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A Look at the Digg Effect in Action

Over the past month I’ve made a few miscellaneous screenshots with the intention of writing larger articles about what they demonstrate. I haven’t found the time. Instead, I’ll post them here, for a lark.

The first three are Digg-related. I’ve been fortunate to have four posts reach the front page of Digg in the past six weeks. One of these was intentional (as in: I wrote it with the idea of making the front page of Digg) — the others were surprises.

Here’s what a Digg spike looks like in the short term:

As you can see, traffic was already high for this day. (My normal daily traffic is ~350 visits/hour.) I can’t remember which day and entry this graph is from, but I suspect the first big bump is Lifehacker-related. Then comes a late-evening Digg spike.

Digg traffic is a blessing and a curse. It’s always great to have thousands of people visit your site. But most Digg users are not in the target audience for Get Rich Slowly. They get to the site and they think it’s lame. That’s fine. But meanwhile they’re hogging up the bandwidth and, especially, the clock cycles that could be spent serving the site to somebody who cares. In fact, some Digg waves are so strong that they mess up a site something awful!

Basically, when a Dreamhost-based site is swamped by the Digg effect, the server struggles to keep up. Dreamhost may “throttle” a site, effectively limiting the number of requests it can process each second. When that happens, you can get goofy things like the image above. That’s the Technorati profile for Get Rich Slowly, which I retrieved in the middle of a Digg flood. You’ll note that GRS is now the blog called “500 Internal Server Error”. I love that.

What does a Sitemeter graph look like after a site has been dugg three times in a month?

To me, that’s jaw-dropping. Maybe Trent and Ramit have sustained traffic levels at a third of a million visitors per month, but I don’t. It’ll probably be a long time before I see trafic like that again.

There’s a lot of talk about how Digg visitors aren’t “sticky” — they don’t click ads, they don’t browse beyong the dugg page, and they don’t subscribe. The first two are true, but I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by my subscribership numbers. Readers by RSS feed jumped 50% from the beginning of March to mid-April. E-mail subscribers nearly doubled. I suspect the Digg appearances had a lot to with that.

Finally, after the MBN forums were abuzz with an upcoming Pagerank adjustment, I decided to check how my sites would fare by using a Pagerank prediction tool. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Animal Intelligence was going to rank as high as Google itself!

Hilarious.

Now that I’ve written about these images, I can finally scrub them from my hard drive!

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