Twitter, Twitter, Twitter. Man, do I ever hate to be judgmental, especially of you who has enhanced my social life in unprecedented ways. You who has made me feel connected in a world full of busy, independent people. You who has helped me turn acquaintances into friends, and cities into homes. Alas, as much as it pains me, I must play the critic today. Because how many clucks do I have left on my tongue for you, Twitter?
Your faithful disciples – me especially included – have endured so much while you have floundered your way through your fledgling endeavors. You’re new, you’re remarkable, and your cow is as purple as any for which Seth Godin could hope. You’re everything a social networking site should be. But face it, Twitter – you ain’t no spring chicken any longer. You’ve been around for a little over two years now, and – gasp! – we actually have standards for you, Twitter. Expectations, if you will.
Truth be told, they’re not all that high. No, Twitter, we, your loyal devotees, merely expect you to function. Consistently. Not intermittently, but on a regular basis. When we login, we want to see tweets from the people we follow. When we have something to say, we want it to post so that our followers can read it. If others have engaged us in a conversation, we want to see those replies. Sure, we understand outages and maintenance periods. Of course we do. All of that behind-the-scenes mumbo jumbo is stuff we get. And yet, more often than not, you’ve been unable to deliver solutions to these simple requests.
But we managed to make lemonade out of your service-issue lemons! We have lovingly adopted the Fail Whale as the unofficial Twitter mascot, shaking our heads knowingly (and affectionately) at its appearance, when we formerly regarded it with frustration and rue. We turned a new leaf on your shortcomings, Twitter! We know that you woke up one day, and suddenly, the jeans that fit you perfectly the day before were three inches too short. We sympathized! We worked with you! And when the wheels began a-turnin’ much more smoothly on your end, we even lamented that the Fail Whale hadn’t made an appearance in recent memory. Silly twitterers! But yes, we are silly. Silly us, we missed your failures, Twitter. However, we were also quite proud of your successes. After all, Twitter, we love you. Despite the advent of Pownce, Plurk, Identi.ca, et. al., we still prefer you. Anime sea dwellers disguised as error messages and all.
I, however, have lost my ability to cutesify your mistakes any longer.
Yesterday – Wednesday – you completely dropped the ball, Twitter. Your inability to stabilize whatever new operations you were performing cost us the communities we’ve built over months and even years, and that is no laughing matter, by any means. Speculation on-site has narrowed the affected follower/following relationships to those made in the past three weeks. For me, that’s particularly lovely. Two weeks ago, for example, I was out and about in Houston, meeting a gaggle of new people, attempting to reconnect with my old-turned-new place of residence. And as any female blogger can attest, last weekend at BlogHer, one of the single most important networking events for female writers, numerous new relationships were made and countless existing relationships were grown. So, thanks, Twitter. Thanks a bundle. You’ve managed to suck some of the newest members of my Twitter community into your drain of failures. From 418 to 320 followers. From 258 to 182 twitterers that I’m following. You won’t see me enshrining that epic disaster on a t-shirt.
As it continues and drags on unabated, as Wednesday turns into Thursday without noticeable progress on the issue, the less sympathy you’ll be finding from the community-at-large. It’s incredibly frustrating when Twitter doesn’t operate as expected, but to actually erase information and data from those of us who cultivated and rely upon these networks of people around the world? We trusted you, Twitter. To hold these relationships for us and keep them safe. Imagine if this had happened with MySpace or Facebook in their infancies. You log in one day, and 30%-50% of your contacts have mysteriously gone missing. A data dump of that magnitude would’ve been largely unacceptable. And you know it.
I realize that you’re having some major growing pains, Twitter. I think we all do. You probably had no idea that your little status-update start-up would become the next viable candidate for the Internet-Service-Turned-Verbiage List, a la Google. As a pseudo-techie, that I can understand. But as a mere user, you can’t make your troubles mine time and time again. All I truly care about, in the end, is that you make your service usable closer to 100% of the time than not, and that you fix the problems that you’ve created.