PermaLink The Moose Meme: how it worked04/01/2008 10:50 PM
OK, now it can be told.

Ah, the moose meme.

if you hadn't noticed, and most of you had, there were some odd things happening in the last 24 hours on the PlanetLotus "top searches" widget you can find at the left side of that page.

In celebration of the First of April, I figured out how one might... uh... manipulate its statistics.

To get this started, it was first necessary to have a few posts on the site which were being visited by a lot of people. Not an enormous number, but enough to act as a seed. I had that over the preceding few days. Into the bottom of each of those posted, I inserted a dummy IMG SRC tag which attempted to pull up an image via a URL. Since PlanetLotus can be queried through a parameter passed to a URL, I had the IMG SRC point to the PHP code that invoked a search. A few seconds later, all those active posts contained a reference to a URL which issued the following two search term queries:

fish guts
a moose once bit my sister

do those look kinda familiar?

Well, all I had to do then was sit back and wait while people read the stories and unwittingly issued the queries. The counts for those searches slowly rose, so I realized in the middle of the night that I'd have to do something a little extra. Since PlanetLotus' code limits the number of repeat queries that will be counted from an individual address, I had to mobilize some extra tools.

URL, XML and RSS validators to the rescue!

I found a bunch of sites which, if given a URL, would check the site and validate whatever it found there. Sure enough, I fed that same URL query string to about two dozen separate validator sites, which of course meant new IPs that the PlanetLotus PHP code hadn't seen before! By the middle of the night, the queries had gradually risen to where the queries appeared on the more comprehensive list of popular searches, but neither had risen to the top. Yet.

Enter Volker Weber.

At about midnight GMT, Volker noticed that these strange queries were on the "current popular" list and mentioned them in a post on his rather-popular blog.

Self-sustain had been achieved.

I went back to my posts and removed the reference to the dummy IMG SRC codes. Now, the totals on the searches would rise because people were clicking on Vowe's links to the searches, and the counts started to skyrocket. 80. 100. 200. And of course, as they showed up as "popular," new people would look at them and try to figure out who the hell was searching on those strange, non-Domino-like terms. And the counts would rise some more as people would then get Vowe's blog showing up as a hit in the search, and they'd view the blog entry. And click it. And the search count would rise.

Self-sustaining meme chain reaction experiment successful!

By the evening of April 1, the phrase a moose once bit my sister stood at an astonishing, record-breaking 2,014 hits.

Then, I suppose Yancy Lent noticed something odd going on and finally removed the links.


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2. Turtle04/02/2008 03:12:46 PM

Yancy, I was actually thinking about ways in which you might mooseproof the search and other stats... I'd know how to do it in Domino, but...

And for the record, neither vowe nor I consciously resurrected the moose that second time. I think it was just johnny-come-latelies who hadn't seen the original gag...

3. Yancy Lent04/02/2008 01:45:15 PM

Boo? Come on, I gave it the full day. Nice work, now please don't anyone expand on this for personal gain; what Turtle did here was for fun but if its abused it will ruin a really cool part of the site/community.

{ Link }

4. Karl-Henry Martinsson04/02/2008 10:23:16 AM

Mooses are very popular in Germany. German tourists get stickers of Swedish moose warning signs and put on their cars, and they have even been known to "liberate" signs from the signposts... So now you can actually buy those signs legimately...
{ Link }
"Moose warning signs are used on roads in regions where there is a danger of collision with the animal. The triangular warning signs common in Sweden, Norway and Finland have become coveted souvenirs among the many German tourists traveling in these countries, and authorities have had to issue warnings that it is dangerous and criminal to remove these signs. The popularity of these signs has led to them being depicted on all kinds of souvenirs, such as coffee mugs, neckties or T-shirts, and full-size copies of the actual signs may be bought. In the mid 1990s, the Swedish postal service issued a triangular stamp with a moose warning sign, intended to cater especially to German tourists writing postcards home."

5. Volker Weber04/02/2008 08:17:53 AM
Homepage: http://htp://

Chris and Steve, you hafta brush up on your Monty Python's.

6. Steve McDonagh04/02/2008 05:45:40 AM

LOL .. so thats what it was!
I even created a post with a "moose bitten sister" and "fishguts" to see if that appeared in the search it did but WAY down at the bottom of a list of fairly unrelated posts (well some of them had "fish" in them. What has a ASW got to do? ~sigh~

Also Moosii have very poor dental hygiene I would be most concerned for your sister's health gingivitis of the bit is a REAL risk

7. Chris Linfoot04/02/2008 04:54:25 AM

So it was your sister. I thought it odd that vowe's sister had been bitten - not a lot of meese in Germany.

Now, your average moose does not have sharp teeth, but does have strong jaws - so a bite from one would be more of a crushing injury than a cutting one, quite debilitating if not actually life threatining.

Did your sister recover?

Did the fish guts have anything to do with her convalescence?

Am I the only one who likes these?

{ Link }

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