Twitter’s amazing ability to connect people through a browser, custom application or even SMS text messaging is an amazing and compelling aspect of online life. With Twitter you can promote websites and bands, find a job, even generate income in various ways. Its limit of 140 characters forces brevity and relevance among its serious users (although this doesn’t stop people spouting rubbish!) and for many it has replaced RSS as a method for following updates on a particular topic.
However, the service isn’t perfect. From time to time you might have noticed some messages that indicate that Twitter is “over capacity”. This can be frustrating, with the message being the result of seemingly innocuous actions such as loading up your profile page or following a new user.
Slow Response To Or Failure When Updating Your Status
The main purpose of Twitter is to update your status in fewer than 140 characters. You might be really good at this, or you might prefer to spend a few minutes perfecting your tweet – many Twitter clients will let you know when you have passed the character limit, necessitating rewrites.
If this is the case, it might seem time consuming to get your tweet ready to publish. What’s worse, however, is when a tweet is finally ready but the status won’t update. Instead the website or client will hang for a while, teasing you into thinking that something is happening. Sadly, it isn’t.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get a message informing you of the delay, as well as the ability to copy the message you typed earlier. In this situation, quickly paste it into a text editor, just in case things go awry. Afterwards, go and fix yourself a coffee, and wait a while.
Unable To Follow
One of the best aspects of Twitter is that it offers an avenue for the little people (that’s you and me) to communicate directly with the big people (that’s them – people like Lady Gaga, Stephen Fry or Rupert Murdoch).
While there are many PR companies out there running Twitter accounts for celebrities, there are also many celebs who do the tweeting themselves, facilitating direct contact between them and their fans. This is vital for good PR, humanising the personality and making them seem “accessible” (although the sheer volume of tweets they receive makes this impossible in practice).
However, finding that Twitter won’t permit you to follow another user is frustrating. Sadly it is a sign that the service is over capacity. Your best option, in this case, is to go and make yourself a latte and try again later.
Failure While Retweeting
Another clear sign that Twitter is struggling under the sheer weight of breakfast status updates and unusual trending is that of the RT failure.
RT is the abbreviation of “retweet”, of course, the process whereby the status of a user that you follow can be shared with your own followers. This is a great way to highlight someone’s amazing genius at the art of tweeting or to simply share their thoughts in a way that indicates that you strongly agree or disagree.
Retweet failures often occur in third party apps, and are limited by the Twitter API, especially if you are trying to retweet something that has already been shared.
The best way around this problem is to change the message slightly, or pour an iced tea and try again later.
Apps Respond Slowly
Many users communicate with Twitter via mobiles. Those who are yet to progress to smartphones take advantage of SMS updating, while every mobile platform you can think of has a selection of apps that offer everything from basic updates to multi-user account management, split screens and photo uploads.
Judging problems with the Twitter service from a mobile app can be tricky as error messages don’t tend to appear for one reason or another (for instance, they might be suppressed).
The beauty of mobile apps is that they don’t need to let you into the secret of Twitter’s latest overload. All they need to do is chug along a little slower than usual, letting you think that the issue is with 4G.
Why not have a Frappuccino while you wait?
Website Unavailable/503 Page
Possibly the most striking 503 page created is the one found on Twitter from time to time (at least once a day). This features a whale being carried by birds, and basically indicates that the server load is just too great.
If you’re looking for a sure-fire sign that Twitter is struggling along under its own weight, then this is it.
Sadly, if you’ve hit this page then the chances are that you are in for a longer wait than normal. Your best option is to wait a while, or perhaps use a scheduling service such as Twuffer to write your tweet and have it sent automatically later.
Take your time, have a cup of hot malted milk and get to bed. Twitter will still be there in the morning.
One of the main reasons why Twitter regularly fails in this way is because it wasn’t initially designed as a messaging service – certainly not as far as the software and hardware architecture go. The result is a service that originally ran on something more akin to a content management system.
While there have been many attempts to improve this shortcoming by adding more hardware and streamlining the software, the sheer volume of concurrent users accessing the service via browsers, desktop apps and mobile apps results in a service that struggles at peak times.
There are some ways around this. Twitter could strip back some of its less-popular features, or add a premium to use them, thereby reducing use and increasing income that can be ploughed back into development of the service.
Until then, if you experience any performance issues with Twitter, you’ll simply have to try again later. Keep that kettle boiling.