Gwulo in 2020 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Gwulo in 2020

We'll soon be into March, so before we get any farther into 2020 let's take a quick look back at how Gwulo did in 2019, then ahead to the plans for this year:



2019 Review

1. How did the website grow in 2019?

You can see the full numbers at the bottom of the page, but I'm very pleased to report that we added over 4,800 pages. ended 2019 with 38,734 pages, including 23,305 photos.

If you look at the Number of pages created in 2019 per user, you'll see that 215 people added pages to the site during the year. I'll ask the top three to stand up and take a bow: Andrew Suddaby, Moddsey, and Klaus. Comments are also valuable additions to the site, so we mustn't forget our commenters either. Two commenters, Grace and wingcli2015, deserve a special mention: they've done the bulk of the work to add type up the five new Jurors Lists added to the site over the year. Thanks to you all for your help to grow Gwulo's record of Hong Kong history.

The audience for all this new information continues to grow as well. In 2019, 3,240 subscribers received the regular Gwulo newsletter, and over 267,000 people visited the website. All those visitors meant the website received over 2 million page views in 2019, the first time we've passed that milestone.


Where are Gwulo's readers?

If we take people who read last week's newsletter about Happy Valley as an example, here are the top five countries:

  1. USA (31.3%)
  2. Hong Kong (28.7%)
  3. UK (18.3%)
  4. Australia (6.7%)
  5. Canada (5.9%)

I was surprised to see USA at the top of the list - I thought that Hong Kong would have been in first place.

Looking at the visitors to the website in 2019, Hong Kong is the clear leader, but USA still beats the UK:

  1. Hong Kong (42.1%)
  2. USA (19%)
  3. UK (11.8%)
  4. Japan (4.4%)
  5. Canada (4.3%)

At the bottom of that list, country number 202 is the Turks & Caicos Islands, with a single visitor to in 2019!


2. How did last year's plans turn out?

2.1 Ask for help with running costs

Gwulo's patrons make a monthly contribution towards the costs of running Gwulo. Thank you all for your generous support.

  2019 2018 2017 2016
Number of patrons 51 53 55 54
Total HK$ monthly contribution 3,047 2,545 2,425 2,440


2.2 Talks and a book

I enjoyed returning to the Royal Asiatic Society (RAS) in Hong Kong and to the Friends of the RASHKB in London to present new talks to their members. I was also pleased to present to the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) for the first time. That talk had over 140 people attend, which is the largest audience to date for a Gwulo talk.

Last year I noted how the second Gwulo book had sold more slowly than the first, so I was a bit nervous about how Volume 3 would sell. Happily it has sold at about the same rate as Volume 2, so although we've lost the novelty value that boosted sales of Volume 1, sales are good enough to keep on with the project.

One positive change this year is that many people bought the set of 3 Volumes over Christmas - probably as gifts - so the earlier books got a boost in sales. Across all three volumes we've sold a total of 2,800 books to date.


2.3 Keep the site running smoothly

There weren't any major disasters during the year, but as the site grows it tends to slow down. Towards the end of the year I spent some time tuning performance so that pages load faster again.


2.4 Add new features

These new features were added in 2019:

  • "People" pages now show the person's siblings.
  • The regular archiving of the Gwulo website is now in operation. I'll write more about this in a future newsletter.
  • A new "Street" page was added, to record streets and paths around Hong Kong. We've created pages for several of the streets in TST and Wanchai, and will continue to add more over time.

It's also good to see more contributors are using their profiles to tell us about their background and interests. This was a feature added in 2018.



Plans for 2020

1. My plans


This year's task is to investigate how to upgrade the software used to run the website.

The website runs on Drupal, an open-source Content Management System. The version 7 of Drupal that we currently use will become unsupported in November 2021, so it's time to plan for the upgrade to the next version.

The new version offers improvements in how it handles photos, and how it supports smartphones and tablets. But it won't all be plain sailing as there are some significant changes and not all the features we currently use are available in the new version. Looking back at the last time I upgraded the site, I don't expect this work will be finished in 2020, but it's time to begin.

I expect this will use up all the time I spend with my "website developer" hat on, so I don't plan to add any new features to the site in 2020.


1.2 Talks and a book

I've had to postpone the three talks I was going to give in the first quarter of this year, due to the measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. I'm hoping the talks will be rescheduled once public venues are available again.

Turning to the books, I have an outline ready for Volume 4. I'll work to have that published at the end of the year. (Volume 3 was published too late to be in the shops in time for Christmas, so this year I'll make an earlier start.)

