My recent Amazon-exit piece got an order of magnitude more traffic then even the post popular outings here normally do. Which turned my mind to thoughts of blogging in 2020, the why and how of the thing. Here they are, along with hit-counts and referer data from last week. Probably skip this unless you’re interested in social-media dynamics and/or publishing technology.

Numbers · In the first week after publication, Bye, Amazon was read somewhat more than 614,669 times by a human (notes on the uncertainty below).

The referers with more than 1% of that total were Twitter (18.13%), Hacker News (17.09%), Facebook (10.55%), Google (4.29%), Vice (3.40%), Reddit(1.66%), and CNBC (1.09%). I think Vice was helped by getting there first. I genuinely honestly have no idea how the piece got mainlined so fast into the media’s arteries.

For comparison, my first Twitter post is up to 1.015M impressions as of now and, last time I checked, Emily’s was quite a ways ahead.

It’s hard for me to know exactly how many people actually read any one ongoing piece because I publish a full-content RSS/Atom feed. Last time I checked, I estimated 20K or so subscribers, but nobody knows how many actually read any given piece. If I cared, I’d put in some kind of a tracker. That 614K number above comes from a script that reads the log and counts the number of fetches executed by a little JavaScript fragment included in each page. Not a perfect measure of human-with-a-browser visits but not terrible.

But aren’t blogs dead? · Um, nope. For every discipline-with-depth that I care about (software/Internet, politics, energy economics, physics), if you want to find out what’s happening and you want to find out from first-person practitioners, you end up reading a blog.

They’re pretty hard to monetize, which means that the people who write them usually aren’t primarily bloggers, they’re primarily professional economists or physicists or oil analysts or Internet geeks. Since most of us don’t even try to monetize ’em, they’re pretty ad-free and thus a snappy reading experience.

Dense information from real experts, delivered fast. Why would you want any other kind?

Static FTW · ongoing ran slow but anyone who was willing to wait fifteen seconds or so got to read that blog. One reason is that the site is “static” which is to say all the payload is in a bunch of ordinary files in ordinary directories on a Linux box, so the web server just has to read ’em out of the disk (where by “disk” I mean in-memory filesystem cache when things are running hot) and push ’em out over the wire. (The bits and pieces are described and linked to from the Colophon.)

It turns out that at the very hottest moments, the Linux box never got much above 10% CPU, but the 100M virt NIC was saturated.

I’ve never regretted writing my own blogging system from the ground up. I’m pretty sure I’ve learned things about the patterns of traffic and attention on the Internet that I couldn’t have learned any other way.

If I were going to rewrite this, since everything’s static, I’d just run it out of an S3 bucket and move the publishing script into a Lambda function. It’d be absurdly cheap and it’d laugh at blog storms like last week’s.

It’s not a top priority.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Paul Morriss (May 15 2020, at 00:55)

I think the day that you've got nothing more interesting to do but rewrite your blog platform is a sad one :-)

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From: Andreas Happe (May 15 2020, at 01:13)

I did a S3-Bucket blog setup a couple of years back, IIRC correctly I used either octopress or jekyll for that. Did work smoothly, but response times were worse then hosting the pages on my "old" hetzner dedicated server. Turned out, that S3 buckets introduced a lot of latency. The solution was to use Amazon Cloudfront in front of it (meh, *front in front).

By now I'm using an old raspberry pi with a static public IP-adress as "web server" and put cloudflare in front of it (so the slow 40mbit upstream does not matter).

cheers and thank you for you blog posts,

Andreas

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From: John (May 15 2020, at 18:29)

You used "fro" where I expected "from". Was that intentional (as in to and fro), or did your spell checker miss it?

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