Blogging Retro 2018

What happened?


I’ve been meaning to sit down and think about the detail of my writing and try and work out a few things so that I can think a bit more about how I take my blogging forward in 2019.

Then I saw that Dan had done a retro and thought, yep, that’s totally what I should do as a starter for 10.

In an ideal world I would have done a retro after every series but I haven’t, which means this is quite long, but hopefully some people will find it useful.

So in this blog you’ll find:

  • some publishing stats
  • some weeknotes stats
  • some other stats
  • some thoughts about those things
  • some thoughts about what I do next year

Publishing stats

Total blogs published in 2018: 60 (61 if you include this one, which I’m not)

If you’d have told me in January that I’d publish 60 blogs in 2018 I would have laughed at you, so hard, this is waaaaay more than I thought I could achieve.

That’s funny.

It’s a solid 5 per month average which I’m proud of, though it’s probably slightly skewed by a flurry of One Team Gov blogs in the run up to #OneTeamGovGlobal in July and bolstered in no small way by Inspirations monthly blogs.

Total #weeknotes published: 34

I published 34 weeknotes across 3 series. S03 was 11 episodes, SO4 was 14 episodes and SO5 was nine episodes.

Total Inspirations blogs published: 9

My inspirations blogs are where I keep a visual record of design, illustration and art things I’ve seen. I started it in 2017.

View at

I kept up the momentum on these for a long time before losing it a bit towards the end of the year. They are actually deceptively hard work to keep track of your sources and make sure you attribute/link things to the right people — it became a bit of a pain.

Also, in truth, these get next to no readership, there are probably much better platforms to share this kind of thing, Medium isn’t really the place but they’re a bit of light relief for me and break up my weeknoting.

I may try and move these elsewhere in the new year because I enjoy documenting things in this way and I’ve started to get a much better idea of my aesthetic leanings as a result.

Total One Team Gov blogs: 9

I published nine blogs on behalf of One Team Gov. I didn’t write them all, but I was able to quickly get things published so that we could get news out.

Happy globe face.

Because I know Medium I was able to make them readable, look nice and good for social sharing.

I also helped to pull together ideas, or to commission and sub-edit posts, including a number of #MyOneTeamGov posts (these have trailed off after the event which is a shame, I would like to see them revived because I am super nosy and love reading about other people).

I provided feedback on many more posts than I published and it’s actually this work that I’ve found most rewarding because I’ve been able to help promote other people’s thoughts and make sure their words shine.

There are lots of blogs out there with a “Thanks to Sam” message at the bottom, but I have no idea how many. Perhaps that’s something I should track because it’s probably a better indicator of the impact of writing.

Other blogs: 8

Paul Rudd approves.

I’ve written a number of misc. blogs and these are probably the most interesting because they stand alone whereas weeknotes are like a running soap opera (minus the drama?).

I’d like to do more of this writing next year because producing something that others find useful is totally my bag.

These posts also typically get the most shares and hits because they’re the most transferable, and I can’t expect people to root through my weeknotes and find a detail that would help them.

Some of the things I’ve written about include:

I would have liked to have taken part in #NaBloPoMo because I think this would have forced me to think and experiment more with my writing and I could possibly have come up with more of this kind of blog as a result, so hopefully next year I can do that.

Weeknotes stats

A year is really a bit much to do a real retro for so I’m breaking things down by series and averaging out to give a quicker view. I’m also using the Medium stats for reads over views because even though the view figure is much higher, that might be repeated visits over time.

Series 3 weeknotes got a mean average of 37.5 readers. The most popular was S3 Ep07 which had 56 readers.

My most popular weeknote was the one I wrote following the first week in my new team at GDS. There’s something to be noted here about “The GDS effect” which I’ll talk more about later.

I have no idea what I’m doing.

Series 4 weeknotes got a mean average of 68.3 readers. The most popular was S4 Ep12 which had 80 readers.

This is quite a staggering (almost)doubling which I attribute to publishing lots around One Team Gov Global when I was writing this series. During this time I also wrote a blog about sketchnoting which was very popular and may have increased helped.

An ironically included gif to break up lots of words that says: “People care what I think! I have a prestigious blog, sir!”

Series 5 weeknotes got a mean average of 50.3 readers. The most popular was S5 Ep2 which had 86 readers.

So my average came down but not all the way down, which I attribute by just having amassed a ton of blogs by this point which is bound to have given me more readers. Also, my primary way of disseminating blogs has been via twitter, and my twitter followers have grown to ludicrous proportions this year which means I’m more likely to have new people stop by.

Some other stats

The most popular blog I published by far has been this one:

View at

Which has had a massive 353 reads so far. It’s essentially a blog roll and required very little work to produce but was really useful for people in the run up to the event in finding lots of detail all in one place.

I have a sneaking suspicion that creating blog rolls for this and also of all the blogs people wrote up after the event has also contributed to my increasing readership over the year as people search for things online.

I wrote two blogs, one about sketchnoting and one about weeknotes structures, which (to date) have had just over 100 reads each.

View at

These blogs were both in direct response to people asking me to do things. So I guess this is a request for people to commission more things from me!

The sketchnoting blog also lead to a couple of direct conversations with people and to working with Kim to host a session at One Team Gov Global which was totally outside of my comfort zone — I’d like to do more things outside of my comfort zone.

Kim and I at One Team Gov Global

But the most popular blog was This is how I work. A blog about myself which felt really self-indulgent at the time but was timely enough to hit a blog zeitgeist. It also shows that people are as nosy as I am. This has had 135 reads to date.

View at

Alongside all this I’ve had three different job roles this year, moving from Cabinet Office, to GDS and then on to MHCLG.

I noticed a distinct increase in my Twitter followers and I’m attributing this in some part to joining GDS and that being well understood by the kinds of digital-leaning people using Twitter. I also added @GDSTeam and One Team Gov to my Twitter bio, which I learned afterwards is a nifty search trick.

The hand signal for agree (allegedly)

Did the increase in Twitter follows increase my Medium reads or visa versa?

I don’t know, but I’d like to think that having some “proper” content behind my tweets has encouraged people to follow me because I might say something interesting or publish something worth reading.

I’ve also been grateful that there have been a couple of times when I’ve been able to point to weeknotes that have explained my thinking in more detail when things are being discussed on Twitter, which sometimes doesn’t have the space to really explore thoughts in a useful way, I’m grateful that I have this space to show my working.

Lisa Simpson saying “There are gonna be a lot of heated blogs on this topic”

So what next for 2019?

I’d like to replicate a similar number of blogs but to be realistic I’m aiming for 45 posts over the year. This is equivalent to the number of weeknotes and “other” things I posted added together (removing Inspirations and One Team Gov blogs).

I’d like to increase the number of “useful” blogs I write, pulling some of the themes out of weeknotes and expanding on them. I’m going to aim for 10 of these in the year but ideally I’d like to try for 1 per month. This may have to mean dropping one weeknote in three, or something.

I’d also like to get organised ahead of #NaBloPoMo to see if I can manage it.

I’d like to write more collaborative blogs and I’d like to offer more support to people who want to blog. I want to track these things somehow so that I can show how I’m adding value outside of my general remit, but I’m not sure how to do that yet.

Stop collaborate and listen

Finally I’d really like to do some video or podcast stuff next year, but I haven’t been able to figure out how I might do that yet.

Hope this was interesting or useful to some weeknoters or others out there. Thanks for reading!

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