11

For example, this question currently has 3000 views: Science fiction book from 80's or 90's. Cover is man sitting on a throne of bones

Whereas this similar one, posted a few hours before, has only 100: SciFi book about two alien races fighting over Earth

Are they linked through from another site or something? I see Potterverse, Star Trek, and other franchises get lots of views too, that's understandable.

I'm just curious, I don't have any wish to "optimize" my questions or anything like that.

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    Related: Where are all these views coming from? – Möoz May 30 '18 at 0:58
  • Aha, thanks @Möoz , that answers the question. – James from NZ May 30 '18 at 1:02
  • Now, how do I close this discussion . Hmm – James from NZ May 30 '18 at 1:06
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    No need to delete it - in fact, I don't think this is actually a duplicte :-) The older meta post was about one specific question, and the explanation in that case seems to have been the Stack Exchange CEO linking it on Twitter. You've asked a good general question here, which deserves to get an answer. – Rand al'Thor May 30 '18 at 14:23
  • Purely anecdotal - I was one of the 3000 - it's an intriguing question / topic. The other one, not so much. It's generic sounding, and I would guess from the weak / broadly generic title that the question itself will be sparse on details making it hard to identify, so I didn't bother. – NKCampbell May 31 '18 at 20:57
  • @Randal'Thor Maybe, but the (more credible) answer in that thread was that it had gotten linked through from popular subs on Reddit. I imagine it drives more traffic than the CEO's Twitter feed, unless SE is actually being run by one of the Kardashians now. – lly Jun 5 '18 at 10:10
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Basically, it's luck of the draw.

There are a number of factors which can go into how many views a question gets. The most important ones I can think of are as follows, in (IMO) decreasing order of significance.

  • Hot Network Questions.
  • Search engine results.
  • Promotion elsewhere.

Hot Network Questions

This is a list of questions from all across the network, changing all the time, according to what's currently 'hot'. The precise formula for 'hotness' can be found here, but the TL;DR is that if you get lots of answers/votes fast, you're likely to get on the HNQ. Either more than one answer with a few upvotes, or one answer with a lot of upvotes, soon after the question is posted will be a likely recipe for HNQ.

The HNQ list skews votes and views massively. When a question hits the HNQ and stays there for a while, it can get 100+ votes and 10,000+ views in just one or two days. Many of our badges called Great Questions, Great Answers, and Famous Questions come from posts which hit the HNQ (and sometimes their quality doesn't really reflect the score or the badge name. As another mod once said, "popularity does not equal quality").

Search engine results

The above is usually the explanation for a post getting lots of views fast, but there are also slow-burners: questions which never hit the HNQ but got 10,000+ views anyway, or were posted long before the HNQ system existed, or just gathered thousands of views over a period of years. This is probably because people's web searches lead them to that question. If this happens to you, then congratulations - you've asked something that's useful to the wider internet!

Anecdotally, I've observed this effect especially strongly with questions. The most-viewed question on the entire site, by far, is about watching order for the Star Wars films; and the most-viewed question in each of many different tags is also about reading or watching order. To a lesser extent, I've also seen it happen with questions, e.g. this one which was closed soon after being asked and never hit HNQ, but has gained 10,000 views since then. All of this makes sense, of course, because order and ID questions are among the most practically useful on the site. People might be idly interested in what Tom Bombadil was, or why Hermione wasn't in Ravenclaw, but helping them to find a lost story again or to know in which order to read a series will actually have an effect on their lives.

Promotion elsewhere

This one is much harder to track down, but apparently it can also have an effect on views for particular questions. If a post gets promoted somewhere else, e.g. an offsite blog with a lot of traffic, then it might pick up a lot of views from that. That's what happened in this case previously asked about, and it's probably also the cause of most of our Publicist badges, but IMO it's the least significant of the three effects listed here.

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    Re external promotion: twitter.com/StackSciFi auto-tweets questions that "look promising" according to some unknown algorithm. It only has ~600 followers though. – Kevin May 30 '18 at 23:06
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    How about in-site promotion? Like the length of time something is on (or near the top of) the site home screen during high-traffic hours? I’ve no idea if that actually moves the needle or not, but I’ve always assumed it’s in play. – Paul D. Waite May 31 '18 at 17:41
  • @DVK-on-Ahch-To Another mod? I thought that was my catchphrase! :-P – Rand al'Thor May 31 '18 at 21:29
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    Some people have also used Reddit's TIL to generate lots of views/votes. – Xantec Jun 1 '18 at 13:14
  • @Xantec - yep, although, it ironically has the same exact spread as SFF views - some TIL posts generate tons of reddit votes and tons of SFF views, and some a bunch of down-votes and almost no SFF views. I was unable to detect any discernible pattern. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jun 5 '18 at 23:54
2

I think it really depends on who posts it. When people who are more experienced at asking questions ask a question they may get more views then someone like me who only joined recently.This is not because person one is better but rather people are more used to seeing them so they will view that over the newer less experienced person. This is just a theory based on my experiences of being very newly registered.

Also it depends what it's about. If it's about an extremely popular subject, for example Harry Potter, it's more likely to get more views then something about an anime that two people have heard of (no offence to animes and their fans BTW).

  • 3
    I don't look at questions because they're asked by anyone in particular. I look at them because they're in tags that I find interesting or because the titles themselves are interesting. – Valorum Jun 10 '18 at 20:27
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    @Valorum I personally do as well. – Hermione Granger Jun 10 '18 at 20:29
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    I read every question in the few tags I am most interested in, and I read some questions in other tags if the titles seem interesting (especially if I think I might be able to answer them). – Blackwood Jun 11 '18 at 3:24
  • It is possible that the experienced members are more adept at framing a question that gets attention. When I see a question, I cannot see who asked it until I click on it. – Verdan Jul 18 '18 at 19:24

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