How to Fake a Website Crash and Make News!

I mentioned earlier how a website crash can be seen as a positive thing since it indicates an overwhelming interest in something. Well, today I discovered how such a thing can be manipulated as a way to influence public opinion and to me it is downright sneaky if true!

I'm sure you are tired of hearing about the senate race in Minnesota that seems never to end, even after "final" court rulings are handed down! Apparently this came from the website of the Republican contender Norm Coleman:

ST PAUL – Information recently added to the Coleman for Senate website, whereby people can find out which Minnesota voters the Franken campaign is trying to disenfranchise, has resulted in the website being inundated by tens of thousands of hits today – temporarily crashing the website.

This story does a bit of cyber sleuthing to make a case for the report being an outright lie but I didn't even have to look that deeply to know it probably was. For one thing, websites that do nothing but serve up static HTML pages can usually handle lots of users because everything is cached in memory and there is nothing to do but shove it out the pipe. The pipe could get clogged if there's lots of graphics or multimedia and that's a lot more likely to happen than a server overload. Server overloads usually happen when databases and dynamic pages are involved, like with e-commerce sites.

With the crash of the KFC site (or was it Oprah's site? It's not clear in the article) it was almost certainly a bandwidth issue because the coupons had to be downloaded. Let's just say that the entire State of Minnesota represents a fraction of the Oprah fan base and assume that the reported crash was just that - reported but not real.

With cloud computing and the kind of testing that I am preaching there will someday be one less dirty trick in the politician's bag. If they want to post the contents of a weblog that shows the real number of hits, that's fine. But to claim a crash that didn't actually happen is adding fuel to a fire that doesn't really need any more (although I am grateful for the Daily Blog Story).

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