Inside TSL: Traffic Jam
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com
TSL Extra, Issue #16
In the early days of February, 2002, as the recruiting drama played itself out on the message boards, something else happened behind the scenes: two long-standing TechSideline.com site traffic records fell.
Those of you who were around in November of 2000 remember the frantic action the day that Frank Beamer almost left Virginia Tech for UNC. The site was brought to its knees by a crush of posters and visitors who wanted to know what Tech's coaching legend was going to do, and what was going to happen to Virginia Tech football.
At the time, we had never seen anything like what we saw that day, and the site couldn't handle the traffic. But some interesting fallout from that day is that we learned some lessons on how to make our site and its message boards more efficient.
We removed, relocated, and improved a lot of the cgi scripting that writes our boards; we eventually jettisoned the home-page poll, which was running a new cgi program (and therefore bogging down the server) every time someone read the home page; and we took some hidden, non-obvious steps to help the site survive that sort of traffic.
The bottom line is that we can't guarantee that our site will be completely accessible in the event of extremely heavy traffic, but we did make it more likely to be accessible, and we improved its reliability (not being able to get into the site is one thing; having it crash under the traffic is another, and we fixed the crashing).
February of 2001 saw some heavy traffic, but still nothing like what we witnessed on that November day of 2000. So the site traffic records we set that day stood for a long time … until early February of 2002.
Beamer-to-UNC Hit Statistics
Back in November of 2000, we averaged about 120,000 page views a day, and about 1,000 message board posts a day. To remind you of what a "page view" is, it occurs whenever anyone downloads a TSL article, a message board post, our home page, our Football Page, etc. That gets registered as a single page view.
Frank Beamer's decision day was Nov. 27th, 2000, and here's what page views and site traffic did in the days surrounding that time (from TSL Extra #2):
The closest HokieCentral.com/TechSideline.com ever got to breaking the site traffic record set on 11/27/00 came the following January 24th, 2001, the day that Kevin Jones verbaled to Virginia Tech. On that day, TSL recorded 359,153 page views, the first time it had gone over 300,000 since 11/27/00.
Before recruiting 2001 was finished, two more days went over 300,000 page views: the day after KJ's verbal, and National Letter of Intent signing day 2001 (2/7/01):
But despite the overall growth in site traffic throughout 2001, no single day ever came close to breaking the record of 600,000+ page views in November of 2000 -- not even close. From early February of 2001 through December of 2001, the site did not top 300,000 page views on any given day.
And then Recruiting 2002 started to peak in late January and early February.
Recruiting 2002 Hit Statistics
As you know, we brought increased recruiting coverage to TSL this year. We still have a way to go to get where we want to be, but there is no question that there was a big jump in our traffic.
In January of 2002, we averaged 232,485 page views a day, the first time we had ever gone over 200,000 a day for an entire month. On January 22nd, 2002, we went over 300,000 page views for the first time since February 7, 2001. And as a matter of fact, in the last ten days of January, 2002, we went over 300,000 page views seven times. Two of the days we didn't go over 300,000 were a Saturday and a Sunday, typically our lightest-traffic days.
Things really kicked into high gear on January 31st. That was the day that Justin London and Mike Imoh announced their college choices, and TSL was hopping from that day through signing day (Feb. 6th, 2002). Here are the page view and message board post statistics:
There you have it: on February 5th, 2002, the day Marcus Vick verballed to Virginia Tech, TSL's record for page views was broken -- by a mere 317 page views, or 0.05%.
It's worth noting, however, that on 2/5/02, the TSL database server crashed just after midnight and was down until nine o'clock in the morning. People could read posts, but they couldn't post new messages. If they could have put up new posts for the full 24 hours of that day, instead of just the last 15 hours, I estimate that the site traffic would have approached 650,000 page views or more that day.
On that same day, TheSabre.com did 439,060 page views, which means that the server the two sites reside on did a whopping 1,046,014 page views. Over a million page views, in one day.
If you've got a sharp eye, you noticed that the record for message board posts was broken on signing day, 2/6/02 -- by a scant 5 posts (the previous record was 4,424 on 11/27/00), or 0.11%.
