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Goats, and the Slashdot Effect

By cvou in Internet
Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 07:03:06 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

On Thursday, July 12, slashdot.org posted a story about Anarchy Online that (used to) linked to a humorous review on somethingawful.com.

The manager (if that's the right term) of somethingawful, Lowtax, is in financial trouble. In short, he has problems paying net traffic bills, and once linked to by slashdot his site was sure to cop a lot more.

I found his tactic of "defense" amusing.

I understand Slashdot is supposed to have a policy about contacting sites before linking to them.

I'm not sure what the heck /. was thinking at the time - somethingawful is a fairly famous website (imho), and, while i'm not a very regular visitor, even I was aware that he was having problems keeping it all going. I'm wondering how the links got on there if they had such a policy, since its certainly rude (and financially cruel) to Lowtax.

Lowtax's "defense" from slashdotting - well, I figured I should leave it out of the intro, and to avoid unnecessarily scarring people, I'll be obtuse. From what I understand Lowtax made the linked article redirect away from his site to another website in the christmas islands domain - one with a rather disgusting picture decorating its front page. Visitors to somethingawful from slashdot instead found themselves staring at something rather unexpected (and unpleasant).

The links dissapeared from slashdot not long after. Some of the final comments on the article reflect the change - yet they were all modded to -1, Troll. Slashdot's update simply says "Links were randomly redirecting people". That's great - nobody needs to know exactly where. But what happened to an apology? Are such things unnecessary when your slashdotting target is some site whose owner isn't a megacorporation that can foot the bandwidth cost?

I suppose I would like to have seen an apology from slashdot. Slashdotting webservers isn't uncommon - i'm used to the fact that after 10+ posts on a topic, the linked story will be unavailable. But never before have I known that the guy on the other end really is going to proverbially suck it down. The linking from slashdot to somethingawful was removed because slashdot readers were getting redirect - not out of kindness or a realisation of the impact the links would have.

I'd like to close this article by asking for opinions and information. How do you feel about the slashdot effect? Should a site like slashdot ask before linking, given the amount of interest that inevitably falls upon the linked site? And was Lowtax's "defense" justified (amusement aside) - or was he just being an ass because he could?


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Goats, and the Slashdot Effect | 41 comments (38 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Hmmm (3.18 / 16) (#2)
by jd on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 03:47:36 PM EST

It's tough to critisise Slashdot on this. They get beaten up when they don't include links, and now they get beaten up -for- having links. They just can't win!

Having said that, SomethingAwful is quite capable of installing a different queueing system, or ECN, so that the network CANNOT send more than a certain amount of traffic per unit time. It's all in the HOW-TO's.

Then, there's a third aspect: Why the hell is SomethingAwful paying an ISP who charges per unit of data??? One DoS attack later, and they won't be able to afford room & board in a homeless shelter.

The fact is, I can't see anything wrong on the part of the Slashdot admins. (Except they took my karma away! Bastards! I -earned- that!) I can see quite a lot wrong on the part of SomethingAwful's admins. I can see a GIGANTIC wrong on the part of the ISP. (charging for traffic is an abuse of network privilages.)

this was a better solution (3.66 / 6) (#4)
by Delirium on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 04:09:24 PM EST

Having said that, SomethingAwful is quite capable of installing a different queueing system, or ECN, so that the network CANNOT send more than a certain amount of traffic per unit time. It's all in the HOW-TO's.

While this is one solution, it's inferior to the one that Lowtax employed because it would effectively deny access to the site to the SomethingAwful "regulars," who would be much outnumbered by the hordes of Slashdotters. This way, the Slashdotters get redirected away and don't take up bandwidth, while the site regulars can access the site uninterrupted. And since Lowtax only cares about the site regulars, that's probably the best solution.

Now of course he could've just given slashdotters a 503 Forbidden error or redirected them to yahoo or something to get the same effect, but that wouldn't have been nearly as funny.

[ Parent ]

uhmm.. (4.33 / 3) (#11)
by rebelcool on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 05:44:15 PM EST

Why the hell is SomethingAwful paying an ISP who charges per unit of data??? One DoS attack later, and they won't be able to afford room & board in a homeless shelter.

