Twitter’s Crawl

image_thumb2A company can have the best product around, but if the pages are too sluggish, if the product suffers recurring outages, if the user-product interaction is varied and inconsistent, the product’s overall Usability can, and does, suffer.

Quick-UX provides for the rapid, simple and quantifiable assessment of a product’s User Experience (UX). Among the various components that define a product’s Usability, as well as Quick-UX‘s, are Accessibility, Consistency, Recognition, Navigation, and Page Load Time.

In answering the question of Usability, "Can I use it?" the sub-category of Page Load plays an instrumental role. Page Load, often obfuscated or connected with other perceived causes of a product’s dissatisfaction, ultimately, either positively or negatively, presents an unquestionable influence on a product’s overall Usability.

Example: Poor Load Time (value = 0.0)

Twitter is fast becoming, and for some already is, an essential communication tool.

00_homepage-twitter

Yet, Twitter earns a Page Load Time variable value of 0, due to its intermittent slow performance, but more so contributing to this value are the constant outages felt through the year, month after month.

If the page doesn’t load, if requested action takes an interminable amount of time, if the likelihood of the next user action failing is constantly looming, the overall Usability of a product takes a terrible toll.

In 2009, according to Pingdom, Twitter experienced a total of 20.82 hours of downtime.

01_twitter-pingdom

Outages of Twitter were not isolated to merely the entire site being unavailable, but also consisted of sub-sections, or sub-features not working or resulting undesirable or unexpected behavior. Contributing to the pervasive problem of Page Load Time is both the inaccessibility of the product as well as the inability of the users to obtain key information (missing updates, etc) and other bugs leading to incomplete or otherwise incorrect Page Loads.

A Quick Study

I quickly examined and compiled a list of incidents that affected the Page Load Time of the Twitter product, distinguishing between total downtime, and partial downtime and information inaccessibility, based upon the public posts on Twitters blog.

http://status.twitter.com/archive

I did my best to not double count any problems, but it was difficult since many of the problems occur so frequently, and it is often difficult to distinguish, from these status blog posts alone, between a persisting problem being experienced or fixed, from that of a new emergence of a similar or same problem. Furthermore, I also excluded the impact on Page Load Time arising from scheduled maintenance/downtime – periods of time over which the user expectation would be most aligned with the product’s promise of Page Load Time.

Some of my notes regarding my review of Twitter’s 2009 product Page Load Issues…

 

Dec 17

Site Outage

DNS records compromised

http://status.twitter.com/post/288586541/working-on-site-outage

Dec 14

sms service unavailable

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/283934158/sms-service-temporarily-unavailable-we-are-working-on

Dec 8

unplanned downtime

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/275824585/responding-to-unscheduled-downtime

Dec 7

unplanned downtime

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/273515629/brief-downtime

Dec 6

high rate of failwhales

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/272315876/responding-to-whales

 

Nov 30

Unplanned downtime

high error rate; tmp disabled list feature

http://status.twitter.com/post/263867698/responding-to-high-error-rate-lists-feature

Nov 23

elevated error rate

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/254725789/fixing-elevated-error-rate-on-twitter-com

Nov 11

high number of errors

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/240542434/working-on-high-number-of-errors

Nov 6

elevated errors

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/235296654/were-looking-into-the-cause-of-elevated-errors-on-the

 

Oct 21

elevated error rate

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/219264090/elevated-error-rate-being-worked-on

Oct 18

network connectivity problems

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/216351172/responding-to-network-connectivity-problems

Oct 13

account lockouts after username/pw change

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/212318608/researching-username-password-change-problems

Oct 12

errors and inability to tweet

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/211258987/responding-to-increased-errors-inability-to-tweet

Oct 7

Unplanned downtime

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/207018761/recovering-from-unplanned-downtime

 

Sept 10

site slowness

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/185079863/working-through-site-slowness

Sept 9

secure connection failed issues

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/183975122/secure-connection-failed-issues

 

August 24

unexpected service interruption

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/170695014/we-are-responding-to-an-unexpected-service-interruption

August 16

Oauth and API problems

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/164410057/trouble-with-oauth-and-api-clients

August 15

unexpected downtime

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/163603406/working-on-unexpected-downtime

August 11

Site outage

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/160693237/responding-to-site-downtime

August 6

Site is down

DOS attack

http://status.twitter.com/post/157160617/site-is-down

http://status.twitter.com/post/157191978/ongoing-denial-of-service-attackhttp://status.twitter.com/post/157191978/ongoing-denial-of-service-attack

