To Blog or Not to Blog: What a Difference A Year Makes, 28th January 2017

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‘You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it’s as if they never existed’.  I’ve just finished watching ‘The Monuments Men’ tonight, a film about an Allied group from the Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives program given the task of finding and saving pieces of art and other culturally important items stolen and hidden by the Nazis.  It’s an interesting film to have watched before starting on this post, a real-life tale which echoes our story in some ways.  For we all become less than we once were when separated from our history.

By definition, a ‘monument’ is a statue, building, or other structure erected to commemorate a notable person or event and I guess, in a way, that’s what this blog is really all about.  It’s one thing knowing the full story behind a situation, but quite another thing entirely to be able to ensure the facts are heard by others and remembered in the future.  So, yes, on that front, what a difference a year makes.

The Church High Holocaust Memorial plaque is still in place in the Courtyard, unlike the Centenary Plaque (top of post): the one CH monument that, very sadly, ‘got away from me’.

After a long while spent thinking about the best way to pass on my knowledge, the HighTimes blog finally went live in October 2016.  It wasn’t all plain sailing though.  About 9 posts in, we hit a problem with the hosting company’s back-up service and everything was lost.  Yes, everything.  Absolutely soul destroying and migraine-inducing at the time, but I am made of strong stuff.  If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right and I’m a firm advocate of Robert the Bruce and his spider: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’  So we sourced a new provider and pieced together the original posts from the cache memories of various hand-held devices.  Naively believing in the back-up, I hadn’t kept copies.  An elementary error, I know.  I do my own back-ups now.  Anyway, that’s why the first post is now dated 14th November.  But, on the plus side, starting over again allowed me to change the name to an easier one to remember.

My first advertising ‘flyer’ for the blog, made by Conal Stamp.

As with all new ventures, it took a while for ‘the word to get out.’  I had a small following of dear friends (largely ex-Church High staff) who were very supportive and who I knew, via verbal feedback, were reading my early posts.  However, at the start, I really was just writing for myself – because I felt driven to put things on record.  The interest of guys on site, intrigued by my weekly visits and what I was doing with the photos, gave the blog an unexpected boost.  Conal Stamp created a flyer and emailed to ask if it was okay for Wates to display it in Westwood and in places key around site.

One of Conal’s flyers displaying the blog link was affixed to the workers’ turnstile site entrance, here photographed by Giuseppe.

Since January 27th 2016, we have had Google Analytics on the blog which totally revolutionised my writing experience.  It’s so much more rewarding knowing you’re not just talking to yourself in the dark and endlessly fascinating to be able to track where and when people are reading it.  It’s only a little, niche interest blog, so I wasn’t prepared for just how much it would eventually be read and also in so many far-flung places about the globe.  One year on, I can tell you there hasn’t been one day where either the blog or website hasn’t been looked at by someone, somewhere in the world – which is truly amazing.  I have the NHSG Church High Alumnae Association, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, EWA & WordPress notifications to thank for this, of course, as well as old-fashioned word of mouth.  To celebrate, on January 27th 2017 we took the following screenshots.

Number of sessions, users & page views in the last 365 days.

The time-line on the screenshot above shows the constant activity over the course of the last year and, to save you from having to squint, the following site user information.  Across the 365 days, the whole site (High Times blog & Heritage website) was accessed for 3,651 separate viewing sessions by 1,568 users totting up 9,682 individual page views.  The average number of pages viewed per session was 2.65 and the average session duration was 3.21 minutes.  That’s very pleasing.  The bounce rate of 56.97% indicates nearly an even split between people accessing the site to view one page only and staying on it to view other items.  Again, that’s really great news.  Interestingly, this almost perfectly mirrors the percentage of returning vs new visitors to the site over the course of the year.

Site user acquisition data calculated over the 365 day period.