Uhm, most hosted racks and sites are this way. You pay for a specific amount of meggage a month and you're billed for increases over that. A DoS attack is unique and unless you have a giant asshole for an ISP, they're not going to charge you for it.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Oh, now I understand! (4.62 / 8) (#12)
by ucblockhead on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 06:00:20 PM EST

...and unless you have a giant asshole for an ISP...

It looks like those something awful guys do, from the looks of it. Lord knows I've never seen one that big before! :-)
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Pah-lease (2.50 / 16) (#3)
by QuantumG on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 04:06:34 PM EST

I've had my web page posted on the front of Slashdot before, my site didn't go down, my dsl bill didn't increase (really, who pays by the megabyte?). My web logs filled up but hey, I've got plenty of hard drive space. Bitch and moan, I really dont see the issue. Maybe if people didn't use IIS or put 40 images on every web page or something they wouldn't have this problem.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
heh... (4.00 / 2) (#10)
by rebelcool on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 05:41:13 PM EST

really, who pays by the megabyte?

People who have their servers hosted at colocation facilities (that is, 95%+ of servers). Some sites are by the gig, most are by the meg.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

DSL > professional hosting (2.00 / 1) (#13)
by QuantumG on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 06:39:43 PM EST

Now that, truely is scary.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
that is. (3.00 / 1) (#15)
by rebelcool on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 06:43:00 PM EST

ive never really seen anyone (at least not a professional business) do mainstream hosting on DSL. Maybe personal servers or office serving, but full on website? That's sad. DSL is much too unpredictable...

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

it was a personal web site I posted on slashdot (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by QuantumG on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 11:26:40 PM EST

and yes, I am that insane that I submit a personal web site to Slashdot, but who is more insane, the guy who posts it or the editor who puts it on the front page? Cost is not an issue when you have flat rate (and where I have a dsl connection there are not any nazi "you may not run a server" clauses) so it's just a matter of whether my servers are up to the job and yes, apache owns you. Keep it clean, keep it mean, rock on.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
Yet more uninformed bias (2.40 / 5) (#27)
by wonko on Sat Jul 14, 2001 at 02:38:58 PM EST


Maybe if people didn't use IIS or put 40 images on every web page or something they wouldn't have this problem.

Do I really need to point out that IIS 5.0 can handle a good deal more traffic (both static and dynamic) than Apache? Apache is not an extremely fast webserver, nor was it meant to be (although it seems, lately, that they're trying to turn it into one).

If you want a fast and secure webserver for Linux that will rival and/or surpass the speed of IIS, try Xitami or Red Hat Tux 2.0.

That said, almost any webserver can handle a Slashdotting, assuming the server hardware is faster than a 486. It's not the webserver that gets bogged down (unless the pages are highly dynamic and inefficient). Most of the time, bandwidth is used up far before the webserver itself reaches its limits.

[ Parent ]

I wonder if this was engineered? (3.45 / 11) (#5)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 04:16:31 PM EST

Isn't every /. trolls dream to get a front page /. story that points there?

Either some accomplished by accident what the geekizoid crowd have attempted to do intentionally for years or some troll finally hit the jackpot.

Umm.. (3.20 / 5) (#21)
by flikx on Sat Jul 14, 2001 at 03:56:47 AM EST

The Geekizoid crowd hasn't been around for years. Plus, not everyone at GiZ is going for a front page goatsex troll. My own /. frontpage adventure was bad enough.

One future, two choices. Oppose them or let them destroy us.
[ Parent ]
No (none / 0) (#41)
by Quick Star on Thu Nov 07, 2002 at 04:18:12 PM EST



"absolutely no one can sex a lobster without cutting it open" -- rusty
[ Parent ]

Apology? (3.55 / 20) (#7)
by SPrintF on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 04:37:24 PM EST

But what happened to an apology?

If you meant, when is somethingawful going to apologize to the people redirected to the "goat," then that's a good question.

