Anatomy of a BoingBoinging

spike Some domain names become active verbs: I googled it. Others become passive verbs: I got slashdotted.

BoingBoing, linked to by over 16,000 blogs, is a passive verb too, and two weeks ago my server got BoingBoinged.

Joe started it when he made a posting on the Well with a link to a series of (bloodless) photos from a huge motorcycle ride turned motorcycle pileup. Somebody suggested a slideshow; I took the opportunity to exercise my mass-image-resize script and to check out ImageReady’s ability to export animations as Flash. I put the resulting 2.6MB file on my neglected moto-blog, posted the link to the Well, and went on with my evening.

That first night about 100 people viewed the file.

The next morning I logged on to the Well and saw a post from Jim – he had submitted the link to BoingBoing.

I checked my stats; 5000 people had now downloaded the Flash file, with about a thousand more coming in every hour. At that rate I was only a day away from using my entire traffic allotment, and I wasn’t sure how quickly interest was going to drop off. (I even wondered if it might pick up a little bit on Monday, as a new round of whilte-collar idlers picked up the link. This actually did seem to happen on a small scale, as you can see in the graph linked below.)

My server hosts about a dozen domains, but none of them are particularly high-traffic. The busiest one sees about 5GB in an average month. I had never come close to consuming my monthly 40GB traffic allowance.

I emailed the splendid folks at my hosting company just to make sure I wasn’t going to go broke. They reminded me that I’d requested to have the whole server’s connection throttled back to 256Kbps after exceeding the 80GB mark.

I didn’t really want to get to that point, so I decided to look into distributed caching services. I discovered that had shut down their “Freecache” service; Coral cache seemed to be what was left, so I tried it. This consisted of appending “” to my hostname in the link to the .swf. That’s it.

It worked very well. I know from my stats that thousands of copies of the .swf were served by the Coral network. To date my bandwidth consumption for that Flash file has been about half of what it would have been without Coral, and probably would have been better if fewer people had direct-linked to the file.

If you’re interested in what the falloff was like, or to get a rough idea of the numbers, see this traffic graph from a few days after the BoingBoinging. And bookmark Coral for the next time you post something large and popular.

The other thing worth noting is that even though I have Google AdSense ads on the site in question, I didn’t see a significant uptick from the ordinary meager revenue level. This suggests, unsurprisingly, that making money through web advertising isn’t just a matter of raw visits. Damned rubberneckers.