A Digg Induced Traffic Jam

The delight and horror of a massive traffic surge

A hard lesson was learned as an article of mine popped on to the Digg homepage, causing my site to be down for a week. Here’s what happened…

One Friday afternoon, I was doing what I normally do; creating web content and trying to get people to read it. It’s a simple life, one of quiet reserve and typing. Some of my content is deep and somewhat meaningful, or so I’d like to believe. Other content is honestly, just plain silly.

I created a somewhat stupid little post centered around a screenshot of a page on my Yahoo! account. It revealed an option for Yahoo! account holders to leave a connection open between Yahoo! and Facebook, with the intention of allowing Facebook access to your contacts. In this day and age of privacy concerns, I thought it was funny (and a bit scary) that this option existed.

Accompanying the screenshot was a scant few lines asking what the heck this was all about. The post was not intended to be a condemnation of anything. It was not meant to be taken seriously in any way. It was simply meant to be a silly and (as I said) somewhat stupid little post.

Anyway, I published it, submitted it to Digg and forgot about it. The same as I’ve done with countless other posts. I never thought I would get more than a handful of Diggs or a few extra clicks. After all, I hadn’t cracked the Digg homepage yet, so some windfall of pageview fortune was not on my radar.

I woke up the next morning and prepared myself for day of writing. To my horror, my site had gone all kerflooey. Some things were not where they should’ve been, other things were gone altogether. I panicked. Could I have been hacked? I looked at the code. There was nothing wrong with the site itself, so I checked the traffic. The culprit? There was a 1000% increase in traffic in less than 24 hours!!

That’s wonderful news, right? Well yes and no. Yes it’s the dream of every humble content creator to bask in the light of web popularity. However, due to this surge, my host GoDaddy hit me a network violation and shut down the post in question. Being hosted on a shared server — which means other sites are on the same server — this surge caused problems for more than just my simple site. GoDaddy could have shut down the whole site. Thankfully they didn’t.

I tried upping the bandwidth and increasing disk space, but that did not solve a thing. The problem had to do with the capacity for the CPU of a shared server to handle the load of that much traffic in that little time. The solution? I needed to move the site to a more stable server that could handle random surges. As all of this was going on, something really odd was happening on Digg.

By the time that post in question was taken down, it had received about 480 Diggs. Surprisingly, after it was taken down, after there was no post to actually read and as people called me an idiot and criticized my site for being down or whatever, the post got another 300 or so Diggs.

Once the new hosting plan was settled, the entire site needed to be shut down for several days as the transfers were being done manually. Even with the entire site down, another 100 plus Diggs were given to the post. How? At this point, there was technically nothing for Diggers to vote on.

This gave me cause to do a little research. I searched for negative comments on popular submissions on Digg. I was surprised to find a great deal of Diggs by people calling articles crap or poorly written or nonsense or whatever. And I have to ask, why would these people give a positive vote, and then bash the submission?

Of course I’m thankful for the traffic and the chance to shine as a Digg star, even if it was in the role of the clueless jester. And I do know that the only blame to be laid would be on the shortcomings of GoDaddy’s shared hosting.

In the end, what this ordeal revealed to me more is the oddity of human nature and the need to be seen and heard (and read). To have opinions known, even without fully understanding the thing being debated.

It’s a flaw I fully acknowledge in myself as well.

See Also:
Yahoo, Facebook … What The?!?!

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