Musings on the Meaning of "Slow"

By , January 5, 2008 10:44 pm

My last post, Leisurely or Lickety-Split?, posed a very subjective question: is my blog slow to load? I received a very interesting array of responses ranging from: Your site has been very slow to load and actually several times has made internet explorer shut down…” (sorry!), to “no, not at all.” However I must say that the one commonality was that you were all very kind in your comments, even when I might be the cause of crashing browsers. Thank you!

Well I do realize that much affects internet speed and crashing browsers and probably every person that commented today, DID have a different experience of my load time. Some are using dial-up, Blogger could be goofy, perhaps my blog works better in some browsers than others…who knows.

But all this got me thinking about what “slow” really means. Anyone who has travelled abroad, especially to countries with cultures very different from one’s own, has to realize that what is considered “slow” is extremely culturally dependent.

I remember reading somewhere a long, long time ago when the Former Soviet Union was still THE Soviet Union, that people in Russia would happily wait in line for an extremely long period of time. In fact if there was a line outside a store, people joined it automatically without knowing what it was for, because if there was that long a line, there must be something good inside.

Well I don’t know how true that last “fact” is, but I imagine that the Soviets, like everyone else in the world, had a certain expectation of how long their wait in line should be, and it was almost certainly much longer than the wait tolerated by a person in the US.

I think I read somewhere that the average time that an American will happily wait in line is 7 minutes, but I couldn’t find that statistic anywhere online, so don’t quote me on it OK? And of course if it is the eve of “Black Friday” at Walmart, we all know that some Americans will camp out all night in the cold just to hold a place in line.

Also, not surprisingly, people will happily wait longer when distracted either by a menu at a restaurant, or a video at Disney…but that annoying “elevator music” that plays when you are on hold on the phone? That irritates more than it distracts, since it is totally unrelated to the service that we expect to receive (as opposed to a menu). I could have told you that!

I did find out in my brief research however, that there is a whole science out there called “Queuing Theory” which is “the mathematical study of waiting in lines.”

I don’t know why, but I find this fascinating! Maybe it is because I listened to so many grumbling Americans as I stood in my interminable airport security line in Mexico.

I had hoped to find some stats online about average tolerable wait times based on country/culture, but unfortunately I was unable to. I’ll keep looking though, since I am sure a study is out there somewhere. (Does anyone know of one?)

My personal theory is that Americans are probably among the most impatient people in the world. We want what we want, and we want it now. I also think that if somebody had mapped the amount of time that people would willingly wait for a service over many many years, we would see our willingness to wait decreasing over time.

Perhaps that is where all this rambling ties in with Unplug Your Kids. I think that with the excess of high speed, high stim stuff that we have today, we don’t know how to wait anymore. There are TV’s in restaurants for goodness sakes! Oh well, that is a post for another day. Time to get back on track:

I did find a study that claims that the “tolerable waiting time” for a webpage to load before people give up and go elsewhere is 2 seconds! (A Study on Tolerable Waiting Time: How Long are Web Users Willing to Wait? by Fiona Fui-Hoon Nah (2004), Behavior & Information Technology, forthcoming)

A tool that I have been using to check download speed indicates that Unplug Your Kids loads in 0.96 seconds, but I have never understood this site. My result sounds reassuring, but how can it be so definitive when there are so many variables?

In the comments to Leisurely or Lickety-Split?, Christine suggested I try Web Page Analyzer. This one breaks down the results by connection speed, much more helpful. UPYK ranged from 141.44 seconds at 56K to 12.33 seconds with a T1 connection. What!! Why are any of you even here? Perhaps I should be flattered that you are willing to wait so long to read my precious pearls of wisdom. LOL! Seriously though, I need an overhaul.

For anyone else who wants to analyze the speed of their blog, geeky me liked Web Page Analyzer (free by the way) because it gives lots of information about download time per object type, and even an analysis and recommendations for improvement at the bottom of the page. Really helpful! Thanks Christine!

I hope I haven’t bored everyone to death with my nerdy musings about wait times and geeky website speed test sites. It is ironic that I, self-proclaimed “Mom Unplugged” who strives for a less technology-laden life, am obsessing about how to shave a second or two of my blog’s load time. The fact that I even have a blog at all is an irony that has not escaped me! But rest assured that this is merely a passing obsession for me. UPYK will not be turning into a tech blog anytime soon.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, a queue for goods in the People’s Republic of Poland.

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6 Responses to “Musings on the Meaning of "Slow"”

  1. Gattina says:

    I personally have no problems at all with your blog. Since I only use Firefox and not IE anymore it goes far quicker. With IE I even had problems with my own blog. I have heard that Google wants to kick out IE because Firefox belongs to the group. When I was in Turkey it loaded quite quickly and in Egypt I had the choice between Firefox and IE. But in Italy it was awful ! It took ages to load a blog ! I almost got a nervous breakdown there.
    It also depends on how many posts you have on one page. In my travel blog for example I have a lot of pictures so I changed it to one post per page. The other blogs have 3 posts per page. So it all depends on how many posts you have on one page or what you use for browser.
    Today we celebrate The Three Kings day in Belgium, so come over and have a slice of the “Galette” !

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  2. Mrs. Darling says:

    I’m not sure if Ive been to your site before but I can tell you I almost left today because it took FOREVER to load your page. I stayed though cause I wanted to read what an unplugged mom would have to say! :)

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  3. Nina says:

    I love nerdy musings! I wonder if it is due to our time orientation- always focused on the future vs being focused on the present. hmm, you’ve got me thinking now :)

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  4. Christine says:

    I love love nerdy posts!!! LOL

    I use FF, too. IE is awful about load times for me, too. The simplest site seems to take forever. And I’m on cable internet, too.

    What I find amazing is that your blog loads slower (according to the analyer) than mine. You have much less graphics than my blog. I’d venture to say that what slows your blog down the most is Blogger. If you look at your “Page Objects”, the top 3 size hogs are Blogger objects (compare with mine where my biggest sized file is the header graphic; your biggest page object isn’t caused by you but mine is!)

    And unless you go to your own hosting, there’ll be nothing you can really do to change that…

    Oh, and 2 seconds load time would be tough to achieve but experts also say “anything up to 8 seconds is acceptable.” I’m sitting at 9 secs for download time for T1 connections. I’ve got some optimizing to do, too. :)

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  5. Mom Unplugged says:

    I should have asked everyone which browser they use. I have also found IE to be terribly slow and prone to hang-ups and crashes. I always use Firefox. (Plus I don’t even think my blog looks as good in IE)

    Christine, that is very interesting about the size hogs being the blogger objects. I hadn’t paid enough attention to that analysis to notice that, I’ll have to look again.

    I too have noticed some blogs with more stuff that seem to load very quickly and wondered why mine would be slow. Perhaps that’s the answer.

    By the way, your blog has always seemed to load quickly for me.

    Also, Tamara commented on the last post that she timed the loading of my blog and it took TWO MINUTES for her!

    I am definitely looking into hosting myself.

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  6. greenemother says:

    Fantastic post! I have never had any problems with your blog.

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