March 29, 2012

It’s Not You, It’s Twitter

Popular micro-blogging site Twitter has admitted to a bug in their system, causing users to unknowingly and unwillingly “unfollow” other users.

According to their website, the bug is described in this way: “A person you've recently followed shows in your following tab, but appears with a follow icon so it looks like you're not following them, as shown in the image below. Visit their profile if you'd like to confirm you're following them.”

Twitter says their engineers are working to resolve the issue.
According to some Twitter followers, however, this bug has been ongoing for quite some time. During a cursory search of Twitter´s public timeline, several users claim this problem has existed since January, maybe even longer.

This type of bug is an improvement for Twitter, however. When the social network gained popularity and traction at the 2007 South By Southwest Interactive Conference, a cartoon character became ubiquitous with the service, as well as a point of ridicule for the users of the service.

The “Fail Whale” would appear from time to time, many times too often, as a sign things had gone wrong on Twitter´s end. In time, the Fail Whale became a widespread joke among users who wondered quite loudly why the network wasn´t working. The Fail Whale hasn´t been seen around lately, which is a bit of relief for Twitter´s most ardent users.

A number of tech blogs and news sources have covered this story today as it made headlines.

But why is a small glitch in a social media service such news?

The answer lies in how people use the social networking site.

Twitter recently celebrated its sixth birthday. In a blog post announcing their sixth birthday, Twitter also announced their most recent numbers:
"And at last check, there are more than 140 million active users“¦and today we see 340 million Tweets a day. That´s more than 1 billion every 3 days.”

These 140 million active users have found many ways in which to incorporate Twitter into their every day lives. Many people use Twitter as their news feed and with news outlets such as CNN, NPR, and Fox News tweeting the latest headlines, Twitter becomes a personalized news ticker users can access almost anywhere. Other Twitterers use the service to simply communicate with their friends. Tweeting random thoughts, ideas, and greetings is a handy way to stay in touch with friends and family throughout the day. Businesses have begun to not only accept the popularity of Twitter but have also embraced it. Customers can reach out directly to their favorite retail stores and businesses on Twitter, and these businesses can advertise new products and specials as well as directly reach out to their customers, all for free.

The fact is, when Twitter becomes so engrained in our lives and so much a part of not only what we do, but how we do it, a bug in the system, no matter how small, is noticeable. When followers are arbitrarily lost, relationships could be in trouble, businesses could overcorrect in an attempt to save face, and important messages and headlines may not be received. Whether they realize it or not, Twitter has created a monster, and whenever the monster acts up, the world takes notice!


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