If you meant, when will slashdot apologize for posting a link to another Internet site, then I don't think you understand the concept of the Internet yet. You put up a site. People visit it. Sometimes a few. Sometimes a lot. If it gets too busy for you to handle, you take the site down. Simple, no?

Not so fast (3.40 / 5) (#14)
by FlinkDelDinky on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 06:39:53 PM EST

I don't think it's as easy as that. There's also reasonable expectations. After all, if your server can only take so much traffic, then slashdot (knowing that they create huge traffic) links to that page...well, that's a DOS attack and somebodies got to pay.

[ Parent ]
Linking with brains (4.00 / 7) (#17)
by spoon00 on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 07:44:31 PM EST

As a person who keeps a often unvisited site, I really don't have to think about what type of site I'm linking to. I figure on a good week that I'm going to get about 50 hits and maybe 10% of those will follow things I find interesting. As someone who used to keep a site with the possiblity of several hundred thousand hits per week I used a few more brain cells in posting links.

One of the biggest concerns, and usually first even before security, is how much bandwidth am I going to need. Its expensive, and only comes to few locations realiably. With this in mind I have to think, if 25% of my weekly 100000+ hits follows a link to Joe Schmoe's website, will it handle the load. Making sure links from my site are fast and responsive reflects well on me. It's amazing how many times someone will blame the linker for the slow loading of a page off of JoeSchmoe's 128k dsl line w/ 100 MB/month.

A solution to this. If the information comes from a source that is not up to the bandwidth requirements, or where extra bandwidth is available at a premium, I try get permission to mirror the data. A simple one page article or small series of articles are easy to mirror and as long as I include a link to the original site everyone ends up happy. If I can't get permission to mirror I will usually get an answer to link anyway.

This is also keeping in the tradition and spirit of the internet. Sharing data doesn't mean just linking, it's also making sure that enough copies are available to ensure the information stays available. This is something slashdot editors should look into make part of their standard-operatorating-procedure.

[ Parent ]
funny (4.00 / 6) (#22)
by fluffy grue on Sat Jul 14, 2001 at 03:59:43 AM EST

Lowtax is the guy who passive-aggressively encourages people to spam people whom he feels are unsavory. I stopped reading somethingawful.com when he made a page on transsexual.org the Awful Link of the Day, calling Jennifer (its webmistress) a "sick bastard" for simply pointing out a page in the Super Mario 2 manual which quite plainly stated that Birdo is a transsexual. Whee.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

its only a matter of time... (3.38 / 13) (#9)
by rebelcool on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 05:39:12 PM EST

before someone sues slashdot over things like this.

That will be an interesting precident - can the mere link provider be sued for the bandwidth costs of another site? Perhaps if the massive crush was knowingly brought on.

It's going to happen, probably soon.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

GET /herds.txt (4.42 / 14) (#16)
by Apuleius on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 07:19:15 PM EST


This might be a good time to standardise on a file format that allows other sites to know ahead of time whether you can handle a sudden load, and if not, whether you would like your content to be mirrored rather than linked to by places like Slashdot. What do y'all think?

There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Or just use mod_throttle! (3.75 / 4) (#23)
by mattbee on Sat Jul 14, 2001 at 05:52:27 AM EST

Seriously, it's not hard-- if you know what you get charged for bandwidth, you can tell mod_throttle how much your web site traffic is worth to you: so many kilobytes a second, so many concurrent users etc. and it'll do it by directory, IP address etc. For me, going over my bandwidth limit each month is expensive (hurrah for London hosting prices!) so it's set not to let that happen.

[ Parent ]
But that's how the web works... (2.15 / 13) (#19)
by cbraga on Sat Jul 14, 2001 at 12:07:26 AM EST

The way I see things, when someone puts a website up it's there for everyone to see, whether it's a personal page on Geocities or a site hosted in a colocation facility.

Furthermore, if the content on your site is useful, it follows that many people will want to visit. Therefore, the person, by putting it online, shows the willingness to pay for the bandwidth.

