Can somebody explain to me how the question Is this Batman equation for real? has come to grow so immensely popular in such a short time?

I mean: it was posted 17 hours ago and it already approaches 12K views while an "ordinary" question is already well-off if it has 100 views in a day. As of this writing it is the 5th hottest question on the SE main site.

In fact, there are only four "famous questions" ($\geq 10,000$ views) on the entire site:


The notorious I need mathematical proof that the distance from zero to 1 is the equal to the distance from 1 to 2 (see also this meta thread) from over a month ago still hasn't passed 3000 views and as far as I can tell this is still one of the more popular questions from the last few months.

So, what social networking site is responsible for this?

  • 11
    $\begingroup$ This is probably a question for (supposing that they exist) anthropology.SE or sociology.SE =) $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Jul 30 '11 at 15:26
  • 17
    $\begingroup$ I would guess this was linked by several people on several networks. A Batman equation "explained" can be a point of interest for the layman, in comparison to the existence of $\aleph_1$ in ZF, which is not even a common interest of the laymathematician :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jul 30 '11 at 15:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Things are further pushed by that question being the #5 hottest question on the Stack Exchange network at the moment. $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Vogt Jul 30 '11 at 17:00
  • 15
    $\begingroup$ At one point it had a -2 rating. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to come back the next day to see it had over 50 upvotes. Life is strange. $\endgroup$ – Cheerful Parsnip Jul 30 '11 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ In the Twin Cities between any two colleges, I use that word rather loosely, that teach computer animation there is a third college that also teaches computer animation. At such places Batmath might be a useful topic. $\endgroup$ – Jay Aug 1 '11 at 16:33
  • 13
    $\begingroup$ People like Batman :) $\endgroup$ – Alexei Averchenko Aug 2 '11 at 6:14
  • $\begingroup$ Google already lists the question as the second hit for: Batman equation. Apparently the equation first appeared at Reddit. $\endgroup$ – yasmar Aug 3 '11 at 13:23
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Can't the question be locked in the sense that no more upvotes can be done on that question? I don't think this is the spirit behind the upvoting system. $\endgroup$ – Jonas Teuwen Aug 3 '11 at 19:06
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ 4 days old, 75,000+ views, 149 upvotes (more than any other on the site), 16 downvotes (perhaps second most of any on the site). I think that Alexei puts it well above, and also ShreevatsaR in a comment on his answer: "If Batman is what it takes for someone to appreciate mathematics a little, well good for Batman." $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer Aug 3 '11 at 19:08
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Jonas Teuwen: There's no turning back on the anomalous vote counts at this point. However, if there is concern over the disproportionate point generation, the question could be wiki-hammered to prevent any more rep from being gained, as Jeff Atwood did on the monkey question. (I do not care whether it is wikified, but wanted to point out an option less drastic than locking.) $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer Aug 3 '11 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ Mabye it's because there's a "Visit Meta" link to this post. $\endgroup$ – Quinn Culver Aug 24 '11 at 15:57
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Might this be the first time that m.SE was ever cited by MathWorld? $\endgroup$ – J. M. is not a mathematician Sep 7 '11 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ @J.M. Congratulations! :) $\endgroup$ – t.b. Sep 7 '11 at 23:10
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @Theo. The formula quoted there has an error though; I'll have to e-mail them about it... $\endgroup$ – J. M. is not a mathematician Sep 7 '11 at 23:17

Invoking my Mod Superpowers: the culprit is


where the post is currently number 3 on the list. It accounted for a whopping 25% of the total traffic to Math.SE in the last 24 hours, referring more users to this site than did Google in the same time period.

(Somewhat scary considering that, if I read it correctly, the link was only posted there some 5 hours ago.)

Facebook and Twitter together accounted for less than a quarter of the above.

What I am surprised about is that the person who posted it to YCombinator linked the Long URL, and not the short permalink with his UID encoded in it. If he had only shared the link properly, he would've earned a Publicist badge by now. (But of course, had he done that, we would've been able to track down what his username is on Math.SE and be able to blame this all on him...)

One final summary of the traffic pattern about this:

Using March and August of this year as the baseline, we see that Google directed the vast majority of traffic our way (over 50%). (MathOverflow and StackOverflow are roughly tied for a distant second at about 3% each).

Between July 29 and August 7, the average daily page view is about 135% of the baseline. Between July 29 and August 4, the figure is about 155% of the baseline. During 7/29 - 8/7, non-search-engine traffic dominated the directed traffic, though Google still is the single site contributing the most traffic (the search term "batman equation" is the single most popular search term, 5 times the number of the second most popular). Between 7/29 and 8/4, Ycombinator and Facebook together accounted for as much traffic as Google's ~20% of the share.

To answer Asaf's question in the comments, between July 29 and August 4, the one single question accounted for about 30% of our total page views.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Great, thanks! I name thee Willie "Cootman" Wong from now on. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Jul 30 '11 at 15:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That is near-unbelievable. Whoa. $\endgroup$ – davidlowryduda Jul 30 '11 at 21:17
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ And during the past 5 hours, the YComb drove another 2.5K views while Facebook and Reddit are starting to catch up with about 1K views between them. This is ridiculous. It will soon be our most viewed question on this site. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Jul 30 '11 at 21:31
  • 14
    $\begingroup$ Don't call it ridiculous. Call it a windfall for the site! Some small percentage of those 2.5K viewers will look at more than just that one post... $\endgroup$ – GEdgar Jul 31 '11 at 13:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Cootman: It is possible the user who linked to the YC is not a user on the website, or perhaps a new user that was not aware of this extremely rare possibility. Also, blame? :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jul 31 '11 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Willie: It's been almost a week now, the page of the question indicates over 80k views, can you give a good estimate how much of the traffic in the past week was into this question? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 5 '11 at 1:57
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Could I add one more question of statistics, how many users joined within this week from other SE sites and how many people received Supporter badge. Is this statistics any different compared to an arbitrarily chosen week of the year? (If you cannot check for that, I guess we'll have to wait for the next SQL dumps... and find someone who knows SQL :)) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 18 '11 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Asaf: The number of new users, compared to the baseline, is prportionally roughly the same as the data for page views. My best guess is that a total of around 100 ~ 150 new users are attributable to the phenomenon. I have no information about badges, but note that 100~150 is roughly the same order as the total number of votes received by that question. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Aug 18 '11 at 19:00
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @Willie: Yes, this is why I asked. I discussed this with J.M. earlier in the chatroom, suggesting that the automatic +100 rep. for SE passports was likely to have sent this question (and answer) about 100 (give or take) votes more than it would have gotten if new users would only get 1 point of reputation regardless to the existing SE passport. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 18 '11 at 19:08

Somewhat tangentially: after reading last blog post

Sometimes you have content which is valuable and on-topic, but is perhaps a bit too popular. It runs the risk of overwhelming the rest of your site if it grows untamed. In these circumstances, community wiki can be a way to preserve the value of these posts while stifling their growth.

— I thought: it's a little bit late, but maybe we should CW-hammer Batman?

  • $\begingroup$ I don't see how CW can be used to stifle growth. In hindsight, maybe you are correct that the question could have been CW. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Aug 20 '11 at 11:59

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .