Before you breakup with Twitter…

Twitter has been down quite a bit, in fact, according to royal pingdom, they’re the social network that has been down the most over Q1, 2008. Most suggest it’s due to the lack of ability to scale, and as more and more users come, and more and more friend connections come, you can see how infinity complex the site becomes as people (like me) pump out thousands of messages to thousands of users. If the volume of messages on twitter were graphed, it would be a quickly accelerating curve, getting steeper and steeper.

With that said, web users (like myself) are fickle, we find the lowest barriers to communicate, go there, and tell others. In fact, I’ve noticed many conversations shifting over to Friendfeed, as I pointed out in my last post.

Twitter has been good to me, and to you, it’s a communication platform like none other, where news (good and bad) breaks before anywhere else (LA fires, bombs in Times Square, China Earthquake, Arrested in Egypt, etc), it is perhaps the fastest communication network we’ve ever seen (esp as mobile devices are now ubiquitous), there are no editors to create filters, no barriers, (other than downtime). Of course, it has it’s downtime too, for example the 140 characters limited my ability to communicate an upcoming research project, and it was mis-interpreted

On the other hand, many argue that customers ‘owe’ Twitter nothing, and this is what to expect from a free service. Let the market decide –capitalism at it’s finest. In many ways they are right, and ultimately the market will decide, we vote with our clicks.

Despite our frustrations, a few months ago, I signed the customer company pact (186 others did too), it’s an agreement, designed to the age of social computing and the voice of the customer to prevail. It asks us to be patient, understanding, and to show the company the same respect that you’d want to show you. As you know Twitter themselves last night put up a graph of their downtime, and are demonstrating some openness.

I realize that we’re getting close to a breaking point, with Groundswells (where users take over) calling for Twit-outs, and if the downtime persists, Twitter is going to lose members –starting with the influencers who will drag their communities.

So before you pack your bags, leave that “Dear John” letter, make sure you’ve spent all your ‘patience points’ before walking out that door.

  • http://broadcasting-brain.com Mark Dykeman

    This is the first that I’ve heard of the customer company pact, so thanks for the link.

    The (very) recent hint of transparancy from Twitter is encouraging and I think it will be received much better from a company like this, a start-up, than a Fortune 500 company which is supposed to be risk-averse.

  • http://www.yourteamonline.ca Chris Nadeau

    Couldn’t agree more. It is an amazing product, that as made my life better. How can you beat that? Yes it has been going down lately, but it will get better, cause the Twitter folks care. If they don’t then like any product we will move onto those where they do care.

    Growing pains are fine and I believe it will workout and if it does go down, guess what…I get to spend more time away from the computer which isn’t a bad thing :-)

    Great post!

  • http://middledigit.net/2008/04/29/12-a-month-on-twitter-vote/ Jonathan

    Here, here. I wish they’d just ask me and I’ll pay – like many others I imagine. I’ve been running a poll to see if people would pay $24/£12 a year to use a reliable, ad-free Twitter and would love people to vote by clicking my name or going here.

  • http://hooversbiz.com Tim (@Twalk) Walker

    Good advice, Jeremiah. The good news, from Twitter’s perspective, seems to be two-fold:

    1. They’re open (at least somewhat) about the problems.

    2. They’ve built up a head of steam.

    Yes, users could migrate, but replicating the best parts of the Twitter experience — esp. the human networks of friends / co-conspirators that are already in place — would be a chore, if not downright impossible.

    Outages like these can cool the ardor a little bit, and they probably scare away uncommitted users, but for those of us who use Twitter heavily, we’re in it for the long haul — so long as Twitter gets *better* over time.

  • http://regulargeek.com/ Rob Diana

    I totally agree. I just wrote a post last night on whether we are asking too much from ourselves and our services. The barriers to movement are not that low, but they are low enough due to the APIs that you can move easily enough.

  • http://sidesalad.net Jeff

    How long can they survive before either they charge by the Tweet or advertising descends on the site…?

  • http://www.jbspartners.com Jim Spencer

    Better up-time and more characters would be a significant improvement.

    I am puzzled by the individuals that suggest that they can architect Twitter better than Twitter did. I know these individuals don’t have millions of dollars and Twitter does now.

    It seems Twitter doesn’t know exactly what is wrong, so I am puzzled by suggestions that people outside the company do. Any thoughts on this?

  • http://chelpixie.com Michelle / chelpixie

    We’ve come to expect transparency from people in web 2.0 and quite a number of people, whether they are due it or not, expect transparency from Twitter.

    I can see they are having issues. I feel sorry for the guys, they want to make things work. I’d like them to work their issues out while communicating to their users. No, we didn’t pay them millions of dollars to report to us, but the value of your social network decreases if you don’t have the people. People will go away if they don’t feel valued.

    Twitter can bury their heads in the sand, but then they can’t listen to or respond to the conversation going on around them. Twitter has made conversations happen for companies like Jetblue, Southwest and Zappos. It astounds me that they aren’t using what they’ve built and believe in (and what really really works) to converse with their users when the issues occur.

