Twitter’s failure: We recommend binding it in a book


How precarious is it that you store so much of your thoughts, work and relationships online?

Last night Twitter crashed again, but this time the messaging service didn’t shut down — it misplaced “followers,” or about one-third of the people whom other people had connected with. Imagine one-third of your Facebook or LinkedIn or Outlook contacts mysteriously disappearing and you get the idea.

Twitter users screamed. The pain was intense because people carefully build up Twitter audiences over time. Some, like us, network for marketing inspiration and carefully build a group of specialized experts to converse with. Power users, such as social media adviser Chris Brogan or the ad industry’s “experience designer” David Armano, open arms to the world and build up thousands of followers.

Suddenly, human links were gone. It points out the fragility of entrusting content to online computing clouds — something almost all of us do. This blog contains more than 700 articles on advertising strategy, enough for a book and not backed up anywhere. Your Flickr photos or YouTube uploads or LinkedIn resume are floating on servers halfway around the country.

And it goes deeper, to the tools you use every day. Phone numbers are stored in your cell phone, not mind. You write electronic documents stored on spinning hard drives susceptible to crash. Your personal wealth is stored in a checking account and Vanguard fund, really computers filled with ones and zeros.

And it goes even deeper, to the future. Today we can’t play eight-tracks or vinyl records. Will blogs and Word/Excel documents and Tweets be visible to the technology users of the future? Or will our grandchildren think back and laugh at our text communications, like a pile of dried up faxes or IBM computer tapes decomposing in a landfill?

The power of using the “new thing” is hard to resist. Unfortunately, everything new at some point becomes history.

5 thoughts on “Twitter’s failure: We recommend binding it in a book

  1. It points out the fragility of entrusting content to online computing clouds — something almost all of us do. This blog contains more than 700 articles on advertising strategy, enough for a book and not backed up anywhere

    and I suspect there are quite a few of us, who in part use our blogs to post articles as they come to us, that we can then pull into client presentations – I know that’s the case with me.

    As you say, we assume we’re building up a knowledge bank, but that could so easily just vanish

  2. I’d also point out that the level of connection we have just would not be possible with the cloud. Would not know who you are nor would I have read this post without it. So, while it’s a new sort of dependency that can fail and leave us high and dry, that may be the ultimate measure of its success.

    I have to believe that people would pay for value-added services around twitter.

  3. I like your point, Bud. We’ve expanded our connections and find more information, which is the real value … but the systems providing it seem tenuous. Probably no worse though than that library at Alexandra.

    In human history, the idea that ideas themselves can be lasting is relatively new. We’ve only had typography for a few centuries. Perhaps concept longevity is just a fad 🙂

  4. Imagine if we had to live with all the thoughts of previous generations surrounding us. It’s good that thoughts aren’t archived forever.

    To be honest, a periodic twitter cleansing might not be bad.

  5. I totally agree that people would pay for value-added services around Twitter – after last week’s “purge” I would certainly pay for a backup!

    Someone recently advised me to do the same thing with LinkedIn – there is a way to Export Contacts and also a way to capture a PDF of your profile.

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