I mentioned on Tiny that the New Mars forums had hit 1000 posts three days ago, after first coming online last September about eight months ago. That might not seem like a lot of traffic – in fact, averaged over 240 days that’s only a bit more than four posts a day. I write more emails than that in an afternoon.
Yet in the last three days, we’ve practically hit 1100 posts. That gives an average of 30 posts per day, which is not too shabby. Of course, it’s not as if there was a sudden transition from 4 posts a day to 30; by checking the website logs I can see that there’s been a fairly linear growth of traffic during its existence.
Nevertheless, in the past few days traffic has literally rocketed. I’m obviously very happy about it – my intention in becoming editor of the New Mars online magazine was primarily to create a coherent Internet community for Mars advocates which would in time develop the ability to do very useful and important things. I expected it to take a long time to grow – communities don’t just appear overnight, not even when they have a good feeder mechanism (New Mars is the official magazine of the Mars Society and it hosts the official forums). Yet a month or two ago, when we were lingering around the 600 or 700 mark, I did a few calculations and decided that it would still take a long while to get to 1000.
So – where did this traffic spike come from? I have a few possible and non-exclusion explanations:
1) The simple explanation is that the exponential growth trend finally exhibited itself. By that, I mean as more and more posts were made, more and more readers found interesting things to say and to reply to, and they made links to the site which other people followed, and so on. But this still wouldn’t account for such a sudden growth spurt.
2) We were nearing the 1000 post mark anyway, people got excited and decided to start posting lots. I am doubtful this can explain it all.
3) I introduced a rating system for all members which gave them titles and stars dependent on the number of posts they made. I know for a fact that this is a good incentive for people to post more, as they strive to get that coveted third star.
There are more explanations, but I’ve forgotten them. Anyway, it’s all very interesting and if the current rate of traffic continues we’ll hit 2000 posts in a little over a month’s time. By the end of this year, the problem could well be that there is too much traffic.
But what the hell, that’s a good thing. And I’m sure I and others can figure out ways to channel that activity into productive avenues. Sometimes I wonder what the Mars online community could have done by now if we’d set up proper forum systems back in ’98.