Hacker News Books topped the front page of Hacker News for several hours on 26 August 2016 and attracted a significant amount of visits during that time. The following is an account of what happened before, during and after the submission and what I learned from it.
Hacker News Books is a service that aggregates links to books on Amazon, O'Reilly or Safaribooks in user comments on Hacker News on a weekly basis and sends the result to a newsletter list. The books are scored by a formula, which takes into account how many times a book is mentioned, score of the parent story, karma of the posting user, etc. That in turn recomputes the All Time Books List and the Yearly Tops. Users can jump directly to the comment talking about a book - usually a short book review. The way the service is monetized is by adding referrals to the Amazon links.
I submitted the story about Hacker News Books to HN on Friday, August 26 16:28 UTC. Timing was based on this advice - and the fact that according to SimilarWeb 38% of the users on HN come from the US so the timing had to make sense for those time zones. From there on it went really fast. My guess is that the ranking algorithm takes into account clicks on the story links and not only upvotes because the story jumped to being from new to number 1 in only a couple of minutes and only having something like 7-8 upvotes but already with more than 20 visitors realtime.August 26 16:39 UTC
The story jumped to first position on Hacker News and had 99 users realtime browsing according to GAAugust 26 17:27 UTC
Story had stayed as number one for almost an hour steadily gaining users for a peak of 600 users at the same time realtime.August 26 18:18
Story still position one and keeping a steady flow of users averaging about 500 at same time.August 26 21:20
The story got switched by the mods from a 'Standard Post’ to a 'Show HN' story. This had a tremendous impact on the ranking of the story, which dropped from n1 to n15 immediately and the number of users from 500 to roughly 150. Compare the n3 story about “Apollo Global” and "Hacker News Books” - they were both posted 4 hours earlier, Apollo had 192 points and 103 comments vs. 350 points and 160 comments for HNB and yet the ranking difference was so big. On the other hand the story stayed a long time in the Show HN section, probably longer than it would have stayed on front page but the new users count was certainly very different.August 26 22:20
Story went down from n15 to n29 despite getting 15 more upvotes and 8 comments in this period. Number of people browsing it was about 70 realtime.August 27 17:42
Story was still n3 on Show HN with 427 points and 179 comments.
Here are breakdowns by Overall, Referrals, Device and Geo by Google Analytics for this period