MSE users are Bactrian camels

Is this you?

Not an insult, just a usage fact. Recently we got new software which allows us to see how many people are on the site at different times in the day, and like a Bactrian there’s a very distinct double hump…

I thought some of you stats nerds may be interested to see how it works (I’m obsessed by such things, then trying to figure out why it works this way). The pattern for both the main site and forums works pretty religiously something like this…

  • Early Morning: traffic rises gradually
  • 10.45 am: traffic starts to flatten out
  • 12.45 pm: traffic accelerates again for lunchtime hump
  • 1.30pm: lunchtime hump peaks
  • 2 pm: lunchtime ends and traffic starts to drop quite sharply to below the mid morning level
  • 6pm: traffic bottoms out, probably as most people are travelling home from work, though it soon starts to rise quickly
  • 9.20pm: the peak of the evening hump, with a slow drop off at this point
  • 10.40pm: the drop off in traffic accelerates rapidly so by midnight there are few users.

There are a couple of big things that mutate the pattern – though you may be surprised that my media appearances aren’t amongst them. They actually have a negligible impact on traffic, once or twice a year a big broadcast may register a blip lasting ten minutes or so, but in general it’s not a material impact. The size of the site (c.10m unique users a month) means it takes something major to affect the natural patterns.

The big factors are…

  • The weekend: Here there’s no camel, it’s like a wave cresting in the evening, with traffic getting higher consistently as the day goes on, then dropping suddenly at around 10.40pm. You may also be surprised that the weekends are our lowest traffic time of the week; many assume more people would use the site when they’ve free time, but it doesn’t seem to work that way.
  • The weekly Wednesday email: It takes about 12 hours to send these days, and the time we send has a game changing affect on the traffic we get, especially on the main site. Wednesday is by far the biggest day we have with the servers creaking to stand up to the waves of users flooding in. The pattern still follows the same Bactrian pattern, but if we manage to get the email send out early enough the front hump is usually the dominant one.

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