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Why I set up this website


11 February 2012

"Reflections" is a newsletter for former PwC partners and directors. I was recently asked to supply a short article about my website, which appeared in the Winter 2012 edition. It is reproduced below.

Forty years ago, when photocopiers and spirit duplicators were still new, I never imagined that one day I would be able to sit at my desk, type something, and make it available for half the planet to read. That is what the worldwide web makes possible.

A few years ago, a friend recommended registering the URL before someone else took it. It was great advice, and at about £10 per year involved minimal cost. I had no time to run a website while at PwC, but always planned to do so after retiring, to share my thoughts and to pull together writings otherwise scattered on various blog sites.

While IT literate, I had no experience of website technology. However I did not want to pay anyone else, or to become dependent on others’ free help. Instead I read some books, bought some website creation software (Adobe Dreamweaver), signed up with a webhosting company ( and got going. The downside is that my site is limited by my technical abilities; the upside is that I can make changes quickly and also it is very cheap. All in, my site costs me less than £200 pa.

Everyone with computer access can publish to the web, but the challenge is to be read.

Everyone with computer access can publish to the web, but the challenge is to be read. How do you get readers? One policy decision was to not spend any money on advertising; I am too mean! However I have always believed Ralph Waldo Emerson’s saying “If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.” My experience to date has partially borne this out.

Most of us start web searches with Google, and 75% of my visitors come from Google searches. Quite quickly I was gratified to find my site ranking very high on some Google searches. Checking today, I found the following results:

Search words

Google ranking

Reflections visiting Auschwitz


AAOIFI [An abbreviation for Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions]


Review Altneuland


Joining political party


Closeness Christianity Judaism


I attribute this success to two reasons. Firstly, I have followed Google’s published guidance on making your website easy for their robots to search and index. Secondly I write about slightly obscure subjects; if I wrote about Britney Spears I would not expect the same Google rankings!

Using Google Analytics (a free service from Google for smaller websites) I can track my readership. By the end of 2010 I was getting about 1,000 visits a month, so set myself the goal of 10,000 visits per month by the end of 2011. In the first quarter, I was on track, mainly because my piece on “The Alternative Vote Referendum: why I will vote YES” received hundreds of readers. Since then, progress has slowed but I consistently get about 2,000-2,500 visits per month.

In true PwC spirit, I want each piece I write to be the best that I can. Also, everything on the site is written by me.

The most consistently popular page is “Playing Russian roulette with my baby's health: the health risks of marrying one's first cousin.” This starts with a fable asking how much I would want to be paid to shoot a revolver at my new baby if there were 3 live bullets and 97 blanks. It then goes on to explain the scientific knowledge about the risks, with links to leading scientific papers as I did not want anyone to be able to quibble about the facts.

Other consistently popular pages are “Triangulating the Abrahamic faiths – measuring the closeness of Judaism, Christianity and Islam” which concludes that Islam and Judaism are much closer to each other than either is to Christianity, and “The benefits and costs of joining a political party.” There is also a fair amount of material on Islamic finance.

Overall the website is achieving the goal of allowing me to share my views, and is steadily expanding my personal connections. For example I recently did a talk for the Rotary Club of Roding on how they could foster community cohesion because a solicitor I had never met until I did the talk is planning a film about Theodor Herzl. As part of his research, he Googled for reviews of Herzl’s books “The Jewish State” and “Altneuland”, found my website due to its rankings, was struck by what I am doing to develop mutual understanding, and used the “Contact me” page of my website to get in touch.


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