Like millions of other people yesterday, I was momentarily red-in-the-face because my Twitter client—in my case, TweetDeck—was failing me. (The near 100-degree temperatures in the Northeast didn't help, either.)
TweetDeck is a dashboard that makes Twitter much more palatable for me: It creates a kaleidoscopic display of my social connections that's organized vastly better than the static Twitter.com webpage. (Tweetie is a similar, popular tool that's based on the Twitter API; there are mobile apps, too.)
So when Twitter as I know and love it goes down, it's infuriating. Why me, oh God, why??!! is my typical initial reaction.
The answer to yesterday's "What the heck happened?" question, according to a Wired article, is this: "Twitter is limiting the number of times PC and mobile apps can ask for data through its automated interface, known as an API. Instead of answering your software's questions, Twitter is telling your software that it's going over its limit and to cut it out."
In other words, Twitter is overcrowded and its systems are overloaded, just like the bloated Fail Whale.
You'll recall that in late June, Twitter suffered a string of embarrassing outages, prompting not one but two "mea culpa" pleas from the Twitter folks. I'm sure they're acutely aware of their own growing pains.
But just how much should we be pissed off at Twitter?
Quoted in an IDG News Service article on the outages was Mike Gualtieri, a Forrester Research analyst: "I think it is disgraceful that Twitter is having these ongoing outage issues," said he.
Really, Mike? That seems a bit...over reactionary.
Think about it: The fact that I'm not paying a cent for the Twitter service means that I don't have much ground to place "buyer-seller" type expectations upon the immature service. (This isn't Salesforce.com downtime or disruptions with internal enterprise systems.) My outrage is tempered by my acceptance of the "free deal" I have with Twitter: You get what you pay for.
Much like that '84 Camaro you bought from your friend's brother, Twitter is offered to you "As Is."
Which, oh by the way, is clearly spelled out in Twitter's Terms of Service:
Your access to and use of the Services or any Content is at your own risk. You understand and agree that the Services is provided to you on an "AS IS" and "AS AVAILABLE" basis.... We make no warranty and disclaim all responsibility and liability for the completeness, accuracy, availability, timeliness, security or reliability of the Services or any content thereon.
Twitter and its beautiful APIs are revolutionary. But let's not forget that like any teenager, it also has some unsightly blemishes. We have to love it and hate it "as is."