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Surviving the Slashdot Effect

You wake up one morning, check your email and what do you see? Fifty comments in your moderation queue awaiting approval. Hmmm… You then check your server stats and see that 500 people have hit your blog in the last 5 minutes. Hmmm… You check the referral’s and see that they are all coming from a familiar site.

Congratulations, you’re on Slashdot. But will your site survive the Slashdot Effect, or will it be a casualty of the day’s load? What do you do now? What can you do?

Here’s some things to consider, based on my experience last Friday when I had a 50,000-page day.

  1. If you have it, turn off comment moderation for the day. Comments will come in faster than you can approve them and you likely already have a backlog.
  2. Download the server logs and see what your bandwidth use is for the day so far. While that is processing, check with your host to see what your bandwidth quota is. Have a credit card handy in case you need to quickly upgrade.
  3. A look at the comments on Slashdot indicated that some were experiencing slow response time. So I simplified the page and took out some extraneous images from the side bar. From the logs I had downloaded earlier it was clear that a good percentage of users were going to the blog’s home page after reading the post. So I simplified that page as well, having it show only the last 5 post rather than the last 20. This improved response time as well as reduced the bandwidth requirements.
  4. I’m sure you’re familiar with Linus’s Law, as stated by Eric Raymond: “Given enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow”. This applies to prose as well as to code. So it is a good time to proofread your post and make sure spelling and usage are correct, that all the links work, that quotes and ideas are correct attributed, etc. With 50,000 readers today, even the smallest error will be noticed by 100’s of them.
  5. Since your post will now be in front of many more people, including those who have not been following the topic closely, you might want to add some links to background information.
  6. Do a quick security audit. Do you have reasonably complex passwords for your server accounts? Have you changed them recently?

I’d be interested in hearing what advice others have for how to quickly up-armor your site when sudden load surges occur.

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