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12 September 2010

Traffic Congestion in the Twitterverse

This began with a random walk through photo-sharing site Flickr. My Twitter obsession promptly asserted itself when I caught a glimpse of an error message from the early days of Twitter Site Overload, originally uploaded by Hil.  Hil pointed out a rather puzzling typo in the warning header. Perhaps it was due to feelings of agitation experienced by the @twitengineering team?
Twitter is Well-Known for Capacity Overload

 Twitter Overload via Flickr

As the Twitter platform has evolved, so has the imagery associated with its well-known service outages during peak usage. The Fail Whale is an immediately recognizable indicator to Twitter users. It conveys very clearly that activity is temporarily blocked due to spikes in usage that the system cannot accommodate. This can occur during certain times of day/ week, and in response to surges of activity due to:
  • poorly administered contests using Twitter for entries and /or updates
  • Twitter Failwhale Swap,
    by RobCockerham via Flickr 
  • hacking exploits, to which Twitter is particularly vulnerable. There was a lot of this in the early days, but the novelty seems to have worn off somewhat.

There are many depictions of the eponymous Fail Whale. I'll hazard a guess that the Fail Whale represents the backlog of un-Tweeted communications, a large clog in the flow of Twitter information. Yet an answer is in sight, as the Fail Whale is located and  borne aloft by an enabling flock of helpful Twitter birds, soon to be back on line again!

Twitter - New 'Over Capacity' Graphic,  uploaded by Shovelling Son.

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