James Governor's Monkchips

In Praise of… Downtime. Twitter as Phenomenon

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Its not news that Twitter has problems with availability. What I think may be news however is the community’s reaction to it. Sure some people have been abrasive and abusive. Some of have claimed they’re going elsewhere (anyone for Jaiku or Plurk?) But they keep coming back. One thing we should all remember though- Twitter is still free (for now).

Me – I have to admit I kind of like the downtime. I don’t even mind when Twitter takes away the Replies tab, because the frankly rather spiffing summize search engine keeps me in the conversational loop. Sidenote to Jeff Bezos, who just invested in Twitter. Get the gang to buy summize as the start of a rollup: it is the killer app for Twitter. Its a reason to be on Twitter, rather than the other way around. If you’re in marketing go search for your product brand on there; its what Google Search used to be like before it became a good corporate citizen and started deprecating bloggers (its ironic that Goog became so much more like Yahoo just as it killed it).

But back to downtime. I now have a far more Zen-like appreciation of twitter as a medium.  If I miss a message so what. Its behind me. That is the way of flow. Rivers chatter, but you don’t have to listen to every eddy across every stone, every leaf in every whorl.

While some are freaking out about twitter others are becoming Stoic.

This week though I realised Twitter really has taken the appreciation of downtime to a new level. Not only do we appreciate it, we celebrate it. Exhibit A is the t-shirt above. I can’t think of any other service where downtime became something to enjoy, where it was so embedded in the platform’s success.

So Choose Life. Choose a platform. Choose Downtime.

This is a Web 2.0 pattern turned in on itself.


Zazzle calls its an Official Fail Whale t-shirt. Do they really have Twitter’s permission for the use of the image. Just wondering. 

Oh yeah one last thing I was supposed to mention in this post. According to summize @qrush was responsible was the first recorded use of Fail Whale.


  1. Summize is a great service but unfortunately only a fairly poor replacement for track because of its consumption capabilities -> no XMPP.

    But I love the shirt!


  2. I somehow think you may be embracing failure a bit too much.

    If Twitter is supposed to be a messaging bus as Cote proposes, then downtime is very, very bad to have.

  3. My shirt is on the way…just below the whale it says “@bitpakkit is silent”

  4. John Wilson – that is very interesting! wow. i did not know that.

    @oliver – no XMPP i can live with, in terms of how i am using it.

    Danno- of course. i hope i was a little ambiguous. but i do see the *community* embracing failure…

    bitpakkit – indeed. nice.

  5. […] RedMonk praises downtime, saying that without it, Twitter would not be the hot commodity it is today. […]

  6. It’s a stock image that Twitter didn’t buy an extended license for. The t-shirt is by the owner of the image, who I doubt will share in much of the financial success that her image has helped create – soothing the users while they coped with rapid growth…

  7. […] Next up came Adil Mohammed, co-founder of entrip, with his take on why the cloud is perfect for startups. Adil made some good points, though others felt like motherhood and apple pie – startups want reliability (try telling that to Twitter, which almost seems to benefit from downtime). […]

  8. […] ironic that Twitter, the service known for the Fail Whale, doesn’t Fail its Whales. It supports them and the core pattern of Asymmetric […]

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