diamond geezer

 Saturday, February 27, 2016

During February 2003 on diamond geezer I kept myself busy by counting things. Ten different counts, to be precise, in a none-too thrilling daily feature called The Count. My 28-day tally chart may have been deathly dull to the rest of you, but I've continued to count those categories again, every single February since, purely to keep tabs on how my life is changing. Thirteen years later, I can confirm it's changed quite a bit, and yet not changed too. Below are my counts for February 2016 (also available in graphical form via Daytum), accompanied by the previous statistics and some deep, meaningful pondering.
Yes, I know February's not over yet, so all the figures below are based on best estimates for the final 48 hours. But don't worry, I'll come back and update the 2016 data as the next couple of days play out, before settling on the finalised figures at the end of the 28th. And please note, The Count always lasts for precisely four weeks, so in leap years February 29th isn't included.

Count 1 (Blog visitors): It's been another good month for people turning up to read what I've written. Indeed it's been the busiest February ever, a proper record, topping sixty thousand visitors for the first time. I'm averaging just over two thousand visitors a day, which is as good as it's ever got, so I can't complain. It amazes me sometimes that anyone comes back when there's the risk of reading about sightseeing in King's Lynn or another essay on my local bus stop, which is hardly "must read" subject material for the average person in the street. I continue to wonder whether this blog is evolving into a travelogue about increasingly obscure parts of London and beyond, or is over-dependent on transport-related topics. But I try to provide you with a varied diet where possible, and this month somehow I've hit a rich seam of topics with broader appeal that's fed in folk from elsewhere. There's still demand out there for original subject matter, like a report from inside a mosque or a moan about plastic bags, rather than endless recycled press releases. But it's not all high octane stuff here, not by a long chalk, as several bus rides round the backwaters of outer London confirmed. As one of my regular two thousand, I assume you either keep coming back for the variety, or can put up with the personally-irrelevant stuff inbetween.
Total number of visits to this webpage in February 2016: 60609

2003-2016 review: Thirteen years ago, when this blog was mere months old, I attracted one double-decker busful of readers a day. That leapt up a bit in the following years, with atypical peaks in February 2006 and 2008 skewed by external linkage. Numbers have bobbed around a bit since, but almost always upwards, and this February's total is the equivalent of three crowded tube trains of readers daily. That's still wholly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and peanuts compared to what certain blogs get, but most gratifying all the same. Accurate visitor numbers remain incredibly difficult to ascertain, given the number of folk reading via RSS feeds or whatever. But it's quality of readership rather than quantity which most makes me smile, so thank you!
(2003: 2141) (2004: 6917) (2005: 9636) (2006: 42277) (2007: 23082) (2008: 32006) (2009: 26048) (2010: 30264) (2011: 37200) (2012:40018) (2013: 55369) (2014: 51727) (2015: 58380)

Count 2 (Blog comments): There's nothing quite so unpredictable as comments. Some days this blog attracts hardly any, while other days the discussion catches fire and you add dozens. Interestingly this month there's been rather more of the latter than the former, resulting in an extra-chatty February. Only twice has a day gone by with comments in single figures, while we've topped 30 seven times and 50 once. I've even avoided deliberately seeking feedback, because that can distort the figures, not that it takes much to set some of you off. I only have to mention the word 'train' and some of you are straight in there with a pertinent query, a nostalgic nod, some schoolboy grandstanding or a bit of insider know-how. Altogether this February you've fired nearly 700 comments my way, which represents an average of 24 comments per day, which is a fantastic level of engagement. Most blogs have commenting zones resembling tumbleweed, but somehow you lot always seem to carry on talking. Often you're taking me to task or telling me something's wrong, usually politely, but that's good because I'd rather my posts were correct than riddled with errors. Sometimes you only join in when I discuss something generic (like TV or money), but even when I get ridiculously place-specific a number of you with local connections add depth by chipping in. Somehow a community has evolved here, where regular and occasional commenters co-exist, and that's not an easy thing to create. Thanks everyone, because it's you that helps to bring this page to life.
Total number of comments on this webpage in February 2016: 687

