The Slashdot Effect
March 11th, 2009
To all of you who visited yesterday during the Slashdot rush and are back again to read this follow-up, thank you for coming back to have a look.
Wow. Yesterday was one Hell of a day! Here’s what happened…
I wrote up my Numbers Post two days ago and it went around the Twitter-sphere and my RSS feed. A friend of mine sent me an IM saying “Nice post, you should submit it to Slashdot.” That sounded like a good idea, even though I was convinced there was no way they would pick it up. I would submit it, and it would quietly get rejected. Except that they didn’t reject it, they posted it yesterday morning to the front page of Slashdot.
Since I had assumed that Slashdot would ignore the article, I wasn’t ready for the dreaded “Slashdot Effect”. By the time I woke up yesterday morning and checked my site, it had slowed to a crawl under the pressure it was receiving. I immediately contacted my webhost and they noticed one of my web services was running slow so they rebooted my server. What they also did was accidentally change the permissions on my blog directory so that no one could see the blog anymore. Another call to tech support to figure out what was wrong and I was back in business (this is 2 hrs after my first call). Who knows how many people tried to hit the site between 9:00am and 11:00 EDT while it was down. Finally got the issue resolved, but now the site was running slow again, as my database desperately tried to keep up with the demand. My friend Noel from Games from Within send me a tweet recommending a caching plugin for WordPress called wp-cache. I installed that and the load on my databases immediately freed up and the site remained responsive for the rest of the day. Hooray!
So, some number, since I had dozens of emails/tweets/comments asking about this:
Day prior: 626
Slashdot day: 25,307!
Traffic increase: ~40x
Sales of Dapple:
Day prior: 4
Slashdot day: 17
Sales increase: ~4x
Clearly the Slashdot post did have an effect on sales, although it was a small one.
Some Thoughts On Yesterday’s Events
When I wrote the post presenting my sales numbers, I was hesitant to post it. I wasn’t sure that it was a good idea to share sales data that didn’t show the company as invincible. I’m even less sure about my having posted it now.
The backlash I received from the post was shocking to me. I wrote the post mostly as a way of sharing my experiences with other iPhone developers. However, as soon as I posted it to Slashdot, I had a very different audience. The reaction from the public was very different from other developers. Other developers thanked me for sharing my data and many told me that it made them feel better to know that other people were trying to find their way in the App Store too.
However, I received a lot of really nasty emails and comments from people that surprised me. I received so much mail that I don’t have time to respond to each one individually, so I wanted to address the most common threads that came up here.
Perception of whining or quitting
Many people perceived my post as whining about my sales, or that I was giving up on the game. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The post was meant purely as informational. I thought it would help people to see that selling an app on the App Store is just like selling any other product: it takes a lot of work and you shouldn’t expect to be an overnight success. I am also not giving up on Dapple; far from it. I’m only just getting started with it. That post was only a single data point on what I hope is a long upward trend for the game. Every game, every company starts somewhere, and I wanted to document where that was for me.
I also received a lot of mail telling me that I was misguided (although much of the mail I received was far from this polite) in my assumption that I would become rich as soon as I released my game. Again, I never made this assumption. When I started this company, I knew that I would have to put a lot of work into it to make it successful. I never assumed that my first game would sell millions of copies. My goal has always been to gradually build a sustainable business by producing high-quality games and apps. My hope is that over time the company will develop a reputation for quality and that people will see that.
This was the biggest thing I got feedback on. A lot of people asked me if I had considered lowering the price of the game. The short answer is: yes, I’ve thought about it a lot. Like I said in my Numbers Post, I have a lot of plans for ways to promote Dapple in the coming weeks and months. I’ll leave it at that for now.
You shouldn’t have spend so much money
You may be right, I may be crazy. However, people also misinterpreted the $32K figured. That figure includes the cost of my time. The number is significantly lower if you look only at cash that I paid out. That being said, I’m happy with the amount I spent on Dapple, as it resulted in a high quality title. Much higher quality than if I had tried to do everything myself.
You could have saved money doing it yourself
Again, there was a misconception that when I said I paid contractors that I didn’t do anything. I did all of the game design, all of the programming, all of the project management, and all of the marketing for Dapple. I hired people on contract to do the artwork, the sound design, and music for the game. Perhaps my only mistake here was not hiring marketing experts to handle that aspect of the game cycle for Dapple. However, I’m learning a lot, so I’m not sure that it qualifies as a complete mistake.
You shouldn’t release less-than-perfect sales data
This one I’m finding hard to argue with. I think that releasing it to the iPhone developer community was still the right thing to do. Whether or not releasing it to the general public was a good idea remains to be seen. I honestly don’t know what the right answer is to this one. After this experience, I’m not sure I’ll do it again. Maybe I’ll set up a mailing list for iPhone devs that I can share this data with in the future. If I figure something out, I’ll be sure to let you know.
Miscellaneous angry emails
Several people wrote Streaming Colour very angry emails to tell us that they were angry with us, or that they disagreed with our strategies or choices in game design. We’re very sorry that you feel that way. We hope that when Dapple Lite comes out that you will try it, and then you can make a decision for yourself about whether the game is worth your money or not. That’s really all we can ask.
It’s been a crazy couple of days. I wish I could take the next two days and just spend it replying to each individual email or comment I received, but there’s just too much to do right now. I’m getting ready for the Dapple Lite launch, which will hopefully happen late this week or early next week, plus there some stuff I’m working on that I can’t talk about right now.
So I guess I don’t really have a conclusion. I’m still not sure whether posting my sales data was a good idea or not. I suppose that only time will tell. Hopefully I’ll have some success story numbers to post in a month or two.