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I was going through the Famous Question Badge awardings to see some interesting questions (which therefore have a lot of views) and notice that some rather ordinary (and/or boring) questions have earned the badge, in some cases exceeding it and earning 30k+ views.

Is there a reason why some questions get so many views? I suppose it may have to do with them being old, so maybe they've been passed around the website now and then (e.g. duplicate markers), but I don't really know.

Ex. This question is just asking to find the tangent line of a polynomial at a certain point, yet it has 32,000 views. It's certainly a high quality post with a high quality answer, but how did it possibly get so many views? Or this question asking for the derivative of $\sqrt{x}$.

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  • $\begingroup$ Most questions with abnormally large number of views/votes got those numbers due to being on the "Hot Network Questions" list. This attracts huge rubbernecking traffic from all over the SE network. As such the votes and views on those questions don't usually represent the MSE community $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Apr 6 '14 at 21:38
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The first post you are referencing is the top Google result (for me; I know it's relative) for the phrase "Find the point where the tangent line is horizontal".

Consider the number of students who receive an assignment with the above line (a standard calculus assignment) and Google the phrase.

The other post is popular for a similar reason. Note that it spells out "square root" in words, not just as $\sqrt{x}$. This made it more searchable than other Math.SE posts.


Aside: many Math.SE posts are hard to find because they omit key terms, replacing them with TeX markup. If you are writing an answer or editing a question, consider this aspect of the site's purpose. When I see a key term is lacking in a question, I try to use it in my answer to it, in some search-friendly way.

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Often people will share these on sites like reddit or ycombinator. These attract large crowds.

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  • $\begingroup$ But sharing a boring homework problem to social media sites garnering 10k+ views from that? I find that dubious. I think CEDP's answer makes more sense. $\endgroup$ – MCT Apr 6 '14 at 22:44
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    $\begingroup$ You might be surprised. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 6 '14 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ This is precisely what happened here: math.stackexchange.com/questions/562694/… $\endgroup$ – Ron Gordon Apr 7 '14 at 0:21
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    $\begingroup$ @RonGordon Yes, but I think the questions OP refers to are of quite different category. Hard to imagine "how to find the derivative of square root?" going viral. :) $\endgroup$ – user127096 Apr 7 '14 at 1:18
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    $\begingroup$ @cheapeffectivedietpills: Oh, sure. But still, we do lots of crazy integrals here. When I answered the question, I watched with bemusement as the upvotes and page views climbed and climbed. I had no idea what was going on until I posted the answer to my blog; there, someone told me about Reddit and that explained a lot. $\endgroup$ – Ron Gordon Apr 7 '14 at 1:21
  • $\begingroup$ @RonGordon I can't believe nobody has mentioned this question, which according to MO reached 100k views in a little more than 10 days. There had to be sharing going on to produce such an explosive viewership. That is, if something more sinister didn't happen :) $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Apr 7 '14 at 10:29
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I imagine there is some sort of threshold, where beyond that number of views, users will view the topic just because it has so many views, increasing the view count further, ad infinitum.

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