Sunday, November 04, 2007

Twitter Survey

Would you take a minute to comment on these questions/opinions? I'm thinking if we get enough inspired commentary we might actually get some answers out of Twitter about why they have such a hard time just keeping the service running.

1. I find the current lag in postings to be very detrimental to the whole concept and usefulness of Twitter. If there is a 20 minute delay between the time I post something and everyone else seeing it, then it's at least 40 minutes before I can see anyone's response to what I say. This can be particularly debilitating when we are relying on Twitter at conferences or to stay in touch when meeting up.

2. There are parts of Twitter that eat performance but in my mind, serve no useful purpose. The matrix of tiny avatars to the right of the Tweet listing is of no use to me because they are not arranged in any useful or understandable order and it doesn't show them all anyway. I'd say get rid of it if it would help performance.

3. Do you have any information about why Twitter just can't seem to make their site work properly and with good performance? This is not exactly untrodden ground. There are lots of very smart people who know how to performance engineer a site so it runs fast. Is it the SMS gateways that are the problem? WHAT IS IT? I so wish they would just level with us.

Please comment on these questions or add your own thoughts. What would you like to see changed, added, improved or removed?

16 Comments:

Blogger Brenda said...

1. Well truthfully I have never had a real Twitter emergency that meant I wasn't getting info in a timely enough fashion. Is it detrimental though? Yes I would suppose it is. Considering that there are other sites out there that do essentially the same thing, Twitter would be easily forgotten if I got out of them what I do Twitter. Namely, the people.

2. I did have use for the avatars at one point when I could easily find my twitter friends on there. Now it is pointless. I don't pretend to know anything about coding or databases or anything like that. However, last night when I refreshed the screen there was a large amount of code that showed up on my screen in that section. I assume that has to take up a good amount of space. (that being said, someone is going to put the dunce hat on me and say that it doesn't take any space at all...lol)

3. Again, I have no real knowledge of the tech stuff but someone said something to me that made sense. He mentioned that all the applications that people use to access twitter have to ping the servers. seems to make sense that would slow it down. but i would also assume they would figure for that after all this time.

All in all, I generally cut them a break because I don't pay for the service. But this last week has been frustrating enough for me to ignore twitter for long stretches of time throughout the day and to even shut off the sms feed during the day. This has made me miss some fairly important tweets in the lives of my fellow twitterers and that is pretty irritating to me. Thank goodness we have other, more reliable, forms of communication available to us.

Brendajos

Monday, November 05, 2007 1:28:00 AM  
Blogger Hooeyspewer said...

1. I definitely agree that Tweet lag is a problem and seems like something that could have been worked out a long time ago. I remember one day a few weeks back, it was up to an hour and folks were discussing bailing on Twitter completely. I sent an email to Support to voice my concern, and the email I received in response was the following:

Hi,

Thanks for the heads up. We're working on making it faster, hence the (ironic) slowness. Sorry about that, and thanks for your patience!

Cheers,

Crystal

A few days after I received this email, Twitter got a facelift but no real improvements in Tweet lag.

2. That avatar badge got screwed up in the facelift and now serves no purpose for me either. I think it may be in order of account creation (as are the follower/following lists). One would think an alphabetical list would be more useful. They can get rid of it now and I wouldn't care one bit.

3. No clue what their issue is. When I emailed them, they seemed to say that they were aware of it though and were supposedly working on it.

I agree with Brenda, in that I give Twitter a break because I don't pay for the service. If they don't watch their backs, though, someone else will find a way to serve their community better.

Monday, November 05, 2007 8:06:00 AM  
Blogger KFFBOS said...

1) I'm with you Joe, truly frustrating since I do rely on Twitter to provide me with real-time information and to be honest it is why I follow the folks that I do. Performance needs to improve, but in the meantime I'm not sure that many folks are actually moving to Jaiku or Pownce??

2) The avatars do nothing for me right now, although I do love to look at all your faces.

