Server trial by fire

Now we’ll really get to see how well this new server provided by Seed holds up. Pharyngula just get linked by Slashdot, and I’ve seen a thousand hits come roaring in in 5 minutes. My lovely old Mac G5 server would have been screaming and shaking at this point, and you wouldn’t be reading this article, that’s for sure.

If ever you were curious about it, here’s a snapshot of the slashdot effect, taken at about 11:00 in the evening. This is just today’s traffic.


The other astounding part of the phenomenon was that the average IQ of my commenters was cut in half (data not shown). I’m hoping the dumb ones won’t be able to find me again once the link scrolls off the /. page, and I’ll trust that the new clever readers will be willing to come back.

Just a thought…I hope a few of the slashdotters felt a mysterious compulsion to buy a Subaru.


  1. Michael Hollingshead says

    Two of my favorite web destinations have converged with an article showing that Bush is a complete idiot. My day just got a bit brighter.

  2. says


    If you weren’t so eloquent in your analysis of the SOTU which regarded your area of expertice, you wouldn’t have these slashdot issues…

  3. Bayesian Bouffant, FCD says

    It looks like the scienceblogs server is holding up just so @$!~~~`”?? Err 404 FILE NOT FOUND

  4. Tara Mobley says

    Seems to be holding up pretty well. Getting /.ed can really strain a server. Looks like moving here was a great idea. I always hated it when Pharyngula became unreachable due to traffic.

  5. SEF says

    I do need to look back at the old server entries and comments some time though in order to get those book recommendations that I failed to note down at the time (ie in an offline text file for future purchase – a future which is getting close to being now!). I’m assuming you haven’t transferred them already without me noticing. There was at least one mega dinosaur book and quite a few evolution and structure ones listed there somewhere. I’ll probably skip most of the seditious(?) list of books though. Not because I’m insufficiently rebellious or had read most of them already but because, of those I vaguely recognised, I knew I wasn’t particularly interested in their content.

  6. Torris says

    I really like how the server can handle all the traffic now. I must admit that I had reservations about your move at first. Now I can see it was a good decision. Also I like checking out the other blogs on the site that I never read before.

  7. Graculus says

    Also I like checking out the other blogs on the site that I always read before.

    Seriously, it felt like the borg, that week:

    Deltoid, Afarensis, Pharyngula…

    It was almost a relief to click on John Hawks and find that it *hadn’t* moved.

  8. says

    1000 hits in 5 minutes ain’t much. A 68030 Mac from 1992 could handle that without a sweat, let alone a G5. Sorry to nix the melodrama…

  9. 386sx says

    I do need to look back at the old server entries and comments some time though in order to get those book recommendations that I failed to note down at the time (ie in an offline text file for future purchase – a future which is getting close to being now!).

    I’d like to see some of the old server entries myself. In particular: the one about the supposed “intelligent design” brouhaha. (More specifically: the one that alleges that it’s fake science.)

  10. Dustin says

    Aaand, just so you know, Pharyngula has been linked by This Modern World as well. It’s good to see my favorite cartoonist getting along with PZ. (Much as I’d like to, I can’t say tha PZ is my favorite biologist… my wife would kill me.)

  11. Jay says

    I spent time at slash-dot for a while, and was also very surprised at how low the S/N ratio was.

  12. says

    Chris, you are a cruel, cruel man.

    I can’t compare Slashdot to Atrios. On the old server, traffic would shudder to a stop when the load hit about 2500 visits/hour, putting a ceiling on how many people could come through. Even then, though, the few times when Atrios linked meant I’d see about 25,000 visits that day; a link from Slashdot on a slick as snot server which had no trouble coping with any load we tossed it at meant I got about twice that.

  13. Nate says

    If you’ve ever read /. comments at anything less than 5, you wouldn’t be at all surprised about the average intelligence rating. :)

    I, for one, intend to come back.

  14. pdf23ds says

    Hehe. I was reading the Slashdotted post’s comments thread to try to determine at exactly what point the Slashdotters started to comment. I think I determined it to within about five posts.

    It’s kind of interesting. A lot of the most popular bloggers have closed comments. (TPM, Instapundit, etc.) And the ones that haven’t have worthless comments sections. (Atrios, Kevin Drum.)

    If you want to have a site with a whole bunch of comments (say 50-100/hr) then normal comments threads just don’t work. Slashdot-style moderation is a step up, but still doesn’t really work. Something like this, except more advanced, might be the solution.

    In the meanwhile, the best way is probably just to have posts that take a lot of intelligence and/or expertise to comprehend to make your commenters self-selecting.

