I come to SE one evening, and to my vast happiness discover that I have just earned 70 rep points due to 7 upvotes on a single answer.

This causes me to think deeper. No, not about whether it's healthy that earning imaginary internet points offers me such a dopamine hit. About why would I get that rep, suddenly.

You see, this is an old answer that got 7 upvotes. (On a site where 7 upvotes on a brand new, non-HNQ answer, is a healthy amount).

My curiosity is piqued, as to what was the sudden popularity upswing's reason. And I want to investigate.

Usually, when an old post gets many upvotes, it's because they got a bunch more new views for one of three reasons:

  1. Someone edited the question or one of its answers.

    That's easiest/fastest to check, and the least likely cause when it's that many upvotes at once[1].

    An alternative is 2 other reasons, both of which can be summed up as "many people found a new reason to visit the post that day".

  2. Some new SE question linked to it (as Related, or closed as dupe of mine).

    This can be checked, but not as easily if the question has 10-20 "Related" questions on the site.

  3. Some outside source (either from a different SE, or outside SE) linked to it.

  4. May be i'm not thinking of some other reason?

So, the issue is: #2 is hard and time consuming to check given the tools I'm aware of; and #3, I don't even know how to check.

Intuitively, I assume they can all be checked by finding out the source of recent visits to the question, but I don't have a first clue if that's doable on SE, or how to do it.

Is there a reasonably scalable and efficient way I can find the reason why an old post got suddenly popular within the last day?

[1] As per Josh Caswell, it was indeed the case of #1 in my specific answer, but let's pretend it wasn't, since I'm asking a generic question and that isn't always the case)

  • 2
    Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/99042/… – Shog9 Jan 27 '17 at 23:43
  • Side note: I'm not linking the specific answer, because I'm looking for a generic algorithm, not post-specific answer. – DVK Jan 28 '17 at 2:42
  • 1
    "And wasn't the case here." There's a two-day-old answer that would have bumped the question to the front page. I admit I'm not sure if that was before or after the votes, though... – jscs Jan 28 '17 at 2:55
  • @JoshCaswell - first upvotes that day are 02:13. Answer was 02:03. I stand corrected - good find!. However, that is the exact reason I didn't share the link to the answer, because I am looking a generic algorithm in case #1 is false. – DVK Jan 28 '17 at 3:13
  • Fair enough; I think it's a good general question as well! – jscs Jan 28 '17 at 3:24

There is no definitive way to determine why your question suddenly has so many up-votes. This is because voting is anonymous... to an extent1. There are ways you could speculate.

  • Perhaps your question is a hot network question? This does not explain why it is suddenly a hot network question, but it certainly explains why your question may be drawing more traffic. This is far less likely, for older questions. That said, a question appears to make the hot network question page based off a mixture of activity, time of last activity and votes. An older question may still have recent activity, in the form of edits or answers.
  • As stated, you could check the "Linked" or "Related" questions. It is also worth addressing the score for these questions. A high-scoring question may in turn attract more users, and in turn direct the users to your question. This is a lot easier than manually checking each question, as the score is immediately visible from your own question.
  • It is always possible that you are the victim of voting fraud. This is more likely to happen across multiple questions, but in theory, it is possible that one might commit voting fraud to upvote a single question using multiple accounts. Do not worry about this one, at all. If this is the case, the system will pick it up. You would be alerted via notification, when the votes are removed.

It is entirely possible that someone is linking to your question from outside of the Stack Exchange. This becomes increasingly difficult to tell. As Shog9 points out, there have already been requests for a feature to tell us when this happens. The main request comes from 2011, and has not been approved nor rejected. This suggestion came up again, in 2015. This time, it was a suggestion for a new privilege. Still, I can not currently find any evidence to suggest if this feature will or will not happen.

In my efforts to research the original suggestion, I may have fallen too far through the rabbit hole. As a result, I noted two particularly interesting (yet contradictory) comments; but I can not find them, now, nor validate the reliability of the user posting them. Perhaps other users could comment on the two point of views?

  1. Moderators have access to some tools to help find some of the off-site links.
  2. While a global feature would be awesome, it would require a great deal of work in regards to implementation with the current system. As such, the "feature request" has been put on hiatus, but not cancelled.

1 They are completely anonymous for the purpose of why they were cast.

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  • Bullet #3: I never heard of someone perpetuating voting fraud to multiply upvote one single question 7 times. Granted, doesn't mean it never happened... but unlikely :) – DVK Jan 28 '17 at 22:04
  • Good edit! +1. I'm actually surprised that this isn't doable outside of SE tools, like some sort of link based Google search. – DVK Jan 28 '17 at 23:05
  • @DVK, Google do provide a similar feature. It appears to only offer analytics on the core URL (e.g. meta.stackexchange.com, for this question), and it appears to be set up for the owners of the site, itself. You actually have to state "this is my site" (that is where I stopped) – Gnemlock Jan 28 '17 at 23:08

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