The Nude Curling Effect

You may have heard people talk about the Digg Effect or the Slashdot Effect, but there’s nary a mention of the Nude Curling Effect. It must be one of those long tail niches that’s ripe for the picking. Umm, did you say nude curlers?

For those that haven’t noticed, there’s an international sporting something-or-other going on in Italy right now and said sports shindig includes women’s curling. What does this have to do with me? Getting my site shut down, that’s what. Yes, women’s curling is indirectly to blame for site outages and sluggish behaviour ’round these parts.

The Story

Around prime time EST on Tuesday evening, some entity in the sports media latched on to the fact that the women of curling had posed for a nude calendar. Regular eightface readers will note that I covered this news a few months ago. And there-in lies the problem.

The main offender: Women of curling nude calendar. It was a one-liner linking to a Globe and Mail article that has since disappeared. Hits started turning up from Google as the news made it’s way onto the sports stations in Canada, so I fleshed out the post with links leading directly to the calendar. Incidently, it’s still for sale via The Curling News.

Now, my post is one of the first three returned via Google when you search for nude curling calendar. When a broadcaster mentions nudie pics, of course people are going to turn to the internet and why not start with Google. That explains the traffic spike to some extent.

The Problem

I noticed a number of hits coming in for the post on Tuesday night, figured it had to be the Olympics and someone reporting on the calendar. Put a Google Ad on the page (it’s my only one) via some WordPress custom field voodoo and went to bed. I thought the traffic would die off, and it wouldn’t hurt to make a couple bucks. But the traffic didn’t die off, it came back hard Wednesday.

The Nude Curling Effect

Now, it’s Thursday and the traffic isn’t slowing down. The server started acting sluggish this afternoon, I figured it was probably my fault and decided to take a look at the resource usage (you get lots of space and bandwidth, but not lots of processor). Uh oh, first problem, I discovered WordPress 2.0’s .htaccess rules don’t play nicely with my stats directory and I couldn’t get at the data (solution via Dreamhost wiki). The resource usage info is cryptic, but it looked like I was over.

I started to look for a nice way to make static pages within WordPress, when I received a friendly email from Dreamhost support informing me that I was over usage and that they had effectively turned the domain off.

My solution will come in a second, but first, let me bash my web host. Dreamhost has grown a lot over the last year, it’s good for business, but it has left them lacking in the support department. Rather than proposing a constructive solution and working with me, they found it easier to shut me off and tell me to look at cryptic statistics. Sure, it’s probably the right solution for most of the processor abuse cases, but maybe there’s a root cause that isn’t user stupidity. It’s also important to note that you can’t check the stats with the directory disabled. I responded almost immediately and two hours later, have yet to hear back, short of an auto-response. Thankfully, I’m capable of interpreting cryptic numbers and coming up with my own answers.

The Solution

With large amounts of disk-space and bandwidth available on low-cost plans, it’s easy to forget about processor and memory usage. If you’re on a shared maching, it can be troublesome when you’re receiving a lot of traffic.

Normally, a page that you request from WordPress doesn’t actually exist. When a user requests the page, the software generates it on the fly via templates and database requests. All of that requires processor and memory overhead. So, if you can identify one page that’s receiving most of the traffic, you can replace it with a static version (an actual file).

I created a new directory in my account called static, that will allow me to house lightweight version of various pages that are prone to traffic spikes. After creating a stripped down version of the curling page, I rerouted the post to the new page via the “Remap subdir” option in the Dreamhost panel.

The Aftermath

The server seems to be more responsive now, but we’ll see what happens. The Olympics will be over soon enough.