Gwulo in 2021
It's time for the annual round up of what happened on the Gwulo website in 2020, and a look ahead to some big changes planned for 2021.
1. How did the website grow in 2020?
I'm happy to see there was steady growth throughout the year, plus occasional bursts of new visitors from events like the Apple Daily interview.
In more detail...
A strong community of contributors is essental for a site like to Gwulo to thrive.
Looking at the number of people posting comments to Gwulo, it increased from 413 people in 2019 to 549 in 2020. That's a good sign, showing new contributors joining us to record Hong Kong's history.
Here are the most active commenters in 2020:
The "Year joined" column shows we have a healthy mix of new and long-term contributors, and that same pattern continues on the full list of commenters. It's very valuable that contributors stay with us over many years. There's the obvious benefit that the longer someone contributes to the site, the more we learn from them. Then there's also the fact that every site has a learning curve, and the people who stick around learn how to use it in the most effective way.
Thank you to all of Gwulo's contributors. The simple numbers shown above don't show the many hours spent researching the information that you generously share with Gwulo's readers.
Contributors add new content - text and photos - to the Gwulo website. Sometimes they create a new page, eg uploading a photo or adding a page about a person or a place, and other times they're adding a comment to an existing page.
Gwulo's contributors had a busy year, adding over 5,300 new pages and over 5,800 new comments. (If you'd like a closer look at any of the numbers I mention, you can see the full figures at the bottom of the page.)
We write to be read, and happily the number of readers also increased over the year.
I use Google's analytics to record the number of visitors to the site each year, and it shows a huge jump from 267,000 to 732,000 unique visitors. That is too good to be true - I think Google changed the way they record the number of visitors, as I see a jump to a new level around the start of September 2020. I'll ignore that number for now.
Instead the number of page views looks more reliable. It increased from 2 million in 2020 to 2.6 million in 2021 - still a good increase to see. That's 216 thousand pages viewed each month, or over 7,000 views of Gwulo's pages in every day of 2020.
Just as I hope to see long-term contributors, I also hope visitors subscribe to become long-term readers. The numbers of subscribers have also increased, e.g. we added around 700 new email subscribers over the year.
Gwulo's patrons make a monthly contribution towards the costs of running Gwulo. Thank you all for your generous support.
|Number of patrons||61||51||53||55||54|
|Total HK$ monthly contribution||3,557||3,047||2,545||2,425||2,440|
2. How did last year's plans turn out?
I made a few minor tweaks to the site, but there weren't any significant changes to Gwulo's features during the year.
There was a hiccup when the hosting company's server crashed last March, losing about one day's new content from the site. Other than that the site has behaved itself, and its performance remains good.
Last year I wrote I'd look into upgrading the Drupal software that powers the Gwulo website, as the current version was planned to reach its end-of-life (EOL) in November this year. We've had a reprieve, as the EOL has been pushed back to November 2022, but the work still needs to be done. More on that below.
2.2 Talks and a book
2020 was not a good year for public speaking!
I enjoyed giving a (non-Gwulo) talk at Tai Kwun with May Holdsworth and Christopher Munn in October, as luckily the date coincided with a temporary relaxation of Covid restrictions. But other in-person talks were cancelled, so instead I switched to Zoom to give a couple of online talks, presenting the standard Gwulo fare. One was to the Friends of the RAS HK Branch, and one to the Hong Kong Society, both based in the UK. I was grateful to have the chance to talk to their members, but I hope the next time will be in person, as I find it easier to present with the feedback of an audience I can see and hear.
The only good news about speaking events being cancelled is that as people are stuck at home, it appears to have boosted book sales. Volume 4 of my books was published at the end of the year, and so far it is selling well, often as part of an order for the full set of four books.
I looked into translating Gwulo's books into Chinese and decided it is something I'd like to try, but not in the near future. First I'll concentrate on finishing the English-language series books, as I already have an outline for Volume 5.
Plans for 2021
1. My plans
1.1 Gwulo.com - upgrade
The Gwulo website runs on Drupal, an open-source Content Management System. The version of Drupal we use will become unsupported in November 2022, so we need to upgrade it to the next version before then.
My goal for the upgrade is to preserve as much of the functionality of the current site as possible, so anything we can do now we can continue to do in future. It won't be exactly the same though, as some of the additional features we currently use have not been upgraded to work with the new version of Drupal.
As an example, we link people and places to photos. The upgraded site should also allow that linking as it is an important part of the site, though the way we do it will probably look different.
1.2 Gwulo.com - new features
By the time I've finished the upgrade, my rusty programming skills should be working again, so the next step will be to look at what new features could make the site better.
I'm cautious about adding new features, as they make the site harder to maintain, and can also make it more complicated to use, but i think there are some additions that will be worthwhile. I've made a separate page with my initial thoughts on this. Please click through to 1.2 Gwulo.com - new features for more details, and I hope you'll add comments to that page with your ideas for how to make Gwulo better.
1.3 No talks, book, etc.
While I'm working on the upgrade and the new features, I'll have to give up other activities. So until that work is done I won't be giving any talks, or working on a new book. I still plan to publish a Volume 5, but I don't expect that will happen until 2022.
1.4 Free books for teachers
There is one book project I'd still like to try this year though. I check books before I mail them out, as there always some copies with a mark on a page, a crease, etc. I put them aside as not-for-sale, and now have several boxes of them.
My ideas is to offer them as free copies to teachers who teach Hong Kong history, so they can have the books in their classroom for students to browse through. In return I'll ask the teachers to share a few tips about teaching Hong Kong history.
I'm not sure if it will gather any interest, or be a complete flop, but I'd like to give it a try.
2. Your plans
If I could ask readers for one thing this year, it would be to ask for your help to type up a page of a Juror's List. We've only got five more lists to type up, for the years 1936-40, so I'd love to see that finished this year. We typed up the lists from 1932-35 last year, so it is definitely within reach.
This is heavier going than the usual newsletters, so if you've read this far, thank you!
I look forward to reading everyone's contributions to the site over the year ahead, and to seeing the upgraded site go into action.
2020 in numbers
Visitors to the website:
|Website traffic (thousands)||2020||2019||2018||2017||2016||2015||2014||2013||2012||2011||2010|
(I think Google changed their way of recording the number of visitors in 2020, explaining the dramatic jump in the number of visitors from 2019 to 2020.)
|Facebook 'like / follow'||5,043||3,487||3,060||2,344||1,849||1,629||965||705||463||273|
|RSS subscriptions ||48||81||31||82||53|
|Wartime Diaries subscribers|
|79 years ago||110|
|78 years ago||117||74|
|77 years ago||125||112||56|
|76 years ago||219||165||167||108|
|75 years ago||209||183||148||141||86|
|74 years ago ||199||156||144||109||79|
|73 years ago ||138||131||108||91||100|
|72 years ago ||143||115||89||97||109|
|71 years ago ||139||85||88||88||81|
|70 years ago ||94||42||44||37|
. Since switching from Feedburner to MailChimp, we have no way to monitor the number of RSS subscriptions.
. These diary cycles had already finished, so I don't count their subscribers this year.
.Some people subscribe to more than one year's Wartime Diaries, so the total number of individuals subscribing wll be lower..
|Jurors Lists (years)||55||48||43||38||35||33||31||29||27||19||11|
Number of people adding pages & comments to the website during the year:
|People adding pages||272||215|
|People adding comments||549||413|