Therefore, Somethingawful's webmaster acted like a big @$$hole. If he isn't willing to pay for his site's costs, and doesn't want it to be visited, then why does he keep it online in the first place? Why won't he kill it and save the cash?

Moreover, I think that therefore no webmaster in the world has any right to sue anyone for linking. Quite the contrary, I suppose Slashdot could sue Somethingawful for obvious reasons.

In closing, if Somethingawful's owner didn't want the bill, he could just put a 100-byte html page saying so.

ESC[78;89;13p ESC[110;121;13p

uh.. (3.50 / 4) (#20)
by rebelcool on Sat Jul 14, 2001 at 01:23:50 AM EST

as a webmaster, i can say this banks on webmaster rights.

He wants people who would actually visit his site regularly to read it. Not passing slashdot idiots who just click whatever link they come by. Those people are not going to return to his site to read it.

Obviously you dont read somethingawful, or you'd completely understand why he sent them to goatsex.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Websites are like any private-public space (4.00 / 2) (#30)
by Sunir on Sun Jul 15, 2001 at 11:17:54 PM EST

Many spaces in the Real World (tm) are privately held, yet public spaces. For instance, stores and parks. If a massive horde of people rushed in to visit your small store, you would be within your rights and expectations to direct them away.

Since on the Internet you even pay for people who merely test the locks, it might be legitimate to get more than angry (i.e. lawsuit) at anyone who would direct the massive horde at you irresponsibly.

However, the precedent that would set if executed poorly is unthinkable. We could end up having to ask permission of link targets before creating a link. Still, from a practical point of view, given today's current technology, it is responsible of high-traffic sites to manage click-throughs to low-traffic sites. In the future, we should expect better caching technology to improve bandwidth costs, but only after the broken "traffic count" measurement of so-called economic value is abandoned.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

(applauds Lowtax) (3.66 / 9) (#24)
by Kasreyn on Sat Jul 14, 2001 at 05:57:32 AM EST

What, you're saying there was someone left on slashdot who had not yet seen the goatse.cx man?! What rock has he been under this year? =P

Honestly. I applaud Lowtax for finding a cool way to prevent /. arrogance from trashing his site. There's a possible added bonus that the bandwidth hit from this might send the goatse.cx site under, but it's unlikely. That site already gets the vast majority of its hits from /. (I bet their referrer logs are 99% /.), so it probably won't. Still, hats off to Lowtax for a cool move. =)


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Not me. (3.25 / 4) (#26)
by your_desired_username on Sat Jul 14, 2001 at 12:40:38 PM EST

I've never seen that pic. I think I first saw that url the day /. implemented nested comments. It was hiding under a fairly innocent-looking link, but the replying post said something like "Don't go there! That's the most disgusting thing I've ever seen." I looked at the url decided I was not going to go there.

I don't know the name of the /. poster who warned me, but he/she/it/foo/bar helped make me unique among ex-/. readers.

On a different topic, ever wonder how many people have gotten fired/ostracized/arrested because they accidently followed that url at the wrong time, or forgot to remove all traces of that image? Probably not many, but it makes me think of all the little things that could get someone into a very difficult situation - but usually don't, just by luck.

[ Parent ]

ME neither (3.00 / 2) (#32)
by Mitheral on Mon Jul 16, 2001 at 01:14:04 PM EST

I don't mindlessly follow links and I heeded the warnings when the whole g.x came about. As a bonus my proxy un-obfusecates urls and stops redirects.

Most likely I wouldn't be offended; however, I surf from work in an open area. It would be just my luck that some PC weinie would wonder by just as I sneaked a peak.

[ Parent ]

Ha (4.00 / 3) (#33)
by markb on Mon Jul 16, 2001 at 03:25:03 PM EST

Most likely I wouldn't be offended
That's what everyone says. They're always wrong.

