Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lemming Tracks: Twitter, Capacity, and AOL's Reality Check

The Lemming remembers, 'long ago,' when AOL (America Online - remember when that was the latest Big Deal?) took its service down for several hours. They had perfectly good reasons, as I recall: maintenance, putting in new equipment, something like that.

Problem was, they hadn't told anyone about it beforehand.

And AOL was down. For hours, as I recall.

But hey, that's no problem, right? It's a free service: and besides one could imagine AOL's brass thinking, the users are just kids and people with nothing better to do. It'll do them good, getting outside for a while.

Then the complaints started coming in. The business owners who used AOL as part of their business didn't appreciate being cut off from their customers. Particularly since there was no way to tell those customers what was going on.

AOL's executives had a wake-up call that day. They realized that 'those kids' and the stoners who used AOL weren't all kids or stoners. Quite a few were people who ran businesses - and had found out how to use AOL services.

That was then.

"Can Twitter handle being the hub of social media?"
The Next Web Social Media (June 15, 2010)

"In case you've missed it, over the past few months, Twitter has been positioning itself into a more professional tool. Between buying out the best API-driven applications, implementing a host of new features and breaking news about plans for new ones, the once-ignored blue bird of happiness is truly coming into its own.

"But is it prepared?

"Over the past week, and nearly every week before that, we've seen outages. For a company that is as well-funded as what Twitter is, it just doesn't make any sense. The resources are there, what with Twitter being so ingrained with Amazon's cloud hosting you'd think it would be an easy flip of the switch to throw more resources at a site that's growing at an amazing rate....

"Sure, we understand maintenance issues. We understand that sometimes we have unforeseen things happen because of them. But the reality of it is that if you're going to have people and businesses relying on you, then you owe it to them to make it work...."

The Lemming has been through something like this before: except that, if my memory serves, AOL caught on a whole lot faster.

Twitter and "Too Many Tweets"

Ah, for the good old days, when Twitter was a nice little neighborhood messaging service in San Francisco, California. If it went down for a few hours it wasn't much of a problem. All a Twitterer had to do was put on the recyclable bike helmet and pedal to the nearest Starbucks. Some of the crowd would probably be there.

Then Twitter went global, sometimes adding 5,000,000 users a month.

That's more than you can run out of a garage.

To be fair, even during the last week Twitter was, on the whole, functional more often than it was not.

But I think that whoever is running Twitter should talk to someone who knows about running a large operation - and also knows about information technology. I'd prefer to keep on using Twitter, and I like getting together (virtually) with the folks I've met there. But if service gets worse: well, there are other online communities.

Related post, in another blog:


Brigid said...

You have a problem with your related posts list. Or rather lack of list.

Interestingly, I've run into the 'fail whale' a couple times over the past few days, but all I have to do is refresh and I get the page I was trying for. Maybe I'm just lucky.

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


Got it. Fixed. Oops & thanks!

As for the 'fail whale?' To use the culturally-normative phrase: you've been incredibly lucky. This one was so bad that it made mainstream news: Sydney Morning Herald.

It may be a case of 'timing is everything?'

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