What happens when your app hits the frontpage of reddit

Never thought I’d see this

TL;DR version:

  • You’re probably going to get 1,000,000+ unique visitors.
  • Your site will get a lot of media coverage.

Here are quick and important tips:

  • You should implement a CDN like cloud flare will help prevent the hug of death.
  • Definitely make your site mobile compatible.
  • Define and implement your call to action before launching.
  • Get ready to take action; you only have a 48 hour window where the majority of traffic will come from.

The Story

I knew I built something kinda clever and kinda cool at the end of the 48-hour hackathon, but I didn’t think it was anything too great.  “A 60-second meditation tool for stress relief” — overall, people seemed to like pixelthoughts.co.  I wanted to fix up a few bugs before putting it on reddit, but I was so busy with other projects, it was shelved.

Reddit — where all things go viral

Fast forward a month, I dusted off pixelthoughts, slapped on a few bug fixes, registered the pixelthoughts.co domain, and created a cloudflare account just in case it got popular.

I uploaded pixelthoughts.co to /r/internetisbeautiful and thought it might get a hit thousand hits.

I refreshed the page every few minutes, and quickly saw that there was no movement.  In fact, /r/internetisbeautiful had given it 2 downvotes, and 1 upvote.

‘Ah well, there’s always the next project’ and left for lunch to grab some indian food.  Returning about 45 minutes later, I checked the status and saw that I suddenly had 21 upvotes and 3 downvotes.  5 minutes went by and the post now had 28 upvotes and 3 downvotes.  Pixelthoughts.co was now on the ‘hot’ page on /r/internetisbeautiful – I thought ‘well, this is going a lot better than anticipated’.

Little did I know that 2 hours later, I’d be on the front page of reddit with over 7700+ concurrent connections.


Woah… that’s a lot of concurrent connections


The day I watched something I built go viral

I found it nearly impossible to peel my eyes away from google analytics.  I found myself on the edge of my seat watching the realtime stats blow up.  Never has the number 8000 (followed by the word ‘sessions’) been more thrilling.  My instincts told me that my server could blow at any given moment.  I could only hope that I set up enough instances and my preplanning would resist the hug of death.

But thank goodness for CDNs – specifically CloudFlare.  It’s a FREE CDN service that saved me an absolute ton of bandwidth – specifically serving up static assets.

Surfing and surviving the reddit wave.

Almost 98% of my assets were cached thanks to cloudflare!

I’m quite certain that if weren’t for cloudflare – I would have been hugged to death and pixelthoughts.co would have crashed.

Key Statistics from 1 million+ users:

 Over 58% of all traffic came in within the first 48 hours.

Traffic from April 28th till July 4th

This is a BIG number! A scary percentage because it represents more than half the traffic that came in for the next two months.  I’ve spoken to others who have had viral projects and the first 48-hours represents the biggest day of traffic for the project.

I still have nice traffic spikes from random blog posts, or product features, but the spike usually amounts to less than 10,000 sessions/day… which is still a significant number of sessions.

Traffic Spikes in September and October

Traffic Spikes in September and October

The lesson here is one has a very limited time to capture their audience.  Understand what your call to action is from Day-1.

Understanding your call to action:

Before launching, I really did not have a solid plan what I wanted from my users.  In fact, I didn’t even have my name on the product — so exposure wasn’t even an option.  Again, I thought this would reach a few thousand people, not reach the front page of reddit.

I was kinda overwhelmed by the whole situation and quickly pushed a hot fix to ‘put my name on the site and link my email address’ while there was more than 2000+ users concurrent on the site.

I ♥ Unicode

I crossed my fingers and hoped cloudflare would update its cached assets.  I refreshed pixelthoughts.co, and it happened almost instantaneously.  I was impressed.

Showed up immediately on Pixelthoughts.co

I received a bunch of warm and thoughtful emails over the next few days, but I realized I could be doing more with user management.  I set up an email campaign from Campaign Monitor and started collecting emails.

My email collection box

My email collection box

Although I set it up rather late in the game (and missed the big reddit spike), I’ve had a pretty decent conversion ratio and now am sitting on more than 17,000 emails for my next product release.

Pixelthoughts has fans. It makes me happy.

Pixelthoughts has fans. It makes me happy.

The internet is very global (duh):

Although English is the most spoken language in the world.  I was shocked to see the number of countries that adopted pixelthoughts.co.

Languages by Sessions

Languages by Sessions

As you can see, out of the top-10 languages, only 3 of them were English based.  Vietnam took took 3rd place with a total of 3.5% sessions.

Tools such as: https://poeditor.com/https://localizejs.com/ can really help with this process.  Although I haven’t yet taken the steps for pixelthoughts.co, it’s something to definitely consider for future projects.

The desktop is dying: 

The days of responsiveness are here.  Although I knew mobile has taken over, I didn’t expect that mobile and desktop would be a 50/50 split.

Mobile/Tablet vs. Desktop Sessions

Make sure your site is fully responsive and looks good on mobile devices!


Articles & Syndication:

Oh boy! Press! Exposure! So much excitement! People will most likely write about your app/product.  The night that pixelthoughts blew up — I reached out to as many ‘meditation bloggers’ as I could.   For the 20+ emails I sent out, only 2 people replied to me, and from those two, one of them wrote an article about pixel thoughts.

A staff member of mindful.org interviewed me: http://www.mindful.org/anxious-this-mindfulness-website-animates-letting-go-of-your-negative-thoughts/ (which resulted in about 15K views)

In addition, a friend of a friend who wrote for Adobe reached out: http://blogs.adobe.com/dreamweaver/2015/05/how-to-create-compelling-narratives-through-web-design.html (which resulted in about 5K views)

I also found many news syndicates also covered pixel thoughts, specifically in the UK.

UK taking notice

UK taking notice

It’s a rather wild experience and then it got really interesting once I starting looking at where the traffic was coming from on google analytics.

Probably not the best way to store the links, but it works.

Then I started reading some of the articles, it was strange seeing my name wrapped around words I wasn’t able to read.

Americano Marc Balaban!? I’m Canadian!

Overall, get ready to see your project covered.  It’s real fun.

The Future:

I’m currently working on my next set mindful tools.  It’ll be mobile-based and the good news is I have around 30K users (combination of FB followers and emails) hopefully willing to beta test.

If anyone reading this has any ideas or wants to collaborate on a project, feel free to email me at marc AT marcbalaban.com.

So… in Conclusion:

I did some really great things with pixelthoughts, and some not so good things.  My call to action “enter your email for more mindfulness tools” should have been defined much earlier, but I’m currently sitting on 17,000 email addresses in which I can gather feedback from for my next product.


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3 thoughts on “What happens when your app hits the frontpage of reddit

  1. Awesome work Marc. Definitely some gold in this article. Keep up the great work and keep inspiring! Looking forward to your next project!

  2. Thanks for sharing all that info! So interesting to see the website spread all through the Internet. Great job on the website and promoting it!

    I am working on an app at the moment that could interest your audience. I will reach out to you once I have done some more testing to chat about a possible collaboration on it. 🙂 Take care Marc!

  3. You mentioned getting it translated/localized so that users across all demographics can understand your content. Check out the only free tool that helps you to do that, http://www.sitetran.com.

    SiteTran enables any website to utilize professional translation by inserting a single snippet of Javascript into their code.

    Check it out!

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