For any real geeks out there, you can see from the screenshot above that virtually the same percentage again (this time 56.5%) of site traffic has come from people directly accessing the site.  In this data, social media access means Twitter & Facebook.  The referrals are from both LinkedIn and the EWA website (Ellis Williams Architects).

Site analytics of access from the sub-continents of the world.

For me, the most fascinating bit is the geographical location data.  As the above image shows, the site has been accessed from every sub-continent on the planet, bar two.  So if you are ever planning a trip to either Central Africa or Central Asia, please do bear this in mind!

Stats showing countries where the blog was viewed last year.

In total, was accessed from 48 different countries from 27th January 2016 to 27th January 2017, a fact which never ceases to amaze me.  And in case you are wondering, we do filter out all spam referrals on a regular basis so this is pure data.  Who would have thought the Church High/Newcastle High School influence would have become so widely disseminated across the world?

The Top 10 countries for site traffic.

As the table above shows, it won’t surprise anyone that the site is viewed most frequently from within the United Kingdom, nor perhaps also that it is regularly accessed from the USA.  Although intrigued that Austria is third in the list, the presence in the Top 10 of both Russia and Saudi Arabia is not surprising at all, having taught two Russian students at Church High and knowing  two ex-members of the Church High staff are now teaching in the Middle East.

Stats showing the cities from which the blog has been viewed.

Would you care to hazard a guess how many individual towns or cities the site has been viewed in over the course of the last year?  The big blue circle on the data map above clearly shows Newcastle, followed by elsewhere in the UK and then Europe, as the main epicentre of site traffic, which won’t be a surprise to anyone.  The total number of cities across the world is 306, however.  Wow!  So, ‘To blog or not to blog?’ was a no-brainer in the end.  The important background information has now been spread all over the world.  If you’re interested in detail, within the UK, after Newcastle, the blog is most frequently read in London.  Then, in descending order: Sunderland, Birmingham, North Shields, Leeds, Gateshead & Durham.

Yes, what a difference a year makes!  I used to have a lot more time for myself before I became an historical blogger, but in lots of ways my life has become infinitely richer.  I’ve also met and regained contact with lots and lots of really wonderful people.  There is still some lingering sadness, of course, that will never go away, but it does feel like we are all on the way up again now.  The reason for the two week gap between posts once again was because Newcastle High School for Girls has just had its first ISI Inspection.  It ended on Thursday night when we were all fit to drop following hard upon, as it did, the School Production of ‘Westside Story’, our yearly Safe-guarding Audit and our 11+ Entrance Exam Weekend.  And would you believe the lady who inspected my assembly taught for 10 years at The Francis Holland School?  Talk about things coming full circle!

5 thoughts on “To Blog or Not to Blog: What a Difference A Year Makes, 28th January 2017”

  1. Very interesting reading. It certainly confirms my father’s (Rev Ralph Macey) theory that wherever you go you always find a Church High girl! Thank you.

    1. Sorry for the delay in replying to your comment about your father, Judith. I never met him but he is still a part of my particular ‘Church High’ story. On the day I interviewed for my job there, he was leading the Ascension Day assembly in the Senior School Hall. I still remember as if it was yesterday the bell for first lesson going and Jill Mortiboys collecting me from what was then the tiny Waiting Room with white blazer sleeves rolled up to the elbows, full of smiles and apologies for the late start 🙂

    1. The Centenary Plaque survived right until about 3 weeks before the move back. As I said in my post, sadly it was the one that ‘got away from me’. I did my best. With GDST being a non-denominational organisation, I think it may have been the cross shape which caught someone’s eye. As far as Wates were concerned, it was ‘part of the building’ and was ear-marked to remain. Giuseppe didn’t even realise it had gone. When he rang Wates to find out what had happened, I got an apology from Nick, who said he really should have realised and kept it when he was told to take it down. In fairness to him, it was the ‘big push’ in the run up to handover. It still makes me very sad. It’s also hard to believe that could have happened after so many conversations about our heritage.

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