I'll also investigate whether it makes sense to translate Volume 1 into Chinese. Several of Gwulo's readers and contributors have said they believe there is a market for a Chinese-language version of the Gwulo books, so this would be a test of whether local readers would enjoy (and buy!) them. Some of the things I'll need to look into:

  • how to get a good translation that gets the facts right while keeping the same tone as the original
  • what price the book can sell at and whether it will cover the costs of translation (I've noticed that local-history books in Chinese tend to be priced lower than the current prices of the Gwulo books)
  • how to market the book - I usually market through the Gwulo website but less than 20% of visitors to the website read Chinese, so I can't rely on that


​2. Your plans

Can you help Gwulo in 2020? Here are some ideas:

  • Tell a friend - is there someone you know who'd enjoy the Gwulo website and newsletter? Please let them know, and include a link for them to subscribe to the newsletter:
  • Help with running costs - if Gwulo is as valuable to you as, say, a magazine subscription, please consider becoming a patron of Gwulo. Visit Gwulo's Patreon page for more information and to sign up.
  • Share what you know - if you spot a page where you can add information, please add a comment to it. Or create a page for a Street / Place / Person / Organisation you know about that is part of old Hong Kong. If you've been researching a piece of Hong Kong's history that doesn't fit into any of those categories, go ahead and add a page to the Forum instead.
  • Show us your old Hong Kong photos - you can upload a digital copy of the photo to the Gwulo website, or if you'd like to find a good home for the original photos, I'm always happy to receive old photos of Hong Kong.
  • Lend us your typing skills - even if you can't think of a page or comment to add, as long as you can type you can help. It'll take about 30 minutes of your time to type up a page of an old Hong Kong Jurors List. It's not glamorous work, but I think of it as someone working on the foundations of a new building - the work may go unseen, but the end results are invaluable. If each newsletter subscriber typed up one page, we'd have all the Jurors Lists online and searchable within a few weeks!



That's the end of the 2019 wrap-up / 2020 plans. Next newsletter we'll get back to Hong Kong's history, and as I've just finished a round of bidding on eBay, I'll have some new photos to share in the coming weeks.

Finally, a goal for 2020 that's much more important than anything to do with a website - let's all stay healthy in the year ahead.

Best regards,




2019 in numbers

Visitors to the website:

     Website traffic (thousands) 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
  Visitors 420 400 317 253 230 226 263  250 200 157
  Unique visitors 267 245 191 148 138 131 155  150 113 88
  Pageviews 2,077 1,996 1,647 1,292 1,184 1,186 1,351  1,149 919 872



     Newsletter Subscribers 2019 2018


2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
  Email subscriptions 3,240 2,737 2,067 1,466 1,211 1,030 833  603 353 180
  Facebook 'like / follow' 3,487 3,060 2,344 1,849 1,629 965 705  463 273  
  Twitter followers 282 229 153 114 100 82 58  43 33  
  RSS subscriptions [1]         48 81 31  82 53  
  Total 7,009 6,026 4,564 3,420 2,988 2,158 1,627  1,191 712 180
  Wartime Diaries subscribers                    
  78 years ago 74                  
  77 years ago 112 56                
  76 years ago 165 167 108              
  75 years ago 183 148 141 86            
  74 years ago 199 156 144 109 79          
  73 years ago [2]   138 131 108 91 100        
  72 years ago [2]     143 115 89 97 109      
  71 years ago [2]       139 85 88 88 81    
  70 years ago [2]         94 42 44 37    
  Total [3] 746 620 412 380 438 327 241 118    

[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 people are subscribed to more than one year's Wartime Diaries, but I only count them once in the Total.


Website content:

       2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
  Photos 23,305 19,870 17,740 15,508 11,670 9,401 7,817 6,359 5,725 4,330
  Places 5,029 4,570 4,290 3,770 3,140 2,867 2,440 2,035 1,623 1,310
  Diary pages 4,973 4,690 4,630 4,373 3,836 3,243 2,326 1,589    
  People 3,281 3,120 2,900 2,696 2,425 1,907 1,522 1,000 28  
  Forum topics 1,621 1,460 1,310 1,159 1,019 923 761 639 525 350
  Stories 505 480 430 405 341 312 265 243 213 170
  Streets 20                  
  Total pages 38,734 34,190 31,300 27,911 22,431 18,653 15,131 11,865 8,114 6,160
  Total comments 43,690 38,840 35,320 31,861 27,620 24,097 20,883 17,477 14,910 11,370
  Jurors Lists (years) 48 43 38 35 33 31 29 27 19 11


Number of people adding pages to the website during the year: 

   Number of people 215