fascinating, hypnotic, inspirational, appalling, irrelevant

Thanks to everyone that noticed the Wikistream coverage in the NextWeb article and elsewhere. If you happen to have tweeted about Wikistream in the last 2 days you should see your avatar to the left. Click on it to make it bigger. I’m in there somewhere too :-)

Before Sunday the site hadn’t seen more than 180 unique visitors per day, and on Monday it saw almost 30,000. The site is kind of different since it streams all the Wikipedia updates to the browser as JSON, where it is then displayed. I had some nail-biting moments as I watched Node frequently streaming up to 300 concurrent connections. It was a wild ride for my little Linode VPS with 512MB of RAM, where WordPress and a Django website were also running…but it seemed to weather the storm OK. Mostly I think I could have used more RAM during peak usage when Node and Redis were wanting enough memory to cause the system to swap. Thanks to Gabe and Chris for helping me get the cache headers set right in Express.

I thought briefly about upgrading to a larger Linode instance, putting the app on EC2, or maybe asking Wikimedia if they wanted to host it. But Wikistream is really more a piece of performance art than it is a useful website. I’m expecting people that have looked at Wikistream once will have seen how much Wikipedia is actively edited, and not feel compelled to look at it again. After a few days I expect the usage to plummet and it can go back to running comfortably on my little Linode VPS to serve as a live prop in presentations about Wikipedia, crowd-sourcing, Web culture, etc.

One of my favorite mentions of Wikistream came from Nat Torkington’s Four Short Links on O’Reilly Radar. Nat described Wikistream as

fascinating and hypnotic and inspirational and appalling and irrelevant all at once

I took this as high-praise of course. I could only get the last two days out of Twitter’s search API, which misses the day that the NextWeb article appeared, followed by it getting picked up on Hacker News. But it was 226 tweets, and provided for a fun little data set to look at. I wrote a little script to look for URLs in the tweets, unshorten them and come up with a list of web pages that mentioned Wikistream in the past few days. One thing that was really interesting to me was the predominance of non-English websites. Here’s a list of some of them if you are interested.

OK, I’m finished with the narcissistic navel gazing for a bit. But seriously, thanks for the attention. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. Wow.