August 2

Search Down

problem coming from migrating data centers

http://status.twitter.com/post/44516325/twitter-search-temporarily-down

 

July 10

site latency

widespread

http://status.twitter.com/post/139238308/working-on-site-latency

July 5

restoring accidentially suspended accounts

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/136164828/restoring-accidentally-suspended-accounts

 

June 15

Outage

problem w/ maintenance by provider

http://status.twitter.com/post/124145031/maintenance-window-tonight-9-45p-pacific

 

May 30

unscheduled downtime

fatal software error

http://status.twitter.com/post/115523264/unscheduled-downtime

May 28

unable to create new accounts

captcha problem

http://status.twitter.com/post/114566780/unable-to-create-new-accounts

May 27

site latency

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/113959453/working-through-site-latency

May 27

Unplanned downtime

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/113891094/recovering-from-unplanned-downtime

May 22

search down

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/111769727/search-temporarily-down

May 21

robot errors

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/111054487/fixing-robot-errors

May 20

user search unavailable

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/110639419/user-search-temporarily-unavailable

May 14

unplanned downtime

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/107824532/unplanned-downtime

May 8

latency issues

resulting from a scheduled site maintenance

http://status.twitter.com/post/105202075/back-from-site-maintenance-working-on-site-latency

 

Apr 28

elevated error rate

fail whales

http://status.twitter.com/post/101237008/fixing-the-elevated-error-rate

Apr 13

slow load times and high error rates

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/95787359/responding-to-slow-load-times-and-high-error-rates

Apr 9

high latency

also fb not updating

http://status.twitter.com/post/94536362/twitter-com-is-experiencing-high-latency-were-also

Apr 7

high site errors; downtime/load issues

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/93850673/update-on-delivery-delays-errors

Apr 6

maintenance (no advance warning); downtime

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/93641925/one-hour-maintenance-starting-at-5-45p-pacific

Apr 6

errors; downtime

fail whales, robot pages; missing tweets

http://status.twitter.com/post/93501130/working-through-some-errors-this-morning

Apr 3

errors; downtime

fail whales, robot pages

http://status.twitter.com/post/92659539/recovering-from-errors-this-morning

 

Mar 16

unplanned maintenance

widespread slowness

http://status.twitter.com/post/87009894/unplanned-maintenance

Mar 4

problems logging in

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/83602310/problems-logging-in

Mar 2

power failure

degraded performance

http://status.twitter.com/post/82874378/power-failure-this-morning

 

Feb 18

latency issues

very long load times

http://status.twitter.com/post/79456053/working-on-site-latency-issues

Feb 14

downtime

db problem

http://status.twitter.com/post/78228774/back-from-maintenance-mode

Feb 11

Site down

db problem

http://status.twitter.com/post/77438630/site-back-up

 

Jan 20

site slow

slow load times

http://status.twitter.com/post/71824634/slowness

Jan 16

downtime

notified user of potential for more downtime

http://status.twitter.com/post/70991844/twitter-downtime

 

Dec 17

timeline delays and missing tweets

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/287676075/known-issues-timeline-delays-and-missing-tweets

Dec 10

problem posting tweets to FB

problem resulting from FB latency issues

http://status.twitter.com/post/277958642/not-all-tweets-from-facebook-app-being-posted-to

 

Nov 5

missing mentions

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/234412987/missing-some-mentions

 

Oct 28

no dmsg emails

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/226186595/not-receiving-emails-for-direct-messages

Oct 15

timelines 0.5h behind

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/214053142/timelines-currently-30-minutes-behind

Oct 8

timeline delays

bug

http://status.twitter.com/post/207632462/timeline-delays-this-morning

 

Sept 16

missing tweets

bug

http://status.twitter.com/post/189862465/tweets-from-users-you-follow-may-be-missing-from-your

Sept 14

missing tweets for some

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/187786359/missing-tweets-from-some-users

Sept 4

short delivery delays

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/179752377/working-on-short-delivery-delays

Sept 2

some tweets & followings delayed

small subset?

http://status.twitter.com/post/178076369/some-tweets-and-followings-delayed

 

August 12

timeline delays

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/161638570/working-on-timeline-delays

 

July 28

missing followers for new users

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/151217980/working-on-missing-followers-for-recently-joined-users

 

June 29

viewing other people followers/following disabled

bug

http://status.twitter.com/post/132761078/viewing-other-peoples-followers-and-followings

June 16

unable to find new users

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/124832153/working-to-get-new-users-into-find-people

