A Post Goes Viral

March 23, 2010 at 1:23 pm 5 comments

Last October, I rewrote a blog post that I had created here, on using ideas like reduced cognitive load and worked examples to improve computing education, for Blog@CACM.  That post, with Judy Robertson’s rebuttal, appeared in the most recent issue of Communications of the ACM.  From there, the post “went viral.”

Yesterday, I was told that that blog post had received 15,000 page views last month — three times what the CACM website home page received.  Today I received an email at 9 am: “over 3,761 pageviews on Saturday, 3,711 on Sunday, 10,295 on Monday, and 9,729 today.”  I just received an update at just after noon that the post has had 12,304 hits so far today. Why would a six month old post suddenly become so popular?  I’ve started getting interesting email connected with the post.  A Georgia Tech alum wrote me, saying that his social networking site was discussing the post, and could I stop by to comment in response?

To most of the email and social networking commentary that I’ve seen, my response has been basically the content of the post on hybrid approaches.  Of course, students should program during their first course — that’s not all that they should do, and that’s probably not the first kind of practice that they get in computing.  Judy’s response is quite nice in describing other kinds of activities that one might use in an introductory course.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe that those teaching practices are widespread.

I don’t really understand what causes a spike in interest like this.  The CACM website folks are a little concerned about dealing with the “slashdot effect.”  While it’s exciting, it’s not quite clear whether to be thrilled or bracing for impact.  Just getting a lot of attention is not necessarily a good thing — simply the fact that people are rubbernecking doesn’t mean that there’s something good going on.  Perhaps the most interesting part of this is how silent it is.  12,000 people today visited something I wrote, and all I know is that I got a few extra email notes.  Works for me!

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Barry Brown  |  March 24, 2010 at 1:01 am

    Your CACM article appeared on Reddit and has garnered 150 comments as of this writing. You’ve created quite a stir!

  • 2. Frank McCown  |  March 24, 2010 at 9:09 am

    The key to making a blog post go viral is choosing a sufficiently controversial title. Using “Reducing cognitive load and using worked examples to improve computing education” instead of “How we Teach Introductory Computer Science is Wrong” may have resulted in a minor cough rather than a full-blown virus. 😉

  • 3. Frank McCown  |  March 24, 2010 at 10:46 am

    After some thought, I think my comment might sound a little critical. That was certainly not my intention. Mark’s post is something all CS educators should read, and I’m very glad to see it’s getting a lot of reads!

    • 4. Mark Guzdial  |  March 24, 2010 at 5:47 pm

      Not at all, Frank! I appreciated your point! I do aim for a bit of hyperbole in my titles and “blog voice,” and I agree that that does attract a bit more attention than a more (read: “careful” 🙂 academic version of my blog posts.

  • […] there are probably more than I’m not aware of.  Some of these conversations spiked when my Blog@CACM post “went viral,” receiving over 52,000 page views in a two week period.  That feels like […]


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