3) I haven't really complained much about or to Twitter...maybe it's time? If it is a lack of resources for them I bet folks would be willing to donate a buck or two to get things running smoothly.

/kff

Monday, November 05, 2007 8:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Connie Bensen said...

I agree with #1 - let's get the lead out. Twitter used to fly along.

But then I'm disenchanted with Facebook too. Profiles won't load & haven't for a month. It's affecting my networking. And I'm speaking at a Facebook conference in a month. It's hard to be a proponent when there's an irritation. I emailed someone last night. We'll see if they can do anything.

I see the same type of problem with Twitter. Go JOE!
Connie Bensen
www.conniebensen.com

Monday, November 05, 2007 9:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Bailey said...

I think that the problem is because they've built the service using Ruby on Rails, which only talks to a single database (log jam) and doesn't scale well overall.

I'm not so quick to cut them a break because they've received $5 million bucks, and by now, they could have at least hired someone to recreate the service using another platform.

The problem with VC money, is that most businesses will waste 80% of it just trying to figure out what it is that they think they can do, and only 20% of it goes towards actually building the system.

In that light, I think that what I am working on is a great value to VC's or an Angel or two, since I already KNOW what and how to do what I want to do.

Anyhow, now I digress.

Monday, November 05, 2007 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Marina Martin said...

It's free and thus far has no visible means of profiting off of me (though I'm sure my tweets are being logged and scanned for keywords to sell my visual field to the highest-bidding advertiser), so I should probably know better than to trust it as a reliable means of communication. If I'm meeting up with someone, I use SMS and Twitter in some combination.

I completely agree that lag time is annoying/detrimental. I think the little avatar grid makes the design more unique, but if it was a real performance drag, I could do without. What I wish they did was order your "Following" list (alphabetical, chronological, whatever) so that if I need to remove someone (like yesterday when I accidentally followed a spammer) it doesn't take me 10 years.

I sort of like the camaraderie that develops between Twitterers when Twitter isn't working well. I also think it's sort of neat that I only see a small percentage of other people's @SomeoneElse tweets -- it's like overhearing a juicy tidbit. (It also makes tweet-reading thatmuchmore manageable.) I assume I am, per usual, in the minority here :)

Monday, November 05, 2007 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Debbie Block-Schwenk said...

1. I used to do QA so performance lags always bother me. But I'm not a heavy Twitter user so it's just an annoyance.

2. I would like the array of icons more if I could arrange them so I could easily check on people I've missed. (But then would there be "top row icon" drama a la "MySpace Top 8? :-)

3. Missed what this question was but they need to work on scalability if they want Twitter to be successful. I'm a fan of simplicity, which Twitter excels at, but it has to work smoothly.

Monday, November 05, 2007 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Agree I could do without the collection block of mini avatars. Not sure why anyone needs graphics on their individual pages, either. I'd prefer a cleaner, faster site and the option to scroll the past several hours rather than load previous pages. I understand this was designed for text messaging, but I only use the web interface with my Pocket PC phone or laptop. Nothing wrong with letting Twitter know we want improvements, but I'm willing to be patient for a while longer. Communication from Twitter would go a LONG way to keep me loyal.

Monday, November 05, 2007 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger Joe C said...

Thanks for the great comments and keep 'em coming. Yeah, brian, I would really appreciate an explanation, too. As I write this, updates are running an hour behind. Just sent this to Twitter help email:

11:19 am Eastern Time 2007.11.05 - Updates are running an hour behind. This is not a usable system anymore. I think you should give your users an explanation. I'm one of the most enthusiastic users of Twitter and promote it whenever I can, but in the last few days, performance has dropped to unacceptable levels. This is not a real-time system anymore. Its usefulness as a conversation mechanism is nearly nil when it takes me two hours to get a 140 character reply - an hour for someone to see my tweet, and an hour for me to see their reply.

Monday, November 05, 2007 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous aimee.mychores.co.uk said...

