Ah, the Slashdot Effect. It is the favored Hail Mary pass of every traffic-starved webmaster everywhere: “If only a few thousand basement-dwelling Slashdot readers would show up here and drive traffic up, up, and up ….”
Or then again, maybe not. Leaving aside whether your server could handle it, according to a story in Business Week the vaunted Slashdot effect is declining. The piece quotes various people on the other end of recent SEs as saying that the phenomenon has waned, of late.
For example, Tom’s Hardware says that any incoming SE now only increases traffic by 5-10%, not 30% like in the days of yore. Further, the effect is more transient, with the peak being hit and passed in less than three hours.
So, wassup? Well, it isn’t because Slashdot gets less traffic. According to Commander Taco (Rob Malda) the site gets 300,000 to 500,000 visitors a day, up six- or seven-fold from four years ago.
For her part the author of the Business Week piece makes a somewhat muddled argument. She tries to tie in blogs, mostly, saying that those new sites are somehow watering down the Slashdot effect.
But that makes no sense. Having more sites out there only makes it less likely that any one site will have a Slashdot effect; it doesn’t dilute the effect for those sites that do get whacked.
No, more likely are three things. First, Slashdot seems to run more stories these days, so the front-page rotation is such that many people never get a chance to see stories and click-through. Second, there is more traffic at major sites in general, so while Slashdot’s numbers are never round-off, they matter less than they did a few years ago.
Finally, I also think RSS is somewhat to blame. Many people, myself included, click-through much less frequently when we are sprinting through RSS feeds. I glean what I can from the headline and excerpt, then race off to try to empty my Feeddemon queue before more stuff pours in. Who has time to click-through on anything and create a Slashdot effect?