Social news and bookmarking sites, such as reddit.com, digg.com, slashdot.org and stumbleupon.com, use voting by users or selection by editors to rank interesting stories. Much to my surprise, I recently had an article from this blog featured prominently on all four of these popular sites. This generated a large amount of traffic and gave me an interesting opportunity to turn the tables, by using my hit statistics to rank these sites.
On the 16th August I published an article about a little experiment I did to prove that many software download sites hand out awards automatically, without reviewing the software. Most developers who have submitted software to such sites probably suspected this already. But the experiment proved it conclusively by garnering awards for software that didn’t even run.
I wrote the article because I wanted to shine some light on this unsavoury practise. I wanted it to be as widely read as possible, so I posted a link to it on a few software developer and entrepreneur forums that I frequent. Later in the day I posted it to reddit.com. I also added my vote to the people who had already posted it to digg.com and programming.reddit.com. I expected a few hundred people would read the article, mostly regular readers of my blog. But it got voted up and made its way on to the home page of reddit.com. Traffic started to flood in.
My recollections of the next few days are a bit hazy as it all happened rather quickly. From the front page of reddit.com the article made its way across the front pages of digg.com, and then slashdot.org, like a electronic Mexican wave. The article also appeared on the home page of WordPress.com and received traffic from social bookmarking sites stumbleupon.com and del.icio.us. Large numbers of blogs and forums also linked to the article. Hits on my blog peaked on the 17th at 53,422 hits for the day.
A few observations from the data:
- The social news sites have the attention span of a one year old on amphetamines. The hits from digg.com went from 15,161 on Friday to just 648 on Saturday.
- The article was linked to from 375 blogs (according to technorati.com) and an unknown number of forums and other sites. The top 4, 10 and 20 sites account for 52%, 61% and 65% of the total traffic, respectively. A long tail of less popular sites makes up the rest.
- Things really took off once the article reached the front page of reddit.com. I visualise the links spreading across the Internet analogous to a sub-atomic chain reaction. Just as energetic particles decompose into cascades of ever smaller particles, bigger sites propogate their links to ever larger numbers of smaller and smaller sites.
- The onslaught was wide, but not deep. A relatively low percentage of readers followed links in the article or read other articles on my blog. While that still made quite an impact on the number of visitors to the home page of my seating planner software PerfectTablePlan, there were few additional downloads and (according to my cookie tracking) 0 additional sales. This is not too surprising when you think how untargetted the traffic is. Experience has shown me that small volumes of targetted traffic make more sales than large volumes of untargetted traffic. But still, one of you must know someone who is getting married? ;0)
Totalling all the visitors to the blog over the 5 days I give you the successfulsoftware.net official ranking for social news and bookmarking sites.
Here is the full top 20:
The article has generated a lot of comments. I particularly enjoyed the reviews here (I hope they haven’t been deleted). Interestingly the order of the number of comments/reviews for the 4 top sites is very different to the number of hits.
Please don’t take my ranking too seriously. The story reached similar positions on the reddit, digg and slashdot home pages, but my methodology here is far from rigorous. A different type of story on a different day might have resulted in a quite different ranking. Amongst other issues:
- The WordPress stats only show the top 40 referrers for each day.
- The article made the front page of different sites at different times.
- Just because someone clicked through, doesn’t mean they actually read the article.
- My article might simply have been more interesting to the type of people who read one site than the type of people who read another.
- I have no way of knowing whether any of the visitors were bots.
But social news sites aren’t exactly rigorous in their ranking either.
Please note that I created this blog to write about what it takes to successfully create and market commercial software. I don’t intend to become another blogger blogging about blogging. It’s bad for your eyesight (see point #10 here). Normal service will be resumed shortly.
 To the best of my knowledge the article reached a highwater mark of positions 1,2 and 2 on slashdot.org, reddit.com and digg.com respectively and was featured in one of the ‘popular’ pages on stumbleupon.