-up of the last year, and a look at the plans for the year ahead.


2017 in numbers


The number of people reading Gwulo grew significantly over the last year.

Here are the website figures first, with the number of people visiting the website rising 29% from 148,000 to 191,000:

     Website traffic (thousands) 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
  Visitors 317 253 230 226 263  250 200 157
  Unique visitors 191 148 138 131 155  150 113 88
  Pageviews 1,647 1,292 1,184 1,186 1,351  1,149 919 872

The growth in website traffic to new highs means at last we've moved on from my "shoot self in foot" mistake of 2014. (I accidentally blocked the Gwulo website from appearing in Google's search results, and it has taken several years to recover from that.)

The number of subscribers has also jumped, from 3,400 to 4,500:

     Newsletter Subscribers


2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
  Email subscriptions 2,067 1,466 1,211 1,030 833  603 353 180
  Facebook 'like / follow' 2,344 1,849 1,629 965 705  463 273  
  Twitter followers 153 114 100 82 58  43 33  
  RSS subscriptions [1]     48 81 31  82 53  
  Total 4,564 3,420 2,988 2,158 1,627  1,191 712 180
  Wartime Diaries subscribers                
  76 years ago 108              
  75 years ago 141 86            
  74 years ago 144 109 79          
  73 years ago 131 108 91 100        
  72 years ago 143 115 89 97 109      
  71 years ago [2]   139 85 88 88 81    
  70 years ago [2]     94 42 44 37    
  Total [3] 412 380 438 327 241 118    

[1]. Since switching from Feedburner to MailChimp, we have no way to monitor the number of RSS subscriptions.
[2]. These diary cycles had already finished, so I don't count their subscribers this year.
[3]. The Total is less than the sum of the rows because many subscribers are subscribed to more than one year's Wartime Diaries, but I only count them once in the Total.

If you've joined us over the last year, welcome to Gwulo!


People visit Gwulo for the interesting content, and that has grown too, passing 30,000 pages:

     Pages on website 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
  Photos 17,740 15,508 11,670 9,401 7,817 6,359 5,725 4,330
  Places 4,290 3,770 3,140 2,867 2,440 2,035 1,623 1,310
  Diary pages 4,630 4,373 3,836 3,243 2,326 1,589    
  People 2,900 2,696 2,425 1,907 1,522 1,000 28  
  Forum topics 1,310 1,159 1,019 923 761 639 525 350
  Stories 430 405 341 312 265 243 213 170
  Total pages 31,300 27,911 22,431 18,653 15,131 11,865 8,114 6,160
  Total comments 35,320 31,861 27,620 24,097 20,883 17,477 14,910 11,370
  Jurors Lists (years) 38 35 33 31 29 27 19 11

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the site.


2017 Review - progress against plans

Last years plans were split into four groups:

1. Ask for help with running costs

The number of patrons supporting Gwulo, and the monthly contribution towards running costs stayed steady:

  2017 2016
Patrons 55 54
Total HKD monthly contribution 2,425 2,440

Thank you to all Gwulo's patrons for your continued support.


2. Talks and a book

I presented talk #4 for the first time in May, and it was well received. Through the year I gave a total of 9 talks and guided walks.

The Gwulo book was published on 4th December, so just over a month ago. Readers have ordered over 600 copies so far, and the feedback has been positive, so I'm really pleased with how that has turned out.


3. Keep the site running smoothly

We haven't had any major disasters this year, and spam stays out of sight. The site ended 2017 running faster than in 2016, helped by a move to a new hosting company, and an upgrade to the underlying PHP it runs on. All is well for now (crosses fingers, touches wood, and clutches lucky rabbit's foot!)

4. Add new features

I planned to add two features this year: area-outlines on Places, and a new "Street" page type. Only the first was added.

I also added a few minor features that weren't in the original plan: move "zoom" to a different screen, add Google search, a new "Places (list)" feature, and SSL / HTTPS security.


2018 Plans

1. Ask for help with running costs

If you'd like to become a patron and support Gwulo, please visit Gwulo's Patreon page to sign up.


2. Talks and a book

I have the first talk booked for March - more details on that later. If you hear of anyone organising an event that might need a speaker or a guided walk, please ask them to contact me:

I will publish a second volume of Old Hong Kong Photos and The Tales They Tell towards the end of the year, and in the meantime I'll work to promote the first volume. If you have business visitors that you'd like to hand a small gift as a reminder of their time in Hong Kong, a copy of the Gwulo book or a print of one of Gwulo's old photos could be just the thing!


3. Keep the site running smoothly

I don't have any plans to change anything in this area, but no doubt there will be something that needs attention during the year.

If you're aware of any bugs or performance issues, please let me know.

4. Add new features

I've got three ideas for 2018:

4.1 Add a new "Street" page type. This is still a good idea. Here's what I wrote about it last year: This will be the seventh type of page, in addition to the Place, Person, etc., that we currently have. I'm cautious about adding a new type of page, as it makes the site more complicated to use and run. But I think a Street page type will be a good addition, that fits in well with the rest of the site. Some of the ways I imagine it working include:

  • We can connect Places to the Street they are on, and then for a Street we can show a list of all the buildings (Places) along it.
  • Following on from that we can automatically generate a list of all the photos that show a Street - similar to how the "Photos along the tram line" pages work.
  • Gather information about the re-numbering of a street over the years, following Herostratus's lead.
  • Record the origin of the Street's name, its date of creation, and its development over the years.
  • Record the Street's route, and show that route on modern maps and scanned copies of old paper maps.

4.2 Authors' tools. I hope these can make the site more 'useful and/or easier to use for the people who add photos and content to Gwulo:

  • Private messaging.
    his will allow one user to send a message to another user in the background. It's good for direct questions that don't need to be made public.
  • Author profile.
    Optional, but where a user can post details about themselves, eg what parts of Hong Kong's history they are interested in.
  • Author summary.
    Show all the content that has been added by a given author. This will be helpful for authors, as I'm often asked for help in finding something an author has posted but cannot find. Readers can also use it when they see an author they like, and want to find more pages by them.

4.3 Tags. Tags are an important but often overlooked part of the site, gathering related pages together. Some ways we can make them better:

  • Combine duplicate tags. 
    I started this clean-up work last year, and will carry on with it this year.
  • Improve the display and editing of tags.
  • Show photos on the Everything tagged "tag name" pages.
  • Display a tag cloud to highlight the most popular tags.


Please leave a comment below if you have any feedback or questions about these plans, or ideas for other improvements. (Including anything you've mentioned before but hasn't been acted on yet!)

Thanks again to everyone who supported Gwulo in 2017. I look forward to seeing where the site takes us in 2018.

Best regards,



Congratulations on the growth in readership! Adding a new street type is definitely a good idea. I wonder if this should be lined up with the official directories of various era, as somethimes names change and have different spellings. Author summary is particularly useful as it can facilitate searching. Private messages can be useful but the flip side is certain discussions may end up being private.

I forgot to mention that I hope to see the Gwulo book translated into Chinese and potentially other languages. There would be a market not only in Hong Kong and Macao but also mainland China and Taiwan.