Jack Morris
Hitting the Top of Hacker News
22 Jan 2015

Last week my recent post surprisingly reached #1 on Hacker News, staying there for about 6 hours. The time period from then until it slid off the front page about a day later bought unprecedented traffic to this site, warranting a quick write-up.

Along with Hacker News, the article was also reasonably well shared around on Twitter (200+ Tweets), Reddit (/r/programming, and #1 on /r/math), and apparently Facebook (as my analytics informs me).

~(Note: I didn't actually make the Reddit submissions myself. Personally, /r/programming seems like an odd place for a post about a Tetris lamp.)~


The article was originally posted on the 11th of January. That day alone saw ~23,000 pageviews (~20,000 unique), with the piece in question obviously receiving the lion's share of those (21,912 views, 19,579 unique).

The result of this is a frankly laughable 209,000% increase in traffic vs the previous day, where I was used to ~10 hits daily.

Taking totals for the entire week (Sun 11th -> Sat 17th) gives a count of 53,723 pageviews, with 48,395 unique. The chart above shows how this traffic looked throughout the week, clearly showing the activity diminishing quickly once the initial Hacker News buzz wore off.

Throughout all this traffic, my server remained completely stable and the post available. The combination of a static site and a decent host made the influx of visitors easy to handle.


All of these numbers were pulled from Google Analytics. When designing this site I was unsure whether to include any analytics at all since I wasn't expecting more than a handful of hits each week.

Clearly I'm happy with my decision now. Although I feel that Google Analytics itself is slightly bloated (especially for owners of small sites such as myself), the fact that I can easily pull down all of these numbers along with a handful of other interesting stats, all for free, is pretty fantastic.

Those other interesting stats? Take average visit time for example. Over the 50,000+ hits during the week, the average time each user spent on the article was ~2 minutes, meaning that the vast majority of visitors actually read the article without just clicking away. For me, that's one of the best statistics I got; it's one thing getting visitors, it feels great to have people actually reading the thing.


I expect activity to really settle down now, possibly slightly above what it sat at before the article was posted. Aside from the small collection of new Twitter followers and RSS subscribers I don't expect the majority who read the article to actually check back here.

Which is fine, and expected. That's just the sort of exposure that sites such as Hacker News provide; whilst they're very good at exposing individual pieces, many visitors never think to explore the author's site any further. I'm definitely guilty of this.

The real long-lasting effect that my 5 minutes of fame has given me is motivation. Knowing that it is possible for something I've written to be read and appreciated by others is a huge boost to my confidence, and as a result I'm planning on increasing the frequency of my posts.

The trouble now is finding another topic that you, the reader, will find as interesting.

Or maybe I should just stick to lamps.