Late Sunday night I published an article about work in America. More specifically, how the 40-hour workweek harms productivity, the environment, and psychological health. The next day, I woke up to find over 50 people on my website. And then something crazy happened.
After my article was published, it was shared on the social networking site Reddit. Currently, it’s the 53rd most visited site on the net. The users of Reddit tend to be more tech savvy and interested in social issues (but isn’t limited to these areas). My article struck a chord with people that support the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and workers’ rights.
I decided to go over to Starbucks yesterday to complete some academic research, as my site was beginning to launch into a mad frenzy of traffic. In my typical frugal fashion, I had a reward and even got another free refill before I left! I was buzzed by the caffeine, but even more because of the analytics. Hell, I couldn’t concentrate on the research writing because the numbers started to grow.
Suddenly, it hit the hundreds. OWS supporters shared it on Facebook and the niche social site, Hacker News. I texted a couple friends and let my mom know what was happening. Mom hopped on the site, and I could see her individual visit. That’s the last time I could see a person’s click.
I began to tweet out progressively higher traffic statistics, which came from free Google Analytics. When I hit 200, I looked back at Reddit. A big-time user and moderator of one of the largest “subreddits” had shared my article on no less than three other boards. The über popular “Futurology” subreddit generally has thousands of visitors at any one moment. That’s when I could tell it was all about to rollover into the most popular article I’ve ever written.
From there, the article rocketed to the top of five major boards and was shared on Facebook nearly 2000 times. I kept watching the traffic — still ticking higher. It was like gambling or playing a videogame, except I couldn’t lose. The real-time traffic statistics constantly updated every second, and the visitors didn’t stop.
Every time I thought I had hit the max number of visitors at one time, it went up even further. I thought it would all stop before 500, 600, 700, 800, 900, and 1,000. But it didn’t. The highest recorded real-time, active visitors clocked in at 1,212 (see the screenshot above), with my web server straining to handle one more person.
I struggled to get to sleep because the traffic was still in the 900s by Monday night. When I finally began to drift, I assumed that the number would be back to more reasonable levels in the morning. I thought, “Maybe it’ll be around 100 or so?”
Surprise surprise, that wasn’t the case. When I woke up around 9 AM, the site was still reaching about 900 people — 150-200 visitors per minute. The stress on my server hadn’t ceased and my site was still inaccessible for much of the morning.
I was shocked by the total amount of traffic that was driven to my site over two days. Despite being a nerd through much of my life, I had no real appreciation for the level of traffic available on the Internet. After two days, my site has received about 200,000 visitors (probably more than that, due to tracking and server issues). That’s roughly three times the population size of my adopted home, Iowa City.
I was lucky to be able to share this experience with Twitter followers, friends, and family. As a writer, it put a serious smile on my face that people cared that much to read and share my work. I’m deeply honored and humbled by the magnitude of support. Thanks for your support by sharing the article and reading all about it!