A Few Kerfuffles Last Week: Handling Tens of Thousands of Unexpected Visitors

Thank you for bearing with us during a few technical hitches we experienced last week. One of our stories wound up on the front page of a popular social bookmarking site, and with tens of thousands of additional visitors arriving by the hour, our systems had a tough time keeping up.

Ordinarily we have a pretty good idea about the load our server is likely to experience during the course of a day, and we use that information to adjust our systems for a good balance between flexibility and performance. (Some pages or parts of pages are generated dynamically, for example, which means they’re put together for you when you request them, while others are held on the server in static form, meaning they’re already prepared and ready to go.)

Last Monday, however, one of our articles in the Ask the Psychologist section (“My Girlfriend Thinks She Has Supernatural Powers“) was voted to the front page of popular social bookmarking/news site Reddit.com, and the tens of thousands of additional visitors who came to read it put quite a dent in our server performance. For a short while, I actually had to take the whole site down while we diagnosed the problem. (An overzealous technician initially raised the alarm that the site might be under attack, so unfortunately it took awhile longer to rule out any type of security failure than in it would have simply to say “hey, we’re on the front page of Reddit” and deal with it accordingly.) Once I identified the Ask the Psychologist section as the centre of the problem, I was then able to bring up the rest of the site, but that section itself remained down for awhile.

Finally, having ruled out the possibility the site was under attack, it was very easy to see that the flood of unexpected traffic was all being referred by Reddit.com. I quickly set up a static version of the article so many people wanted to read, and within minutes, all was well again…

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Or so I thought!

It wasn’t until the next day that I realised the temporary shutdown had created a problem for our newsletter system, and many visitors had been disappointed to find they were unable to sign up for our newsletter by clicking on the big envelope graphic at the top of the sidebar. Fortunately, that too was rectified quickly, but the newsletter problem and a few other knock-on effects through the remainder of the week meant that our site really wasn’t up to its normal snappy self for a good few days.

So thank you for bearing with us during our technical kerfuffles!

And as you can see, despite the mild chaos that briefly ensued, it really does help us out when you use the social bookmarking links in the sidebar to add us to your favourite social site — all of that excitement started with one of our visitors bookmarking us on Reddit.com, and then it took on a life of its own. So if you see a page you like (or the site in general), please do bookmark us using your favourite bookmarking or social networking service, and maybe you could be the start of the next big wave of new visitors!

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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