11 min read

New Year, New Newsletter?

It's a new year! Here's some stonelifting news, why the newsletter looks different, and highlights from the winter website updates.

It's January, so it's a bit of a slow month in the stonelifting world – and just in general it seems. Although it has been great seeing athletes preparing for the natural stone events at the Arnold Strongman Classic in March, so I'm excited for things to pick up soon!

Last time, I talked about updating the liftingstones.org website for the new year. I spent a decent amount of time editing, updating, and creating new stuff – so I'm going to highlight what I got up to.

Here's your list of topics, feel free to jump around to the ones that interest you most!

  • Jamie Gorrian's monthly stonelifting tours in 2024
  • Sean Urquhart's We Search Wednesdays
  • Dinnie Stones attempts almost fully booked!
  • New liftingstones.org newsletter
  • liftingstones.org website updates
    • Stonelifting timeline
    • Map updates
    • Home page
    • Other changes
  • Dinnie Stones Enamel pins back on sale

Jamie Gorrian's monthly stonelifting tours

Jamie Gorrian tours around lifting Scotland's stones pretty frequently. He announces a lot of his trips publicly on Instagram with invitations for anyone that wants to tag along.

Recently, Jamie shared a post on Instagram with plans to go on a stonelifting tour every month in 2024. And not just in Scotland! Jamie is also touring Iceland and Wales! He's proposed some dates up until May already. It's a fantastic idea!

Jamie does an incredible job at getting more people involved in stonelifting. On top of these tours, Jamie hosts a series of stonelifting competitions called the McGregor Stonelifting Games. There are five dates this season, with competitions for just about any athlete – including multiple women's and first-timer competitions.

If you're interested in a tour or a competition, just send him a message!

Sean Urquhart's We Search Wednesdays

Instagram is one of the places where most of the stonelifting community hangs out online. But I spend much less time on Instagram than I probably should; I haven't posted anything beyond the odd story on the liftingstones.org account for over a year, and I rarely open the app.

Since the start of the year, Sean Urquhart has been sharing some of his research every Wednesday in a series called We Search Wednesdays – and I've found myself eagerly opening Instagram and refreshing throughout the day solely for his next post!

My favourite part of Sean's Wednesday posts is that he writes about stonelifting in places like Kyrgyzstan, Southern Siberia, and Tibet! For most, these are entirely new cultures and locations for stonelifting. It feels like it's taken a few years, but we've finally broken through the barrier of Europe and the community is recognizing that stonelifting truly is global.

In his latest post in the series, Sean shares his research about stonelifting in China as part of military examinations during the Qing dynasty. And like his other posts so far, it's a fascinating insight into a lesser-known stonelifting culture.

Here are Sean's We Search Wednesday posts so far:

If you aren't already, follow Sean on Instagram and look forward to the next We Search Wednesday!

Dinnie Stones attempts nearly fully booked!

Stevie Shanks released the available dates for this year's Dinnie Stones attempts back in September over on thedinniestones.com.

Despite increasing the number of people per session for the 2024 season, only a handful of spaces are left! As of writing, there are only 10 remaining – most of which are in November. The Dinnie Stones have never been so popular!

If you've been planning to attempt the stones this year, but have been procrastinating on scheduling an appointment, you should do it now to avoid disappointment. Just remember you'll need to submit evidence of a 300kg lift.

New Newsletter

Shifting gears, let's talk about the first thing you may have noticed when you opened your email: it looks different! And it's had a bit of a re-brand – it's now The liftingstones.org Letters!

The logo for the liftingstones.org letter. It features the liftingstones.org stone logo and the word "Letters" in a handwriting font.

With the time I'd normally spend writing an article, I decided to switch to a different platform to handle the liftingstones.org newsletter.

For the last two years, I've been using EmailOctopus to create the newsletter. I was fairly happy with EmailOctopus, and the newsletter wouldn't be where it is without it. But the newsletter has grown; I want to send better emails, and I want an accessible archive of them, too. So the liftingstones.org newsletter now runs on Ghost, which – so far – seems to fit the bill nicely.

What does that mean? For you, it's not a big change. You'll still get the same newsletter and it's hopefully nicer to read. The biggest benefit for you is that each email I send will also be archived and accessible online on the liftingstones.org letters website. You can even read this edition there if you'd like!

