Jacob Kaplan-Moss

Year in Review: 2021

In November 2020, Sumana emailed me:

I came across an old blog post […] where you mentioned wanting to write more. Is this still something you want to do more regularly? Would you be interested in buddy-system-ing about it?

I’d been wanting to do more writing for years. I had tons of ideas, but I was really struggling to get anything past an outline or a partial draft. In the previous decade I was averaging fewer than six posts per year.

So I said “yes”, and we started regular co-working sessions to help each other stay accountable and get our respective writing done.

Early on, we set some goals. My main goal for the year was process-oriented: I just wanted to write, consistently, and publish frequently. I was less concerned with any specific outcome, though I did have a rough idea that I wanted to average about one post per week.

So, how’d 2021 turn out?

chart of posts per year, highlighting 59 posts in 2021 (more than any previous year)

Very, very well. I’m really happy with the work I’ve done this year, both quantity and quality. Having an accountability partner has worked extremely well for me!

Let’s Do The Numbers

  • 59 posts, compared to 57 in the previous decade (2011-2020). I exceeded my rough “one per week” goal, even while taking about 10 weeks off this summer.
  • About 85,000 words, which is 25% of my total output since 2005.
  • A hair over 400,000 unique visitors as measured by Simple Analytics.

Top Articles (by unique visitors):

#CountArticle
1.105kEmbrace the Grind
2.55kSoftware Estimation Is Hard. Do It Anyway.
3.55kWhat is your labor worth? Tech compensation in 2021
4.30kMy Software Estimation Technique
5.25kDesigning Engineering Organizations

Other interesting traffic notes:

  • While none of the individual posts from my Unpacking Interview Questions series cracked the top five, the series as a whole had about 30k visitors, putting the series as a whole into the top five.
  • The only article not from 2021 to crack the top ten was A reading list for new engineering managers (2018), with 18k views.

Where’d people come from?

#%Source
1.18%Hacker News (mostly to just the top 3 articles listed above)
2.5%Google
3.5%Twitter
4.1%Reddit
5.1%LinkedIn

… and then just a big ol' long tail: 70% of my traffic, about 280,000 visitors, come from from small blogs, RSS feeds, newsletters, smaller social networks like Mastodon, Slack/Discord, etc. I find this heartening: my corner of the web, at least, isn’t as centralized as I often fear.

My favs

Finally, here are my favorites – the articles I wrote last year that I’m most proud of:

  1. A Framework for Good Work Sample Tests: Eight Rules for Fair Tests
  2. When you’re a manager, your behavior is under a microscope
  3. How to gather consensus before a big decision
  4. Unpacking Interview Questions: “Tell Me About a Project You Led…”
  5. What is your labor worth? Tech compensation in 2021

The (lack of) overlap between my favs and my top traffic is annoying, but understandable. I don’t feel like I can predict what’ll catch on, and what won’t. Luckily, I’m not writing for money or fame or to maximize traffic; I’m writing to capture things I think are important. So “going viral” is nice when it happens, but not a major motivator.


It’s been a great year for writing; I’m super happy with my output. I’m going to take a week or two off and work on some infrastructure – improving blog tooling, revamping my newsletter, etc., – and then get back to writing. I aim to keep writing at a similar pace, and about similar topics, in 2022. As always, if there’s something you’d like to see me write about, get in touch.

Thanks for reading!