The butane stove ban that almost crashed our website - 200,000 visitors in 24 hours

On this morning three years ago, March 5th 2015, I woke up and discovered the blog I posted the night before had gone viral...

It all started the day before on March 4th when the NSW Fair Trading Commissioner, Rod Stowe, announced that the certification for all ‘lunchbox style’ butane gas cookers sold in NSW had been revoked due to safety issues.

“Compliance certification for all current models of ‘lunchbox’ type gas cookers has been suspended by the independent safety certifiers and cookers of this type can no longer be sold lawfully in NSW."

This effectively banned them from sale in NSW.

The press release was posted on the ACCC Product Safety Website and shared on Facebook.

As it turned out I happened to notice the news on Facebook that afternoon not long after it was shared and thought that considering how popular the butane stoves are (I had 4 myself at the time) this would be interesting for our subscribers.

So I put together a quick blog post with the details of the ban and published it on our site about 6:30pm with plans to include it in our next newsletter later in the week.

Over dinner I got to thinking that this was actually pretty big news. These stoves are so popular because they are cheap and simple, there are millions of them out there. People will want to know about this.

So about 8:30 that night I shared my blog post on Facebook and wasn’t surprised when it immediately started being liked and shared.

But what happened next completely took me by surprise.

The Facebook post continued to gather momentum into the evening and the last time I checked, around 10:00pm there were over 300 people on the site.

It was gathering momentum . . . and quickly.

So I went to bed wondering what I would wake up to the next morning.

Next morning I woke up and the first thing I did was grabbed my iPhone to check the Google Analytics app to see how it was going.

I was expecting to see that it had settled back down to more normal figures in the two digits, rather than three but it had kept building.

At 7:30 the next morning there were now 1072 visitors currently on our site . . .

This was more than 10x more than I’d ever seen on the site at the same time before.

Holy crap!!

1072-site-vistors

At this point my first thought was ‘this is going to crash our site’ so I jumped out of bed and grabbed my laptop to check and see if the site had been running ok and it was, no down time at all - we pay extra for premium website hosting (WP Engine) so it was nice to see it actually holding up under the huge spike of traffic.

The butane stove ban was big news and had everyone talking about it which explains why the post went viral.

The ban was triggered following testing which found a fault with the cookers’ shut-off valves, posing a risk that the devices may overheat and could explode.

As expected, the stove manufacturers redesigned the shut off valves to address the problem and Gasmate was first to have their new improved model certified and back on the market around 5 months later.

Today any new butane stove you buy will be compliant.

One issue that came to light from the ban was that many (probably most) users of the butane stoves were not aware that the pot or pan should not be any bigger that the trivet. If it covers the compartment where the gas cartridge is held, the reflected heat from the base of the pot/pan can cause the gas cartridge to overheat.

The site ran hot all day and by the end of the day, March 5th, a little more than 24 hours after I posted the blog and shared it on Facebook, we’d had almost 200,000 visitors to our site.

And by the end of the week it was over 300,000.

It turned out to be a great test for our site and web host, as the site stayed up despite the massive traffic surge.

Today, 3 years later, it still attracts a lot of traffic and has generated close to half a million page views since that day in March 2015.

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