euro 2012: best names
music friday: william bell, “you don’t miss your water”

when twitter breaks down

Twitter has become the place we look to when breaking news hits. It’s silly to complain, as some do, that the reduction of great events to 140-character posts makes it impossible to convey what is happening in any meaningful way. Twitter doesn’t replace the work of historians, or even of journalists. Their job is to evaluate what happened and give us context for those events. But while we’re waiting, Twitter is here.

You’ve probably seen examples of how this works, like when there was that rare earthquake on the East Coast and you could follow the path of the quake by seeing when people tweeted about it. And there are the so-called “Twitter Revolutions” in Moldova, Iran, Tunisia, and Egypt.

Today offered a different kind of breaking news, though. Twitter itself had what they called a “cascading bug”, resulting in a period of about two hours when Twitter was mostly unusable. And, obviously, this isn’t the kind of breaking news you can check out on Twitter. I noticed because I was following like-minded soccer fans during the Euro 2012 match between Portugal and the Czech Republic, and I realized my Kindle Fire wasn’t updating tweets.

You don’t miss your water, ‘til your well runs dry.

This was a minor annoyance to me, and a lesson in how ubiquitous twitter has become in my life (I don’t tweet often, but I’m always checking in during live public events like Euro 2012). What was especially interesting to me was Twitter’s own comments, in the blog post mentioned above about the cascading bug:

We know how critical Twitter has become for you — for many of us. Every day, we bring people closer to their heroes, causes, political movements, and much more. One user, Arghya Roychowdhury, put it this way: “OMG..twitter was down....closest thing to living without oxygen for most of us....” It’s imperative that we remain available around the world, and today we stumbled. For that we offer our most sincere apologies and hope you’ll be able to breathe easier now.

I don’t know whether to nod my head in agreement, or laugh at the self-important feel of their apology.

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