Twitter Outages

Twitter, the social media tool that’s supposed to revolutionize politics, save the Republican Party, and bring freedom to Iran is, yet again, down.

Twitter.com is virtually useless but, because the service is open source, dozens of applications have sprung up to make it practical to actually use Twitter.  But these apps, too, continually fail because of limitations brought on by something called API, which Twitter apparently can’t produce enough of.

If I could only use my phone or check and send email sporadically, I’d be looking for new service providers.  If Twitter can’t solve its problems, I suspect people will flee for a service that can manage to operate.

Of course, since nobody can seem to figure out Twitter’s business model, that may be just as well.

FILED UNDER: General, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. sam says:

    But these apps, too, continually fail because of limitations brought on by something called API, which Twitter apparently can’t produce enough of.

    Hmmm. The API is simply (well, not really simple) the application programming interface, which defines the ways in which an application can function (use the services of), say, an operating system. I suspect it’s a deficiency in the API vis-a-vis what the programmers are trying (want) to do. Michael’s more versed in this than I am, I think, so maybe he can shed more light (or correct my darkness).

  2. Phil Smith says:

    It never ceases to amaze (and amuse) me how upset people get when their free toy goes kerplooey.

  3. James Joyner says:

    It never ceases to amaze (and amuse) me how upset people get when their free toy goes kerplooey.

    My point isn’t to complain about the annoyances of an application I can live without but rather to question the wisdom of building so much of our political communication around an unreliable platform.

  4. Phil Smith says:

    I thought you were joking about everything except Iran. The only political messaging you can do in 140 characters are the same ones you see on t-shirts and bumper stickers.

  5. James Joyner says:

    The only political messaging you can do in 140 characters are the same ones you see on t-shirts and bumper stickers.

    I’d agree if the messages couldn’t include hyperlinks; most, however, do. No doubt Twitter has been vastly oversold in what it can do even if it weren’t buggier than all get out. Regardless, there’s a cost to putting so many eggs in one basket.

  6. Spoker says:

    My point isn’t to complain about the annoyances of an application I can live without but rather to question the wisdom of building so much of our political communication around an unreliable platform.

    How truly wise are those that would stake anything significant on the use of an unreliable platform is perhaps a more important question.

  7. Michael says:

    The problem isn’t the API, which as sam notes is just the rules for communicating with the service.

    The problems I’ve heard about Twitter in the past is the technology it is based on: Ruby on Rails, which makes it very easy to get a web application written, but what it produces doesn’t scale well and therefore can’t perform well when demand is high.

    Now I’m not a Ruby programmer, so I don’t know the specifics, but I’d imagine it’s a combination of inefficient generated and/or generic code and making unnecessary database connections that are causing Twitter’s problems. Because of the scaling issue I mentioned above, you can’t just throw more computers or computing power at this problem.

    If you want a better solution, check out http://www.identi.ca an open source version of Twitter written in PHP. You can even configure it to copy your posts to your Twitter account.

  8. CGHill says:

    Twitter does impose limits:

    1,000 total updates per day, on any and all devices (web, mobile web, phone, API, etc.)

    250 total direct messages per day, on any and all devices

    150 API requests per hour

    I do maybe 15-20 updates a day, but I follow about 100 people using TweetDeck, so I wind up with 100-120 API requests every hour. This is within spec, but it’s still rather a lot, and something like 18 percent of Twitter users are on TweetDeck.

  9. James Joyner says:

    CG:

    Thanks for the data. I do more updates than you but certainly far fewer than 1000. And I get and send maybe 5 DMs on a heavy day. It’s the API requests that are the Achilles heel.

    I may try not getting the “All Friends” feed anymore and just focusing on the group I’ve created of those whom I “follow” that I actually want to read.

  10. Eric Florack says:

    I had been using Twitter Tools for WordPress, to post a new message up when I posted something. It causes a marginal stir each time. Trouble is when Twitter’s being hit hard, it drives my PHP server load through the roofing tiles. That kicks my response times abnormally high, and frankly I think it costs me traffic. I’m trying various tools to avoid that issue, but haven’t been overly happy with anything yet. I’ve started to wonder if given the state of Twtter, there is in fact a cure for the problem.

  11. Michael says:

    It causes a marginal stir each time. Trouble is when Twitter’s being hit hard, it drives my PHP server load through the roofing tiles. That kicks my response times abnormally high, and frankly I think it costs me traffic.

    Why would something that only runs when you post on your blog affect regular page load times? Sounds like the tool is doing something else that you don’t necessarily need it doing.

    I’m not sure how much you feel like modifying your code, but in PHP you can finish and close the HTTP transaction and continue the PHP processing in the background without making the user wait.

    Then again, you can switch to Identi.ca and have that cross-post to Twitter for you. I’m just not sure if there is a similar WordPress plugin for it.