An online archive means that people can read past emails before they subscribe. People's inboxes are already full of stuff. And if they're anything like me, they're a little hesitant to subscribe to more emails. Hopefully, the ability to read past issues before committing makes it an easier decision. On top of that, it means I can link to and reference past editions.

For me, this change is a pretty significant improvement to the way I produce an edition of the newsletter. Previously, a newsletter was a bit tedious to write – even if I knew what I was going to write about. And it was mostly because I had to wrestle with the editing tool. Images were fiddly to add, linking to websites was cumbersome, and it was awkward to switch between writing and formatting.

Now, writing is faster and easier. In fact, it's very similar to how I write liftingstones.org's articles since it's basically in a standard article format – these newsletters don't require any fancy layouts. That familiarity in writing makes it a far more pleasant experience, too.

Switching newsletter platforms wasn't an easy decision. EmailOctopus has a fairly generous free tier that I've been taking advantage of for two years, and Ghost isn't free. I was only able to switch thanks to people like you buying the Dinnie Stones enamel pin. Like I've mentioned before, proceeds from every single sale go straight back into the liftingstones.org project to help bring stonelifting to more and more people – so thank you.

There's still plenty of work I need to do to polish the letters website and everything else that goes along with it. So you may notice a couple more changes in the next newsletter. But it's already better than before.

It's not just future newsletters that will get archived on the new website – past newsletters will make their way into the archives too! The liftingstones.org end-of-year review is already ported, so if you missed it, you're free to read it here.

Porting past newsletters is a slow task (I basically have to re-create them), so it'll take a while to archive them all. I'll be porting previous editions periodically, working my way back through every edition going back to January 2022.

Website updates

As promised, here are the highlights of liftingstones.org's winter changes! I've come to really enjoy making updates to the site for the new year – it feels like getting a head-start.

Stonelifting timeline

This update might not strictly count as a winter update, but I've never talked about it until now.

A while back, I came up with the idea of a stonelifting timeline: a list of historically significant dates in chronological order.

You may have seen my first attempt: A slightly ugly thing on the home page before I eventually moved it to its own page out of embarrassment. It was fine I guess – it was functional. Disappointingly, I never added any dates beyond the initial three I created because it was such a pain to do.

So, back in October, I completely rebuilt the stonelifting timeline and made it infinitely easier to add new items.

On the 'before' side, there's a stonelifting timeline featuring large grey cards filled with stone information. At the top of the card, there's a small green circle with a small image of a stone. At the bottom of the card, there's a green line connecting it to the next element. On the 'after' side, the redesigned timeline shows larger images of the stones with text formatted in a more hierarchical fashion. The flow of time is represented by markers inspired by minute and hour markers on a watch.
The stonelifting timeline, before and after

The layout of the information is much more intuitive, and images are no longer limited to a tiny circle. You can even switch between chronological and reverse-chronological order!

Since making those styling changes, I've added new timeline items here and there. The timeline is now at a stage where I think it's interesting. It's obviously still a work in progress, so I'll continue adding new dates every so often. Maybe I'll even make new additions a feature of the newsletter!

Seeing dates so close together on opposite sides of the world is just cool to me. For instance, Iceland's Brynjólfur Eggertsson carrying Brynjólfstak, Japan's Sannomiya Unosuke lifting his 610kg power stone, and Scotland's Donald Dinnie carrying the famous stones all happened in a (roughly) 15-year time-frame during the mid 1800s. And chances are, none of them knew of the others!

A timeline really brings things into perspective. Perhaps it'll help us uncover and learn more about the history of stonelifting?

Go and explore the stonelifting timeline if you haven't already. And if you have any dates you think should be on the timeline, let me know!

Stonelifting timeline — liftingstones.org
A timeline of Stonelifting’s historically significant dates in chronological order.

Map updates

You may have seen this mini saga on Instagram since I shared some of this over there on the liftingstones.org account's stories.

A couple of months back, Google maps updated its styling (if you haven't seen, it doesn't look as nice thanks to its colder colour palette). It made me realize that the liftingstones.org map was also a little rough in the styling department (just a bit dated). So I decided to update it.