2003-2016 review: What continues to surprise me most about the last decade of diamond geezer comments is how similar the monthly totals are. They bob up and down a bit, and the first year was understandably low, but since then the average has been unexpectedly consistent - between 400 and 600 comments a month. I might have expected numbers to fall, because commenting's a very old-school blogging thing, peaking in the "Golden Age" of 2005-2008. People don't have time to comment on blogs any more, not now there's a wealth of online content to distract them. They do all their commenting on Twitter or Facebook, because that's instant, but any debate is usually transitory and rapidly ebbs away. To still have record numbers of readers commenting in 2016 is a bit of a triumph, and against all the odds. Alternatively I might have expected numbers to rise, because I have far more readers now and they ought to talk more than they do. A dozen years ago I received one comment per 20 readers, whereas now it's more like one comment per 100, and that's a far less impressive engagement rate. But at least what comment remains is smart, relevant, insightful and (mostly) non-stalky. I'm delighted, obviously.
(2003: 166) (2004: 332) (2005: 463) (2006: 648) (2007: 566) (2008: 504) (2009: 472) (2010: 396) (2011: 558) (2012: 440) (2013: 546) (2014: 477) (2015: 625)

Count 3 (Blog content): I continue to write too much. 2016 isn't quite my most prolific February yet, I'm half a dozen paragraphs short, but my blog output still averages over 1000 words a day. I always mean to keep things succinct, but rarely manage. There's usually something extra I want to add, another fact to flesh out, another sentence to squeeze in, and before I know where I am I've written another essay. One thousand words a day is not to be sniffed at - it's the equivalent of writing five novels a year, except I never end up with a book to show for it. And I write fairly slowly too, the words don't usually pour freely, not least because there are facts to check and links to add even after I'm done. I know you'd still read this blog if I wrote less, but something keeps driving me to write a bit more, and then a bit more again, and I haven't learnt my lesson yet. Tl;dr.
Total number of words in diamond geezer in February 2016: 31192

2003-2016 review: I kept my output pretty much in check until 2008, writing approximately 500-600 words each day. This was manageable, even allowed me a social life as necessary, and you probably didn't think any the worse of me. But then the slow climb began. A few more words each day, a lot more words each month, it all eventually added up. I've now doubled the number of words I write compared to a decade ago, which means you lot have to invest twice as long to read it. Compare for example my series about walking the Bakerloo line from 2006 (500-600 words) with a similar series (Crossrail) from 2016 (1000-1200 words). You might be loving the outcome, because you get more to read. But I'm spending more of my time writing, and less of my time "having a life", and that's not really how things should be. Don't worry, I still haven't broken yet.
(2003: 14392) (2004: 16214) (2005: 16016) (2006: 15817) (2007: 17102) (2008: 17606) (2009: 20602) (2010: 21595) (2011: 23120) (2012: 25698) (2013: 29410) (2014: 32283) (2015: 30362)

Count 4 (Sleep): Daytum provides a fascinating way to visualise my February as a purplish pie chart (reproduced here). Up until 2014 I depicted my work/life balance in four sectors, but last year I thought I'd simplify things and just count up how much I sleep. This is pertinent, because my bedtime is usually directly related to how late I stay up writing you stuff, and often this creeps past midnight, I won't say specifically how far, but if I'm going to be publishing something at 7am sharp it is of course crucial that I get to the end of my final paragraph before turning in for the night. So if you look at my pie chart you'll see I slept for only a quarter of my February. That's six hours a day, on average, which I suspect may be less than you survive on. What's more this average hides weeknights where I sleep for barely five hours, balanced out by weekends where I sometimes nod off for eight. And yet I can still bounce through a day at work after a four-and-a-bit-er sufficiently refreshed without needing coffee or having to gulp down a Red Bull to kickstart my morning. And this is brilliant because less sleep leaves me more time to do everything else in my life. Eighteen hours a day is plenty, even with work and travel taken out, to do the eating, blogging, socialising, visiting, tellying, slobbing, that sort of thing. If I needed to sleep more, you wouldn't get fresh bloggage in the morning on a regular basis, I can assure you of that.
Total number of hours spent sleeping in February 2016: 174 (25%)
(2011: 172) (2012: 167) (2013: 163) (2014: 165) (2015: 169)

Ongoing figures for February 2016

(to be continued tomorrow)

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