    For all that, I’m not leaving Twitter, just a little frustrated, interested in what other people are thinking during downtimes, and I’m changing how I’m using Twitter.

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  • http://rpenaheartrose.com RosePena

    In the past I have worked on/in/with communities limited to special interest groups and avoided blogging and broader based communications.

    Twitter has gotten me excited about connecting and I have been re-energized. I’ve learned so much and met some very interesting people. I’ve now become quite active and widely connected in Social Media very quickly. I’m disappointed and suffer the “separation anxiety” too that others are expressing,when Twitter is down. I admit, I’ve become addicted.

    I appreciate the service, this article and am willing to be patient. Yes, I’m also willng to pay if necessary. I like Friend Feed and other apps a lot, but I LOVE Twitter. Kinda thought it was cute yesterday when istwitterdown.com said “of course.”

    Hoping others will be patient and remain loyal to Twitter Folks.

  • http://digitalsocialite.typepad.com Lynn Crymble

    The fact that we get frustrated when there is downtime is a testament to how great a tool it is.

    I think at the very least, Twitter deserves more than a little patience.

    I’m in for the long haul because it’s a great idea that is very nicely executed and loyalty is still something we should value.

  • Sonny Gill

    Nicely said Lynn. I fully agree that we should exude a little more patience. Yes, we panic when we can’t update or hang on a loading screen, but hopefully they’re on the right track now (along with the rumored increase in funding).

  • http://twitter.com/tabz Tabz

    I agree… I’ve been with twitter over a year now, and I just go “oh Twitter you’re down again…”

    I don’t expect to pull out any time soon. It’s way too valuable to do so.

  • Rob P

    While I agree that the outages at Twitter are frustrating, I don’t believe that a mass boycot, as some are calling for, is the answer. The use of Twitter has exploded, and if it is to survive as a viable social networking tool, then the community should look for solutions instead of railing against these ‘growth spurts’. Because, as I see it, that’s what this is all about. The community expects this service to be up and running perfectly at all times, when in reality, Twitter itself is trying to keep up with the massive growth of it’s been experiencing. No service is perfect, so patience and perhaps a little willingness to help improve Twitter is needed instead of a boycott.

  • http://www.webomatica.com/wordpress/ Webomatica

    The recent Twitter downtimes have made me realize I don’t “need” the service, and in my case FriendFeed is a viable substitute. I don’t have any interest in signing a customer / corporate pact – if a company can’t deliver what it promises (even if it’s free) I walk in a heartbeat. That’s the customer’s best way of letting a company know they’re not doing something right.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Lynn

    You are so right, the fact that it frustrates us so, demonstrates the addiction.

  • http://twitter.com/4byoung Brenda Young

    Hi Jeremiah,
    I think your points are well-taken. The two-way conversations and the ability to publicize our ire far and wide is something new for both companies and consumers. This is a new dimension to consider in the diffusion of innovation. Imagine what would have happened if consumers had this type of instant ‘megaphone’ available when automobiles, or electricity, or even the printing press were in their early build-out.
    Other new technologies and services have had the ‘luxury’ of experiencing their growing pains with individuals. If you’re old enough to remember having a LAN go down or a networked printer going belly-up or the inconsistent early access to the Internet, or early cellular and Wi-Fi networks, you know what I mean. With social networking, we are once again experiencing the growing pains of a new technology, but this time we can experience it—and complain about it—together.
    So, for Twitter, and any other company or organization or governmental entity, the message is to first acknowledge that there is a problem and that you are working on it, and let people know where you are with a resolution to the problem. If you have a solution, let people know when it is available, if not, provide frequent updates. No company has a perfect product and, over time, many things can happen. However, any company or organization can have effective leadership that creates and manages the resources within its organization to provide a reasonable and timely response to any given situation.

  • http://www.AAA.com/news Janie Graziani

    Not ready to leave Twitter yet. Frustration is everywhere…we need to relax. I get more frustrated when my own company — which asked me to handle social media — blocks my access to it. Had that problem yesterday, but I’m back on now.

  • Janet Fouts

    I’m not bailing yet. I agree the fact that everybody has a fit when it goes down shows how much we have grown to depend on it.

    I use FriendFeed because of the other services it connects to, but it’s not as user friendly as Twitter. I’ll be patient instead.

    I don’t agree at all about adding characters to the posts. Brevity is good.

  • http://toddcorvusconsulting.ca Todd Sieling

    The feeling of frustration and being at a breaking point seems to me more like a feedback loop within Twitter conversations that makes things seem much worse than they are. Would we notice downtime as much if we didn’t see others talking about it? Would we remember it if we didn’t get reminded about it by those same conversations?

    I guess I’m saying Twitter can be a lens onto its own problems, and as such produce distortions. That the application works so well is the reason we notice it so much when it doesn’t

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