I don't think the posting record would have been broken on signing day, except for the fact that Patrick Dosh reneged on his VT verbal and signed with Florida. That brought out a lot of angry people with a lot to say. One truth about message boards: people post more when they're angry than they do when they're happy. In other words, message boards are a reflection of real life, in that people will open their mouths to complain before they'll open them to say something nice or happy. It's just human nature.
So, it took nearly 15 months, but on February 5th and 6th, two long-standing records finally fell here at TechSideline.com.
The Most-Read Article Ever on TechSideline.com
Recruiting season also produced another ground-breaking statistic: it was responsible for the most-read article ever on TechSideline.com.
Typically, in the middle of football season, an article that is posted on TSL will get downloaded (read) 4,000-8,000 times. Game previews, game recaps, and game analysis articles, which are long articles, are typically accessed about 6,000 times, with totals of 8,000 being rare. Last fall's Syracuse preview was downloaded 8,711 times, and that was the most for any article last fall.
Except for one. Among our Rivals, A Friend for Whom We Grieve, a heart-rending tribute to Miami Hurricane fan Michael Mott and the terrible loss he suffered on September 11th, when his wife was killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, was read far more widely than your typical TSL article.
From Sep. 13th (when it was posted) to Sep. 30th, that article was accessed 14,575 times. That's unheard of for your "typical" TSL article, but that one was beyond typical, and it was accessed and read by more than just Hokie fans.
That article has probably been read many more times since Sep. 30th, but the way our statistics package works, those later totals do not show up in our summaries for October, November, etc.
I assumed that that record would stand for a while, but I once again discovered the power of recruiting coverage.
On January 14th, I posted a simple Recruiting Update that listed the recruits Tech was involved with at that point in time and gave some updates on players who were on the list.
By the end of January, that article had been accessed 16,582 times, topping "Among Our Rivals" by over 2,000 views.
I did other Recruiting Updates as signing day approached, and each one was accessed over 10,000 times, with most of them being read over 12,000 times. When you consider that no single game preview, recap, or analysis article has ever been accessed over 9,000 times, it just goes to show the captivating power that recruiting has over the Internet audience.
This Month's TSL Extra Contest
Yes, TSLX subscribers, it's the return of the TSL Extra monthly contest!
You'll note that in one of the traffic tables above, I left out the January 31st figures for page views and message board posts. So here's the contest:
Guess the number of TechSideline.com page views on January 31st, 2002, the day that Justin London verbaled (to UCLA) and Mike Imoh verbaled (to VT).
As a tiebreaker, guess the number of message board posts on the Recruiting Board on that same day.
The subscriber who comes the closest (it doesn't matter if you go over) will win a $75 shopping spree at TechLocker.com.
I actually gave these figures out on the Recruiting message board on February 1st, so if you were watching that day and have a good memory, then you've got a good chance of winning. Don't try to find my post from that day, because it has been auto-deleted by our message board software, which doesn't retain posts for more than a few days.
Send your entries to email@example.com. PLEASE DO NOT SEND THEM TO firstname.lastname@example.org. March 1st is the last day to send in entries, so get yours in soon, and we'll announce the winner next month.
Advance Auto Parts just finished their three-month trial run with TechSideline.com, and they were thrilled with the results and have signed a one-year contract to sponsor the web site.
This is huge news. As you know, Advance is a good supporter of Tech sports in general, and we're very pleased to welcome them to TechSideline.com.
A big thank you goes out to all of the TSL visitors who dropped by Advance Auto Parts' web site by clicking on a link on TSL, and who gave them positive feedback in other ways about their sponsorship of TSL.
It is your efforts that made them satisfied with their TSL trial sponsorship and led them to resign for a longer term, and we thank you for it.
In the coming weeks and months, you'll see new TSL sponsors coming on board. Please be sure to give them the same positive feedback that you have given Advance Auto Parts and Plan 9 Music. If we can garner new sponsors and keep making them happy, then let's just say that TSL will be around a long, long time.
If you're interested in sponsoring TechSideline.com or can pass on a good lead for someone we should talk to, please email TSL's Director of Ad Sales, Trey Copeland, at email@example.com.
See you next month.