  15. jackd says

    As PZ already pointed out, while Eschaton is big, Slashdot is much bigger. I don’t know just how Slashdot and Fark stack up, but my guess is that both are a step up from any blog in terms of traffic.

    One nitpick about this entry, PZ. You used a 3-D graph for 2-D data, and as any follower of St. Edward of the Graphics (Tufte) would tell you, that’s a sin. Maximize your data density!

  16. Roy Stogner says

    Slashdot-style moderation is a step up, but still doesn’t really work.

    Read any Slashdot comments page at -1 (where you see all comments) and then again at 5 (where you see the most highly moderated comments), and then try to say with a straight face that their moderation doesn’t work. I’m not saying the highest rated Slashdot comments are going to be winning Pulitzers any time soon, but when you consider the material they have to work with, their comments system is fantastic.

    Most other weblogs are in the stone age by comparison – how many other popular sites have even caught up to Usenet and started supporting threads?

  17. Bayesian Bouffant, FCD says

    God, they’re like lemmings!

    Note how few of them found their way from the linked thread to the rest of this site.

    Oh, and who’s this “God” fellow to whom you refer?

  18. pdf23ds says

    When I say “doesn’t work”, I don’t mean “doesn’t work at all”, I mean “doesn’t raise the discussion to the level commonly found on the better blogs”. But sure, the system is a good start.

    Threads don’t really work as well for smaller blogs, but they are worthwhile for the bigger ones. (I’d say any comments thread bigger than And they don’t really work as well in html either. Observe how very squished so many of the DKos comments get. There’s ways to do it right, but I haven’t seen it done, and especially not in comment threads.

  19. says

    I totally forgot GNXP; why did you have to remind us, Chris?

    pdf23ds, what do you mean by, “threads don’t really work as well for smaller blogs, but they are worthwhile for the bigger ones”?

  20. pdf23ds says

    Threads impose a mental overhead on the reader and commenters that discourages posting, because it encourages mistakes like replying to a subthread when you should be replying to the main post or vice versa. Readers have to parse those mistakes and get past them. Commenters have to decide where to best put a response.

    For a smaller blog, this doesn’t come with much advantages, because there are generally only two or three broad conceptual threads, which is low enough for people to keep up with without threading. And it changes the general atmosphere subtly, too, making it a bit more adversarial and less open to OT comments and comments that take a little from this and that and make some other point. You lose something, but that something is already mostly lost in bigger blogs, so switching to threads can be an advantage there.

  21. says

    It’s also worth noting that part of the reason the server handles this traffic so well is that this whole site is run by Movable Type, which actually produces *static* pages that merely have to be served up, and not dynamically generated for every new hit. These only time the server has to work to update these pages “dynamically” is when they change – i.e. when a blogger rebuilds their blog (to post a new entry) or, I suppose, when comments are added. So it’s the software as well as the hardware (in other words, kudos to our developers…)

  22. says

    speaking of the Slashdot Effect, i wondered what the effect might be if a Certain Issue were mentioned here. i dare not, at least not without proper experimental controls.
    but surely, this Issue illustrates that if secularism and atheism have a tough row in the USA, there are Other Parts of the World where the rowing is tougher still.
    to give a hint, i quote from The Economist where the news of the story is examined at length:

    Worse, the row has spread. On Wednesday a French newspaper, France Soir, reprinted the Danish cartoons along with drawings of Buddha and Christian and Jewish gods. Its editor declared that “no religious dogma can impose its view on a democratic and secular society…we will never apologise for being free to speak, to think and to believe.” Representatives of France’s 5m-strong Muslim community called the newspaper’s decision “appalling” and “a real provocation”. The editor was promptly sacked. Across Europe other publications printed the cartoons, which were also published on the internet. On Thursday, a newspaper in Jordan called on Muslims to “be reasonable” and published three of the offending cartoons.

    i’m a little miffed, personally, both because this is a repeat of the Rushdie thing, and i mistakenly thought people had improved since then, and because of the rapidity with which folks in governmental and moral authority (mutually exclusive, don’t ya know) are caving in.
    if Boss Tweed couldn’t do anything about “those damn pictures” of Thomas Nast, why should anyone?
    now, i’m gonna go crawl under a rock.

  23. says

    BTW, for folks interested, the Pedia offers a pretty good summary of What’s Going On with this. again, if secularism and atheism mean anything at all to anyone, seems to me they oughtta be on the side of the Danes involved.

    but that’s just me.