fail whale – Stay N Alive

Twitter Suspending Accounts in Droves

twitter fail whaleTwitter seems to be on a roll lately. It would seem, either by bug, or some new policy just implemented, Twitter has just suspended hundreds to thousands of Twitter accounts with little to no reason. You can see all the action, semi-real-time here.

I just received a tip from a good friend, a very strong Twitter user and definitely not a spammer, who was one of those people suspended without cause. She stated she submitted a ticket to Twitter support and the ticket was immediately closed with no reason. Looking over Twitter search, she’s not the only one, and many very valid accounts are complaining of having their Twitter accounts suspended out of the blue. Reasons for suspension are often following people and unfollowing people frequently, following people too fast, blatent spammy behavior, among other things, but based on the users I know were suspended none of these activities were happening.

There is no word from Twitter on this matter – I’ll update the post when I hear more. You can watch the suspensions and the horror occur in real-time (thanks to FriendFeed, ironically) below:

UPDATE: Twitter has responded via their Status blog: “Earlier today, we accidentally suspended a number of accounts. We regret the human error that led to these mistaken suspensions and we are working to restore the affected accounts—we expect this to be completed in the next several hours.”

Other major accounts suspended: @marismith, @denisewakeman, @loubortone, @tweetlater, @deniseoberry, @radionational – if your account was affected please leave a comment!

Where is Twitter’s Emergency Response System?

twitter fail whaleThe buzz has been swirling around the Twitter developer-sphere about a bug that has been going on for almost a full day now.  Louis Gray reported it first at around 12am MST last night, and the first post to the Twitter development mailing list went up at around 2am MST last night.  But Twitter is no where to be found, and it’s really starting to hurt some developers.  So much that the very popular TweetStats, by Damon Cortesi has completely had to shut down until the service is re-enabled.

The bug is surrounding the display of the source app via both the API and in the Web UI showing which application a Tweet has come from on Twitter.  Currently, according to TweetStats, 100% of the messages on Twitter are displaying they are coming from the Web.  Developers and bloggers are complaining but no one is being heard.

In fact, according to Twitter, both Evan Williams (founder of Twitter), and Alex Payne (Twitter’s API Lead) are both in Maui on unrelated trips (Alex’s is for vacation – it’s unclear why Ev is there), posting pictures of the frozen drinks they are having and talking about the massages they are getting.  Alex even stated he doesn’t have his laptop with him.  Of course I don’t expect him to be reading this, and I congratulate him for being able to have some very deserved time-off–but what do we do when the API goes down?

Twitter developers have asked repeatedly for a paid API service which they can be guaranteed more up-time and more API access, along with a higher tier of support.  Even Iain Dodsworth, the developer behind TweetDeck has mentioned in conversations on FriendFeed that, with unlimited API access, they would be able to deliver some of their “dream functionality”, and would “pay a lot” for such.  As the developer behind SocialToo, I firmly agree with his statement – it would be a cost-savings for me.  Regardless, there is still no good way to get Twitter support when their API goes down.  Developers need some sort of Emergency Response System, and I think Twitter should charge for this level of service.

tweetstats down

In times where developers’ apps go down many livelihoods are at stake.  Money is not being made, and with a very poor support system by Twitter as is, and no way to guarantee support during such circumstances, developers are putting a lot on the line writing for such a service.  Currently, the only means is via the Developer mailing list, and as we can see there is yet to be a response from Twitter via that means, and at least one entire application has been put out of business because of the issue.

Will there be a time we can see a prioritized service from Twitter that developers can pay for and guarantee service?  I think with today’s example this option has just become a lot more important.  The free service simply isn’t cutting it any more.

What do you think Twitter should do?

Developers Bailing on Twitter

whale.pngI’ve been following various development mailing lists lately, and I’m seeing a trend of developers starting to bail on Twitter. This is a scary thought, because when the developers bail, so will the users. It all started with a conversation on the Twitter Developers’ mailing list with the subject, “Shame” by a developer named, “nath“, in which he said,

“Well, twitters always down or unusable due to the speed; the api’s
keep breaking and are down just as often; the groups now packed full
of spam which is littering my inbox.

“It’s a real shame to see such a great app crumble and die like this :(“

Alex Payne, a developer for Twitter, responded by saying,

We own Twitter’s speed a stability; my our metrics, it’s been pretty
solid over the last few days.

We do not, however, own spam prevention for this group. That’s up to
Google, and if it’s a hard problem for them, I’d imagine it’d be a
hard problem for anyone.

I go through and clear out spammy posts, but time they reach my inbox,
they’ve reached everyone else’s as well. There’s just not much I can
do about it. Please make use of Google’s “report as spam” features.

After which another developer that goes by “rlanskyresponded:

Sorry, but I have to agree with the original author, it is a shame
that the service and the API are so unreliable. The potential for the
services that could be built on an API like the one offered by twitter
are endless. They really are.

Statements like this:

> my our metrics, it’s been pretty solid over the last few days.

don’t do much to boost my confidence. When you make an API available,
you are essentially saying to the world, “here’s our service, come and
build something great on top of it.” You can’t build anything of any
real value or widespread use on something that “has been *pretty
solid* over the last couple days (emphasis mine) .” You just can’t.
You need something that is rock solid all the time.

I’m not trying to start a flame war or bash twitter at all. Like I
said, I think it is a shame because the potential is so great. The
idea is great, the acceptance is great, the use is great, the
possibilities are awesome. But they just can’t be fulfilled given the
reliability of the service as it is today; try to build something on
top of the API that will see wide-spread use and you’ll find that when
you push the gas, the wheels fall off the car… at least that’s been
my experience. It’s been *extremely* frustrating and disappointing.


After following a few threads on the Perl development library for Twitter, Net::Twitter, I recently found out that Net::Twitter’s original maintainer too has jumped ship. He has handed it over to a new maintainer, but developments like this are not a good sign for Twitter! It is very clear that frustration amongst Twitter developers has hit a maximum level and I fully expect to see this only increase in the short term.

At the same time, developers like Kee Hinckley are giving advice to Twitter, and they are graciously accepting it seems. Some great tips are being given on ways to enhance the API, and I even suggested they do a public bug tracker which they seemed to like. Twitter clearly doesn’t seem to have enough expertise in-house, although they do keep saying they are hiring. Their jobs page doesn’t seem to have any upper-management positions though which I think is really what they need right now.

I’m very worried for Twitter. As more developers jump ship and work on other platforms such as Plurk and FriendFeed (which really isn’t a direct competitor to Twitter), this great tool is going to be left in the dust with no new development and large networks of people moving elsewhere. Twitter’s largest traffic comes from the API itself, and as that traffic dies down, so will Twitter. Imagine, for instance, if Seesmic were to stop development on Twhirl due to the costs associated with keeping up with API flaws? That would be quite a chunk of Twitter’s users being forced over to the other Twhirl clients, FriendFeed and Seesmic itself – it’s such an easy transition were Twitter support to be dropped! What happens when Twhirl begins supporting Plurk?

Twitter needs to do something, and they need to do it fast. I agree they need to get their infrastructure in place, but before even doing that they really need to put every hack possible in place to keep the API up, keep it working, and work with the developers to ensure they are staying happy. A large revolution is about to take place, and I’m afraid it won’t be pretty.

UPDATE: See the little FriendFeed box below? Click “show” and join the discussion on FriendFeed about this right on my blog! Subscribe to my updates here.