[ Parent ]
Curiosity (3.00 / 1) (#36)
by Mitheral on Tue Jul 17, 2001 at 04:50:28 PM EST

Geez I'm almost tempted to find out; on the other hand we all know what happened to the cat. :)

[ Parent ]
The ASCII version (4.00 / 1) (#37)
by davidmb on Thu Jul 19, 2001 at 11:38:10 AM EST

Occassionally someone will post an ASCII art version of the goatse.cx man on Slashdot. If you come across it, imagine it as a real photograph, then realise that you're not that curious...
[ Parent ]
What about That Other Site's bandwidth costs? (3.57 / 7) (#25)
by ajf on Sat Jul 14, 2001 at 08:23:41 AM EST

If it's so inconsiderate of Slashdot to encourage that many hits on somethingawful.com, why is it OK for Lowtax to do the same thing to the infamous goat site?

"I have no idea if it is true or not, but given what you read on the Web, it seems to be a valid concern." -jjayson
That Site (3.80 / 5) (#28)
by Matrix on Sat Jul 14, 2001 at 04:16:11 PM EST

Because anything that could cause that goat site to shutdown is good.

"...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
- Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett
[ Parent ]

That's your opinion (4.00 / 4) (#35)
by anon 17753 on Mon Jul 16, 2001 at 09:25:19 PM EST

and mine as well, but that does not make the behavior ethical.

[ Parent ]
Why does Lowtax object to increased readership? (2.16 / 6) (#29)
by wilson on Sun Jul 15, 2001 at 07:15:44 PM EST

Granted, if /. has a policy of contacting linkees and failed to do that, they're in the wrong, but what puzzles me is why Something Awful would mind.

I just visited SA because I had to double-check this. The only visible source of income on the site is banner ads. Isn't the basic calculus of web advertising: more viewers=more money ? If he's having difficulty paying his bills, wouldn't this help Lowtax address that problem?

Wouldn't it actually generate an even higher profit on ad revenue because the rates that he pays for traffic should go down as usage goes up?

On top of that, by virtue of the fact that SA is a website (therefore made public) and that Lowtax puts a lot of work into it, isn't he really looking for more readers? If a lot of people are reading something interesting on the site, isn't that the best way to promote to potential regular readers?

Magazine and book publishers don't complain about paper and costs when their first printing sells out, so why should websites?


Did you really look? (4.50 / 4) (#31)
by ODiV on Mon Jul 16, 2001 at 10:29:32 AM EST

The "banner ads" that are up there are parodies of the last 'network' he was involved in. They didn't get around to paying him, iirc.

[ odiv.net ]
[ Parent ]
slashdot is unique. its so weird. (2.60 / 5) (#34)
by juln on Mon Jul 16, 2001 at 06:26:53 PM EST

Whatever else slashdot is, it certainly is unique. You have to love it. LowTax has incredibly intuitive humor, also. His work seems so moronic on the surface yet he reveals himself to know much more about the gmae scene than a casual dork. Also he's quite clever. hah ha. Linking to the goatse .cx site is cutting right to the heart of Slashdot!! Ha! The lowtax ICQ tricks were pretty funny also. How the hell much traffic does slashdot get anyway?? Who are these insane readers??? I think theres no harm in linking to a page - if it is available no the interenet publicly, you are inviting the public, in whatever numbers, to view your page. I feel Lowtax's response is cruel. I was not a victim this time, although i have been a victim of links to there in the past. I used to read stuff on his site, but I was not aware that he was experiencing financial difficluties related to it. I think possibly the retarded images take up a lot of bandwiddth.

A simpler solution for lowtax? (4.00 / 2) (#38)
by onegin on Sat Jul 21, 2001 at 06:01:14 PM EST

Why not just create an account on a free hosting site, mirror the single page, then redirect to that? Jeez, you don't have to be a dick to accomplish a goal.

Heh (none / 0) (#39)
by Spendocrat on Sat Apr 13, 2002 at 08:34:09 PM EST

You haven't visited Something Awful much, have you?

Besides, the /. guys know what happens when they link somewhere. They're the dicks for asking before linking.

[ Parent ]

Heh. (none / 0) (#40)
by delmoi on Sat Apr 13, 2002 at 08:36:40 PM EST

because it wouldn't stand up...
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Goats, and the Slashdot Effect | 41 comments (38 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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