Happy Birthday to this Website
I'm back from holiday and on the perfect day for restarting content on this website. I've managed to avoid writing meta posts like this one up until now; I don't think anyone other than myself enjoys frequent updates about the behind the scenes of the site. But it has been exactly one year since I posted the website teaser trailer and launched all the behind the scenes workings. It had taken me about a week to get everything together, research different hosts and domain purchasers, video editors and so on.
In the early days I posted every day, but by Christmas that had proved to be too much and I've dropped to only doing the weekdays. With a week off at Christmas and around two weeks off this summer I've managed to make 272 articles and videos on the main page. The quickest of these were usually the puzzle articles which I could get done within a free at work (an hour), but many took hours of research or image manipulation. But it has been good for me; a year of a self imposed deadlines which have forced me to keep learning. I have come to respect that going through the process of learning something well enough to write an article about it let's you retain information better.
I thought on this occasion I would delve into some of the stats which I can see from behind the scenes of this site. So, although the number of articles and videos on the main page is 272, I'm going to include the Cryptic Crosswords (9), Challenge Pages (6) and Hidden Pages from Challenge II (9). All in all we are up to 296.
In the last year there have been around 24,000 page views, of which 48% come from typing in the web address directly. God knows how many were me. Google provides 43% of the traffic (this goes up to 44% if you include the hits from whoever those odd folks are that use Bing, Yahoo, Duckduckgo and Ecosia) and the rest come from social media platforms and people linking it in forums. These last two categories are increasingly from people I don't know.
Of the articles that were the most successful, they were sometime surprises for me. While things like the very early on M&M Computer Video and the high point of the year: Challenge II were some of the highest page count drivers as I thought they would be, but other articles which I thought were interesting I have realised that I branded incorrectly. I've learned a lot about this over the year. Click baity titles like The Way You Play Monopoly is Wrong have done much better than they should, but I'm unwilling to make my website into Buzzfeed; after all, I'm only competing with my self. Very few people click on generic maths-y sort of titles (despite that being the modus operandi of this website), but pictures of me or of Mu always inflate the numbers.
The surprises to me were the bizarre success of the GCHQ Puzzle Book Solutions (Part I here) which account for about a quarter of the total page views of the website. Even 7 months on it still accounts for over 10% of my traffic. This was the first time that I'd had a significant amount of traffic from the internet in general rather than my friends and students. Many of them came for the solution and became regular readers and I occasionally get emails telling me so. Moving forward in this next year I aim to do more promotion outside of my circles. Tentative steps into Reddit have been promising. The most surprising hit has been my article on The Mongolian Navy (notable because Mongolia doesn't have a coastline) which has had over a thousand hits due to a link on a French Forum that I don't understand but looks like a cerebral message board. This would be in the bottom half of my list of which articles I would predict would do well.
As someone who was never left the structure of having a school year (school, college, uni, teaching, all without a gap) my life runs on a September to September model. This period during the summer holidays is always used for self reflection, in a way that I suppose most people do on January 1st. Last year I decided to start this website. I wanted to create something, rather than just go and do my job each day, although I didn't really know what form it would take. I was pretty sure that I'd run out of things to talk about after a few months, but it has forced me to either reconstitute some previous knowledge into something presentable or learn something new every day.
It has been a wild ride and I very much plan to continue. However I have new directions that I want to take this enterprise in. There are a couple of irons in the fire and while some of redesign may not work, I want to grow this venture rather than let it stagnate which I'm sure it would if I just try to do the same thing forever. More on this to follow, watch this space!