June 12

search delay

new tweets not being picked up by search

http://status.twitter.com/post/122606485/search-delay

June 3

delayed followings

resulting from spam attack

http://status.twitter.com/post/117482837/delayed-followings

 

May 13

timeline delays

hardware failure

http://status.twitter.com/post/107561169/temporary-timeline-delays

May 4

search running behind

search not processing real-time

http://status.twitter.com/post/103533181/search-running-behind

 

Apr 22

data inconsistencies

bug

[still being fixed on the 27th]

http://status.twitter.com/post/99180872/tracking-down-data-inconsistencies

Apr 22

missing user images

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/98960090/missing-user-images

Apr 14

delayed search results

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/96196695/search-results-are-delayed-about-20-minutes

Apr 10

missing updates

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/94970050/were-working-to-resolve-an-issue-with-some-missing

Apr 6

missing avatars and dmsgs

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/93589702/missing-user-icons-avatars-and-direct-messages

Apr 2

not finding self in people search

bug

http://status.twitter.com/post/92334992/not-finding-yourself-in-people-search

 

Mar 18

missing tweets

db inconsistency, etc.

http://status.twitter.com/post/87625680/some-users-experiencing-missing-tweets

Mar 16

Delays on following and dmsgs

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/86986973/some-delays-on-followings-direct-messages

Mar 12

missing updates & actions

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/86067236/some-missing-updates-actions

Mar 11

inconsistencies

data inconsistencies (msg, counts, other data)

http://status.twitter.com/post/85644965/update-on-inconsistencies

Mar 9

inbound sms delay

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/84921942/inbound-sms-delay

 

Feb 6

inconsistent follower/following counts

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/76219963/delays-in-posting-text-messages

Feb 6

txt msg posting delays

problem w/ provider

http://status.twitter.com/post/76219963/delays-in-posting-text-messages

Feb 2

Missing updates

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/75182201/missing-updates-were-bringing-them-back

Feb 2

missing self

new users missing from search

http://status.twitter.com/post/75102341/unable-to-find-yourself

 

Jan 30

follower/following counts wrong

due to replication lag

http://status.twitter.com/post/74360199/were-looking-into-inconsistencies-with

Jan 19

slow search

search fell behind realtime due to maintenance

http://status.twitter.com/post/71697063/search-behind-realtime

Jan 8

Delivery delays

tweets slow to appear in the timeline

http://status.twitter.com/post/69184677/catching-back-up

Jan 6

Delivery delays

tweets slow to appear in the timeline

http://status.twitter.com/post/68751921/delivery-delays

 

That said, a clear picture of the Page Load Time experience felt by the Twitter product’s user base quickly emerged.

Approximately 14% of all days in the year experienced delays and disruptions, directly altering the Page Load Time of the product. And, another ~10% of the year’s days experience pages loading with missing information, resulting in a total number of days experiencing disruption at around 24% of the year or 86 days! (note: there may be some day overlap that is not taken into account in these numbers)

02_twitter-bad-days

Note: Data for December is complete (only goes through December 21, 2009)

Should Do & A Clear Flight Path

When using Twitter, tweets, responses, searches can and sometimes do occur quickly and without incident. However, with such consistency of problematic service, fail whales, site latency, etc. Twitter earns no more than a value of 0 for Page Load Time; but with a clear path to improvement…

  • first, focus on the reliability of the Page Load, drastically reducing downtime,
  • then, focus on the missing data and other inconveniences, some of which are touched upon in my table of notes above.

Next…

Over the next several weeks I will be providing real-world examples of Page Load Time values…

Poor Load Time (value 0) [Twitter, Twine]
Delayed Load Time (value 0.5) [Conversation Pieces]
Prompt Load Time (value 1) [Facebook]

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the Usability and Page Load Time of Quick-UX, the quick and easy method of generating quantifiable and comparable metrics representing the understanding of the overall User Experience of a product, as well as other insightful posts from The Product Guy.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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About Jeremy Horn

Jeremy Horn is an award-winning, product management veteran with 2 decades of experience leading and managing product teams. Jeremy has held various executive and advisory roles, from founder of several start-ups to driving diverse organizations in online services, consumer products, and wearables. As founder of The Product Group, he has created the largest product management meetup in the world and hosts the annual awarding of The Best Product Person. Accelerating the next evolution of product management, Jeremy acted as creator and instructor of the 10-week product management course at General Assembly and The New School, and mentoring at Women 2.0 and Lean Startup Machine (where is he also a judge). To see where Jeremy is now check him out at (1) http://linkedin.com/in/TheProductGuy and (2) http://TheProductGuy.com