December 30th, 2009

The curve of an Instalanche

{NOTE: I got an Instalanche yesterday for the Obama disfluency post, and the response of my sitemeter reminded me of this article, which originally appeared on Dec. 1, 2008. I thought it would be fun to republish a slightly-edited and updated version of it, since I noticed the same exact phenomenon when I looked at the traffic resulting from the most recent ‘lanche.]

An Instalanche—that’s a link from blogger Glenn Reynolds, who’s otherwise known as Instapundit—can drive a huge amount of traffic to a blog. Glenn’s own blog traffic hovers somewhere in the vicinity of 450,000 hits a day (let me spell that out for you: that’s four hundred and fifty thousand). Depending on the time of day, the day of the week, the way Glenn phrases the link, the general interest in the topic, and other variables that remain mysterious, an Instalanche can vary from a modest spike in traffic to a veritable tsunami of visitors.

But I’ve noticed there’s one thing about an Instalanche (or any high-traffic link) that is quite predictable: the graph of the visits always seems to follow a rather strict pattern. There’s a sudden soar the first hour. Then the second hour there’s a fractional step down that represents, very roughly, maybe twenty percent of the whole. Then another similar step down in the third hour, and so on. As the traffic diminishes, the size of the step-downs grows smaller and smaller, and the previously steep imaginary line connecting the steps becomes flatter.

I’m sure there’s a simple equation that expresses the relationship. Here’s a picture of it:


As you can see, this graph charts the number of visitors to my blog on November 30, 2008, the day of the Instalanche. It is a snapshot taken towards the middle of hour twenty-two. It begins in the wee small hours of the morning, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, ordinarily a very slow time on a very slow day. My traffic was just getting to around the 70 hits-per-hour point when suddenly, at approximately 10 AM, in came the Instalanche and BOOM! went the sitemeter.

There were over 2,400 hits in the first hour after that, about 2,200 in the second, 2,000 in the third, and so on, down to those smaller steps with the smaller decreases between them. This particular Instalanche was good for about 12,500 extra hits that first day—and it’s still going on, albeit at a much reduced rate.

16 Responses to “The curve of an Instalanche”

  1. WhoStruckJohn Says:

    It’s an exponential decay curve.

  2. Tim P Says:

    The mathematical expression that explains that graph is a decaying exponential.

  3. Tim P Says:

    Oops! Didn’t notice that WSJ already answered it. Next time I’ll open my eyes.

  4. Artfldgr Says:

    looks likethe inverse of the wealth development cuirve…

    in that curve it has a low swoop which is linear, then a breaking point is reached and economic increse is exponential…

  5. Holmes Says:

    Congrats! You do great work and I hope more people will stay with your site.

  6. Occam's Beard Says:

    Exponential decays pop up all over the place. Time courses of Instalanches, Obama’s poll numbers, everywhere.

  7. Tom the Redhunter Says:

    I’ve never had Instapundit link to my blog, but Michelle Malkin did twice, with similar if smaller results as yours. It’s quite amazing, and flattering, to see your site traffic skyrocket

  8. Kevin L. Copple Says:

    I came here from Instapundit, and now this site is in my blog favorites folder. One of a few great finds. See ya whenever I’m taking a break!

  9. csimon Says:


    Wishing you a most Happy New Year bringing all the best to you, your family and friends.

    In the new year, may many more readers find their way to your site thru many more Instalanches, and here’s hoping they are as captivated as I was (and still remain) when I similarly “stumbled” upon your blog!

    The fortuitous discovery of your blog will only enrich those who find their way here as many of us are so fortunate to know already!

    W link or Google search (as I did so long ago) and become captivated by your writing (as I was) and b

  10. csimon Says:

    P.S. Was that original post about an Instalanche REALLY from Nov. 30, 2008??!!! I remember it so clearly and I would have guessed it was much more recent!

    (So much information; so little time! It (time) does fly, indeed!)

  11. Paul_In_Houston Says:

    My blog normally get hits, at best, in the low double-digits. I referred to one of AJStrata’s posts (on The Strata Sphere), and, in a comment on his site, mentioned that and the fact that this could conceivably net him TWO or maybe even THREE new readers.

    I got hundreds of hits (hey, for me, that’s HUGE :-), from all over the world because of that comment; it wasn’t even a case of him linking to me.

    Who KNOWS what could happen if I ever manage something worthwhile to say?

  12. rickl Says:

    I don’t remember just how I found your blog, now that I think of it. But I’m glad I did.

  13. Paul_In_Houston Says:

    You can get sent to a good blog from the unlikeliest of places.

    I got hooked on blogs because of a link on MSNBC’s website (of all places) directing me to
    Today, I was “Unprofessional”…,
    about the tsunami that hit Indonesia on Christmas Day, 2004.

    I’m glad that’s still archived and available, as its’ author (Frank Martin – “Varifrank”) has retired from blogging and “Gone Flying”.

    I miss him, and his analysis’s.

  14. Charlie Martin Says:

    You shoulda seen the curve when I got linked from on the Palin Rumors thing. My site practically melted.

  15. Paul_In_Houston Says:

    I’m glad that’s still archived and available, as its’ author (Frank Martin – “Varifrank”) has retired from blogging and “Gone Flying”.

    UPDATE: I took another look at that page I had linked to, clicked on the “HOME” link, and…
    HE’S BACK!!! ( Varifrank )

    I guess there’ no such thing as a retired blogger.

  16. strcpy Says:

    “I don’t remember just how I found your blog, now that I think of it.”

    I do not either – been too many years ago.

    Were I to guess it would have been from Instapundit as that tends to be the spring point for many of my short forays to other blogs. Either that or RightWingNews (which I quit reading when he went to a multi-person blog – I *hate* those with a passion – if I wanted to read their blogs I would have already and left yours alone. Adding crap I do not want to read doesn’t make you a better sight to me).

    I do recall that the “The Mind is a Difficult Thing to Change” is what kept me here, but at that point there were not that many entries on it from Neo so I do know it was a while back.

    As of now even though I am mainly a lurker I stay as much for the comments and the personalities here as anything else.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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