Statistics about OpenBenches

For the last year-and-a-bit, Liz and I have been running OpenBenches.org. An open data website dedicated to memorial benches.

Here are some rough and ready numbers about how it has gone so far.

9,870 Benches

At the time of writing, we’re a little shy of 10,000 benches. As you can see, we have photos from all around the world.

Map of the world. Markers mostly in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and America.

9,000 UK Benches

The majority of our benches are in the UK. Memorial benches seems like a peculiarly Anglosphere habit. I’ve spoken to people from all sorts of different countries, and they really are rare outside the English-speaking world.

UK map covered in thousands of markers.

110 Registered Users

That’s over a hundred people signing in with Twitter. We’ve recently added Auth0 support, so people can sign in with Facebook and GitHub.

We also added a leaderboard so that our mate Jenny could see how many photos she added in Edinburgh.

A leaderboard. Jenny is in 4th position.

We still have lots of anonymous users.

21,840 Photographs

Most benches have two photos – one of the inscription, and then another of either the whole bench or a view from the bench.

We also have panoramic shots like this:

66GB of Photos

All that media is pretty weighty. Modern camera phones take high-res photos, and a typical shot is around 4MB.

At the moment, our hosting provider is holding up. Huge shout out to Krystal Hosting – use discount code EDENT for £5 off.

I am looking at using Cloudinary to speed up resizing and delivery. But at close to $100 a month, that’s too much for a small hobby project.

Hundreds of Moo Cards


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261 Commits, and 8 GitHub contributors

The whole site is open source on GitHub – and it has been lovely using the issues tab to discuss where the site should go next.

Lots of Fun

But, most importantly, it has been a lot of fun. It’s wonderful seeing people from around the planet contributing. Thank you to everyone who has submitted a bench, shared our links, or generally been supportive of this daft little endeavour.

Here are some of the benches which made us smile:

Higgins Greenhalgh 1986 - 2000 We hadn't the heart to tell him he was a dog.

In Loving Memory of Carol Nelmes
June 1960 - March 2016
She spent countless happy hours here with
our dogs, Harry, Molly, Ollie and Ellie.
Her smiles and laughter will never be forgotten.
As she used to sing 'Always look on the bright side of life.'
Her husband, Tim.

In Memoriam In fond memory of Miles Kington, who hated this spot, because there was never anywhere to sit down and enjoy it from. Miles Kington, humorist. 1941-2008

Memorial to the unknown husband Often imagined. Much desired. Never found

It was on this bench in 2007 that the notorious artist Tracey Emin surrendered all her art rebel credibility when she decided to become a member of the Royal Academy of Arts

“A good spot for a fine pint.” As enjoyed by Edward (Steve) Gunningham. Who would have enjoyed the view, were it not for that tree!

If I take one more step it will be the furthest away from home I've ever been  Samwise Gamgee  Proudly provided by Rover Tours Group

If you turn some species of shark upside down they will go into a trance-like state called tonic immobility lasting approximately fifteen minutes.

And, finally, Liz and her mum in New Zealand – sat on the bench dedicated to Liz’s grandparents.
In loving memory Laura & David LAPSLEY.

Twitter suspended our account and wiped all our followers!

On Saturday evening, I was disturbed to discover that our OpenBenches Twitter Account had been suspended!

To be clear, OpenBenches posts photos of benches. That’s it. No porn, no spam, no encouraging malicious behaviour. It’s just pictures like this.

I went to appeal the suspension, I quickly got back an automated reply denying the appeal.

Email from Twitter "Hello, Your account has been suspended due to multiple or repeat violations of the Twitter Rules: https://twitter.com/rules. Please do not respond to this email as replies and new appeals for this account will not be monitored. Thanks, Twitter Support"

This was baffling! The account is connected to a valid email address and working mobile phone number. There were no added apps which could have been used for spamming. Nothing that broke the rules.

I kicked up a bit of a stink on Twitter – and I’m grateful that so many people Tweeted their support. I dropped an email to a few people I know at Twitter, but it is a Bank Holiday weekend, so I didn’t expect any of them to answer.

I filed another appeal the next day, which was also swiftly denied. But, hey, it’s still a long weekend.

And then, without warning, I got this:

Hello,  We've unsuspended your account; sorry for the inconvenience. Please note that it may take an hour or so for your follower and following numbers to return to normal.  Twitter has automated systems that find and remove multiple automated spam accounts in bulk. Unfortunately, it looks like your account got caught up in one of these spam groups by mistake.  Please do not respond to this email as replies will not be monitored.   Thanks,  Twitter Support

I’ve no idea whether a human reviewed it. We were now free from Twitter jail! But it came with a cost. Despite the promises, the followers never returned.

We only had a few hundred, not bad for a parochial project on the psychogeography of memorials, but now we had zero.

So, if you were following us – please follow us again! If you weren’t, now’s a good time to follow us on Twitter! Or, submit a photo of a bench using your mobile phone at https://OpenBenches.org.


Yes, I know. We should redecentralize and put our content on Mastodon, or the BlockChain, or some other convoluted platform which has no users. But that’s just not practical for a small project. We have limited technical resources and have to go to where the people are.

We have a website, and lots of Open Data – if you want to help syndicate us to multiple platforms, please file a pull request!

OpenBenches on BBC Radio!

A few weeks ago, we were interviewed by BBC Radio Orkey! They did a lovely feature on OpenBenches and some of the benches on their gorgeous island.

You can listen to the interview on Soundcloud – starting at 11 minutes in.

6 weeks – nearly 2,000 benches!

Well, that went a little better than expected 🙂

We started off with a bare-bones alpha, scrappy logo, and some imported Open Data. We’ve now got nearly 2,000 benches added from all over the world.

You can check out the code on GitHub, but here’s a quick summary of the changes.

  • New logo and theme.
  • Better Unicode support – a surprising number of benches have emoji.
  • Location finding – see benches near you.
  • Vastly improved upload experience – preview images before they’re sent & check for metadata.
  • More Schema.org metadata