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So one of my answers on a network site has suddenly attracted a few upvotes within a short span of time (within hours). This is an answer that I posted over a year ago, where it received most of its upvotes around a couple days of posting, then lay dormant for over a year.

While it can merely be a coincidence, my limited understanding tells me there's a possibility that caused the event.

I have at times experienced sudden upvotes on some of my posts that referred a topic that's currently in the news. But I couldn't comprehend anything similar in this case.

So my question is simply out of curiosity (and with a desire to learn more), as to whether it's possible to, and if yes, how to determine the reason which caused sudden activity on one of my posts?

If it helps, I have access to the site analytics for the network site in question.

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  • Could just be winter bash effect – CinCout Dec 10 '19 at 10:08
  • @CinCout Can you kindly elaborate more on this? – Nimesh Neema Dec 10 '19 at 10:09
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    During winter bash, people hunt for hats, and usually there's hat for doing something with old posts (voting, editing, etc.) – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Dec 10 '19 at 10:11
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    Users keep trying different stuff on the network to try to find the triggers for secret hats. This could be one of the reasons. – CinCout Dec 10 '19 at 10:11
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    Anyway that's not the case. The question got bumped by a new answer, which is currently at -2, and it made people see the question and the answers again, some of them voted, and that's the reason for the upvotes. – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Dec 10 '19 at 10:12
  • @ShadowThePrincessWizard I can kind of understand something like that happening only if the post has become active by editing or such. But nothing like that has happened. Three random users landing on the same post for upvote appears kind of unusual. – Nimesh Neema Dec 10 '19 at 10:13
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    @Nimesh any new answer bumps the whole question, same as if the question was edited. – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Dec 10 '19 at 10:13
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    @ShadowThePrincessWizard Ah yes! How could I be so naive to miss that. I guess you answered it. Thank you! – Nimesh Neema Dec 10 '19 at 10:14
  • Long ago I suggested access to referrer analytic data on your own individual questions as a micro privilege for high rep users. Well received by the community, but never acted on or responded to. Would be very interesting to learn why a post suddenly seems to be getting attention. – Chris Dec 12 '19 at 5:21
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There is no general method for this, but here are some guidelines to check:

  • In your case, the answer (pun intended) is quite simple: somebody posted a new answer, bumping the question. The question statistics under the title reflect this: "Active today". New users viewed the Q&A because it was on the homepage again and found your answer good enough to upvote.

    enter image description here

  • You can look at the Linked Questions sidebar widget to see if e.g. a new duplicate question has been asked. (It's not shown for this question, so that didn't happen.)

  • Another thing which might happen is that somebody posts a bounty on the question. As answerer, you don't get notified of this. In fact, even as question author you don't get notified.

  • Cross-site links (e.g. somebody on Super User linking to your answer or its question) are much harder to detect, since they're not stored and hence not shown. Still, I recall a few times getting some upvotes on old posts here; when I visited Meta Stack Overflow I saw a similar question had just been asked, and somebody linked to my question/answer.

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  • Thanks for the clever pun. Haha. – Nimesh Neema Dec 10 '19 at 10:15
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    Also, it can become a HNQ. Some things are a reoccurring subject of interest, resulting in people searching and visiting. – Rob Dec 10 '19 at 11:26
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    In this case, it's not just that someone posted a new answer, it's that someone posted a bad answer. That tends to draw additional upvotes to the existing good answer. – Mark Dec 10 '19 at 19:15
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    Also, when a low quality answer gets posted to an old question that only has a small number of existing answers, some people will upvote those other answers rather than pile on downvotes to the new answer. – PM 2Ring Dec 11 '19 at 4:15
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In addition to the excellent points described in Glorfindel's answer, one other thing to check is the question's timeline.

This is a chronological timeline of everything that happened on a question, including

  • initial question ask
  • answers
  • revisions
  • comments
  • closure, deletion, reopen, undelete, etc
  • votes

all based on when they happened in chronological order.

(source)

Note: the "post ID" is the number shown after the "questions/" part of the question's URL.

Among the more than 500 answers I've given so far on Math SE, the top 2, in terms of score, were due to at least some extent from special events listed in their timelines. As mentioned in Rob's comment to Glorfindel's answer, the post may have become a HNQ (i.e., Hot Network Question). Depending on how potentially interesting the question is, how long it's on the HNQ list, etc., it may get a lot of views, with a generally corresponding increase in votes for the question and answers. Here is the timeline of a question where my answer got many more up votes (32 in total) than I would have normally expected it to (I circled the pertinent part in red):

Timeline showing post being added to HNQ

Although this happened just about 3 months ago, so it's definitely not on the HNQ now, there's no indication of when the question stopped being on that list. Also, there's at least one other math question I've seen on the HNQ list which I've answered & got a few more votes than I would have otherwise expected. One thing to note is that, I believe since many sites don't support MathJax, any question using MathJax in its title (e.g., like the other question I discuss below) will generally never be on the HNQ list.

Next, here is the timeline for the other question I mentioned:

Timeline showing post being tweeted

In this case, the post was tweeted on StackMath's twitter account. I don't know how many other SE sites also have their own their own twitter accounts, or how popular they are. However, in this case, my answer fairly quickly got a lot of up votes, ending up at 15 in total.

Note most of my answers on math SE get at most 4 or 5 up votes, so these 2 answers are definitely not normal, or even what I consider to be among my best answers. Also, these 2 events, i.e., being on the HNQ and being tweeted, would normally happen quite soon after a question is posted, so it won't likely apply if you see something happening after a year or so. Regardless, if there are no other fairly obvious reasons, it's still worthwhile to check the timeline for the possibility of the question being on the HNQ, being tweeted, or something else occurring & being listed which may have caused the post to suddenly get at lot more views and votes.

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  • Pretty helpful. Thanks for sharing. – Nimesh Neema Dec 10 '19 at 19:18

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