The liftingstones.org map doesn't use Google Maps – mostly for privacy. But also because I can edit the map styling, quickly add stones, and create custom pop-ups. I'm also generally more free to do what I like with it. Here's what happened:

'Before', left, shows the old map with slightly ugly grey pins as map markers on a washed-out color-palette. 'After', right, shows grey circles as map markers on a more vibrant colour-palette.
The map, before and after

The map's styling is pretty different with a new colour palette. And using circles instead of the pins for stone locations makes everything look a bit more modern too. One thing I focused on was de-emphasizing roads when zoomed out since it became distracting. Overall, the map itself just looks nicer.

I made a couple of tweaks to pop-ups too. Stone information (like weight) is now clearer:

A liftingstones.org map pop-up shows Kushida Shrine's test stone with its information. "Weight:", "Liftable:", and "Permission required:" are now in bold.

Before finalizing and publishing the new map live on the site, I noticed a cool new feature: you could change the projection of the map to a globe!

The liftingstones.org map as a globe. The background behind the globe is a starry sky.

It looks cool and it's fun to play with. But I didn't want to just change the map's projection to a globe when it's been flat for years. So I went to Instagram and held a poll for your vote on it!

An Instagram poll: "Which map is best?". "Globe" has 43% of the vote. "Flat" has 57% of the vote.
The decision!

The poll was actually a pretty fun way of doing this, so I'm glad I chose that instead of just choosing whichever I preferred. I was actually surprised how close each option was; I thought one would have a runaway victory.

With its small lead, the flat map won and remains the default.

Leaving it there didn't feel right, though. With the poll split fairly evenly – and some surprisingly strong opinions on both sides – I didn't want to ditch the globe completely. So I created a new map control!

Directly under the location finder button on the right-hand side of the map, there's a new projection toggle with a little globe icon. Simply click or tap it to toggle between the globe and flat projections!

Home page

One of the most noticeable changes this winter is the liftingstones.org homepage. Before, there were just a few links to articles and that was about it.

Since the home page is often the first thing people see when they visit the site, it's pretty important to show them what the project is all about.

Now, in addition to more article links, there's a better link to the map, the liftingstones.org shop, the newsletter, and importantly, the stonelifting etiquette article.

Other changes

Fixed the article list

I'll admit that I have been neglecting the light-mode version of liftingstones.org a bit (I primarily use dark-mode all the time). I happened to switch to light-mode while testing and I realized the list of articles didn't look great. It was time to fix it.

"Before", left, shows the old light-mode card. "After", right, shows the new light-mode card.
Article cards on mobile, before and after

Before, the colour of the card against the background was difficult to look at – it just felt wrong. So I reduced the amount of colours, slightly brightened the background, and adjusted the styling. Now, it's generally cleaner with extra space and an improved hierarchy to the elements – you shouldn't see any weirdly-cropped images at some screen sizes, either, especially on the home page.

As a bonus, article publish dates are now displayed, too! All of these styling changes are consistent across screen sizes and in dark-mode. So I don't expect I'll need to overhaul any of this for a while.

App mode

You can now add liftingstones.org to your home-screen and have the site work simlar to a native smartphone app!

A partial screenshot of an iPhone home-screen. It shows a single 'liftingstones.org' app icon.

If you're using an iPhone, go to liftingstones.org, hit the share button, then scroll down and tap "Add to Home Screen". A new app icon will appear with the liftingstones.org logo. When you tap the icon, the webpage will open completely full-screen – cool! I use it for quick access to the Dinnie Stones weight calculator. But if you're using the map or stone directory a lot, this will come in handy for the extra space that doesn't get taken up by the browser bars.

To be clear – this isn't a liftingstones.org app. It's a home-screen bookmark that behaves as a dedicated browser.

Dinnie Stones enamel pins back on sale!

After a small break over the holiday season, the pins are back on sale! However, stock is running low (around a dozen left). I'll make the decision whether to produce a new batch of pins soon.

As always, thanks for reading!

In strength,


Latest articles

Are you stronger than a sumo wrestler? — liftingstones.org
Fukuoka’s Kushida Shrine displays stones dedicated by some of the strongest sumo wrestlers in history.
Jeju’s stonelifting legends — liftingstones.org
Three stonelifting legends from South Korea’s Jeju Island.

The liftingstones.org shop

Dinnie Stones enamel pin

Inspired by the world’s most famous lifting stones, this liftingstones.org original pin is perfect for showing off your love of stonelifting by pinning it to your gym bag, clothes, or anywhere else.