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I recently asked a question on the fairly unpopular "Yocto" tag. That is, most new questions have barely 20 to 30 views. Now this one has amassed more than 3k views in just one day, which I found very surprising. Moreover, there was no interaction with the question at all.

I guess it's probably due to the three letters xxx in the title, attracting bots that search for more, let's say, explicit content.

So, I considered changing the title to yyy or so, to not get more popular question badges I didn't earn.

Right now I'm a bit clueless on what, if anything, to do here.

Link to my Question

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    We can't see per question referrers but your own assumption about explicit content can't be far off.
    – rene
    Jan 10 at 14:17
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    Note that when you hover over the Viewed 3k times text in the linked question, it shows the exact number (2598 at the moment). The number is still on the rise, perhaps due to the meta effect or due to your x-rated suspicion.
    – toolic
    Jan 10 at 14:36
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    @rene actually, taking random example looks like that assumption is wrong, and the "xxx" isn't the reason for the high view count. Something else is at play here. My assumption is some high profile user sharing it in social media, but can't find who and where. Jan 10 at 14:50
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    @ShadowWizardLoveZelda you're better with stats: data.stackexchange.com/stackoverflow/query/1814151
    – rene
    Jan 10 at 14:56
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    If someone did share the link, it didn't have their user ID in it, since I don't see any Announcer badges for the question.
    – Laurel
    Jan 10 at 15:19
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    @Laurel that badge might take even whole day until it kicks in, and the link might have been shared in the last hours, so let's see in a day or two. Jan 10 at 16:03
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    My guess: There's a current craze to be concerned about "the rise of the machines", machine learning, Florence and the Machine are touring N-America later this year.
    – W.O.
    Jan 10 at 18:40
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    Part of the reason could be that it contains an exact error message and search engine visitors end up on it. Or just random search engine craziness. Here is another example, with about 1200 views per day on average over 10 days (with text/terminal output as images. Yuck!). Jan 10 at 22:49
  • cont' - In particular, an exact (partial) error message in the title (conjecture) Jan 10 at 23:11
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    @This_is_NOT_a_forum no, the other question you brought as example can't be compared, it's a totally different thing. It became popular and got so many views because it became Hot Network Question, and all users on all SE sites could see it in every page they visited. The question here never became HNQ, and didn't even receive a single upvote. Totally different case, something else caused the amount of views. Jan 11 at 7:10
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    @This_is_NOT_a_forum Your query pretty much proves it in my eyes. In Highest view rate for newer questions ALL top results contain xxx in the title. Maybe it didn't strike as odd, because the question could theoretically be that interesting, as python, boost or html are used by hundred of thousands.
    – Mo_
    Jan 11 at 8:09
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    At the very least, Google query for "stackoverflow.com" "77785146" returned multiple results of https://stackoverflow.com/posts/77785146/ivc/ which increases view counter. Jan 13 at 15:46
  • Oh, so that's why "XXXX it is, then" with plural nouns? got 61k views...
    – CDR
    Jan 15 at 6:53

1 Answer 1

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TL;DR: The xxx string is the most likely cause, but other aspects are at play as well.

This query shows new questions which got the most views. In there are two types of results:

  1. Questions with many votes (i.e. probably high interest from the SO community).
  2. Questions with few votes, but containing the string "xxx" in some fashion (i.e. probably high interest from another 'community')

With access to the server logs it would be possible to tell, where this traffic comes from. I'd suspect either from real people looking for "xxx" somehow finding their way to stackoverflow. Or it's just a bunch of poorly programmed bots who forgot to put stackoverflow.com on their blacklist when scraping the web for explicit material.

Verification

There are also questions with that string that do not get thousands of views, e.g. here. For verification, I changed the xxx string to foo yesterday. And voilà:

  • xxx: avg. 3k views/day
  • foo: < 100 views/day

Other possible causes for high views vs. low engagement

  1. Question is shared on social media. Unlikely here:
  • Search engines don't contain results for the question link or id
  • No Announcer Badge has been awarded
  1. Question contains a literal error message. Unlikely here:
  • The topic of the question is extremly niche.
  • The question is a beginner question, other beginner questions on the same topic don't see this many views.
  1. The "meta effect":
  • Posts on meta drive traffic to the question
  • Unlikely here, this question has 100 times more views than its meta post
  1. Question becomes Hot Network Question (this didn't)

Sweet spot

But all in all, it seems my combination of words had hit a particular sweet spot in the xxx phenomena: Query results for 2024-01-15

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    So when it comes to click-rate XXX works better than GenAI. Noted.
    – rene
    Jan 16 at 9:06

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