Hmmm. I find this post quite cheeky in fact. Did Twitter ever set up a service level agreement with you that specified how quickly they would keep you updated? Did you ever pay money to Twitter to ensure that you received up-to-the-minute information?

They're providing a free service that has become very popular very quickly. Of course they're going to have bandwidth issues. As far as i'm aware, Twitter was made just as a fun service, not as something you could rely on, or get cross with them when it goes wrong.

Monday, November 05, 2007 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Monday, November 05, 2007 1:17:00 PM  
Blogger S. Potter said...

3. My guess is inexperience. From what I have read directly from the "engineers" at Twitter.com they seem very cavalier in the approach to scaling. They have blamed most of their *scalability* woes on the performance of Rails (their web application framework). My problem with that is that linear performance has little to do with scalability when there are many scalable solutions for deploying Ruby on Rails applications currently. I suspect the engineering inexperience and the startup cavalier attitude coupled with the quick ramp up in service usage has been the real problem rather than any one component of the system. I think this problem is simply beyond their skill level.

BTW I also agree with aimee.chores.co.uk. While I think their blaming of their "scalability" on Ruby/Rails is to cover their own asses, ultimately this is not a business critical application and not sure point 1 is worth the pixels is covers on my screen:)

Monday, November 05, 2007 1:23:00 PM  
Anonymous aimee.mychores.co.uk said...

Manual pingback:
http://aimee.mychores.co.uk/2007/11/05/post/94/

In response to Michael Bailey, Rails can in fact talk to multiple databases:
http://wiki.rubyonrails.org/rails/pages/HowtoUseMultipleDatabases

The notion that Rails provides poor performance is inaccurate. Look at 43Things to see how well Rails can work when the design is fit for purpose.

More information here:
http://wiki.rubyonrails.com/rails/pages/HowtoScale

Monday, November 05, 2007 1:55:00 PM  
Blogger -McD- said...

I thought I posted this earlier but I came back to read more comments and noticed mine wasn't here.

Just about everyone that I follow on Twitter uses a stand-alone application for monitoring and posting to Twitter. The only time I load a web page on Twitter is when I'm looking up a person that someone I follow follows. I recently paid $15 for an update to the Twitter client that I use, Twitterific.

The delay between posting and receiving is annoying and I'm sure they're working on improving performance. Twitterific adds new twits to it's window in the order that they were posted, not the order that they became available. So my Twitterific window is eventually chronologically correct even if the occasional reply arrives before the post that it responded to.

One of the interesting aspects of Twitter is that you can never be sure if your message will be read at all. Most users that I know don't go back and read everything they've missed they just launch their client and pick it up from there. This blog post reflects how most of the people that I follow use Twitter.

As a result, the delay issue is not something that significantly impacts the way I use Twitter.

Monday, November 05, 2007 4:57:00 PM  
Blogger Julia Roy said...

I am really peeved at Twitter right now. I use twitter not only for pleasure but for professional reasons as well. I get a lot of new blog post traffic from Twitter and without this avenue working effectively... I lose traffic. I don't know what is up with Twitter, and I know issues are inevitable with a service like this, but I still like complaining. Thanks for opening this up for discussion, hope the Twitter peeps are listening.

Monday, November 05, 2007 6:34:00 PM  
Blogger Dayngr said...

1) The lag time pretty much defeats the whole purpose of what Twitter is supposed to be about. If timely tweets aren't coming in then what is the point of using the serivce?

2) Agreed. If the avatars were in alphabetical order then I could see keeping them there. I recognize people by their avatar so at a glance I can pick out a person or a logo and surf over. if they get them alphabetized I'd be onboard.

3) Ruby on Rails. I'm guessing this is a classic case of a business outgrowing itself really quickly. Of course, as mentioned in an earlier comment I'm stumped to find a reason why this hasn't been fixed if they've got all this $$. Plus, even if they didn't I'm sure some hot newbie tech person would love to jump in and help just for bragging rights to say they worked on the project.

Thursday, November 29, 2007 8:43:00 PM  

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