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How Twitter Dies- and What to Do About It

July 28th, 2010 · 4 Comments

Music for this blog post:

Listen to this song while reading the following blog.

As Twitter struggles with popularity they also struggle with reliability.  There is an inherent problem with the design of the system that causes traffic to mushroom, especially when very popular users tweet and are retweeted.  Today Twitter turns off features in the system effecting most or all users as the system loads increase.  Below I’ve compiled a list of my best guess to how Twitter degrades their services:

How Twitter’s service degrades: (Unofficial Guesstimate)

·         Shorten the time searches can look back in history. (You will see a message like “Additional Tweets currently unavailable”.)

·         Stop saved searches. (saved searches don’t return anything new.)

·         Stop API searches (from programs like Tweetdeck, and sites like tweepsearch.com.)

·         Stop profile updates (changing picture or bio info.)

·         Stop all searches.  (The problem here is that the searches appear to work, but return nothing.  There is no error message.)

·         Stop API access (all programs like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, etc. will fail but the Twitter.com website will still work.)

·         Failure to update, lost @replies, missing messages on Twitter.com.  (Warning Will Robinson! Danger! Danger!)  This means Twitter is about to die.

·         Release the Flying Whales. (This is the end of the Tworld as we know it- queue music here.)  a.k.a. when all else fails, fly the fail whale.  (The whale is actually a custom error message which replaces the more common:  “503: Service Unavailable” message you’ve seen on other sites.)

What can you do about this?

·         Plan your editorial calendar carefully, don’t plan any major Twitter social media outreach when there’s a major event going on. (Especially North America)

·         Avoid: World Cups, Elections, American Idol Finales, Oscars and other popular culture events.

·         Plan to use Twitter.com in the event API’s are shut down.  Train your staff to use the site as well as your favorite software.

·         Consider your social media marketing plan carefully and don’t put all your tweets into one basket.  If a major event happens during your primary push you could be out of luck with Twitter.

·         Move customer service conversations off of Twitter to email to ensure reliable communications.

·         Hope and pray they figure out a way around this mess but it’s not very likely because it’s a basic math problem.

I appreciate any and all feedback with corrections and suggestions to these lists. Please leave your input in the comments below.

If you’re curious (I was) here are the lyrics to “It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine) by REM.

Posted via email from ckieff’s posterous

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Tags: Reasons For Net Marketing · Twitter Thursday

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tweets that mention How Twitter Dies- and What to Do About It -- Topsy.com // Jul 28, 2010 at 11:16 am

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris Kieff, Jacob Peck. Jacob Peck said: RT @ckieff: How Twitter Dies and what you can do about it when it does- New Blog post: http://bit.ly/cu3D4t excellent warning [...]

  • 2 Todd Hamilton // Jul 29, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    I think your post makes a lot of sense, but I propose the following:

    - segmentation based on locality, so if the mushroom begins, than it is basically cordoned off into sections until the initial impact is dissipated, than released little by little in a manner the networks can handle

    - google buys twitter, fills a few mountains with a 1,000,000 PS3 clusters and banishes the failwhale to the deep!

  • 3 Tweets that mention How Twitter Dies- and What to Do About It -- Topsy.com // Oct 12, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris Kieff, fury. fury said: Twitter: How Twitter Dies- and What to Do About It: Twitter API degrades when they are having issues. Here is a li… http://bit.ly/didxWE [...]

  • 4 Twitter’s Bizarre Search Results // Oct 21, 2010 at 4:16 am

    [...] become less accurate depending upon the load on Twitter for live traffic.  See this blog post about how Twitter dies to understand the interplay between search and live [...]

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