WHAT happens to Malaysia when Twitter goes down for a couple of hours thanks to the influx of tweets during the World Cup and a botched upgrade procedure on Twitter’s end?
”I … couldn’t show my lunch to my friends” — @Smashpop
”Irritated me a lot, Seeing the FailWhale is frustrating, then the multiple tweet errors clogged up my timelines!” — @Rinnah
”I felt a little disconnected, from the welcomed noise of public chatter, from missing the headline tweets of news agencies.” — j@L
Those were replies from ”residents” of the Malaysian Twittersphere, and they were not alone in the way they felt. It was enough to warrant news stories in mainstream media all around the world for what might have previously been confined to the tech pages.
Angry complaining and the sudden pang of disconnection aside, the attention that this last Twitter outage drew underlines just how important the Internet, the cloud, social networks, all and sundry have become. Twitter going down is national news.
Incidentally, the outage occurred just as I was returning to ”civilisation” after five days in the wilderness for my church’s youth camp. And, ironically, while my Twitter friends were wringing their hands helplessly over Twitter’s insistence of staying down, the happy campers eagerly returned home to inundate Facebook with pictures, stories and memories of the camp they just had.
In the short space of five days, from that one event alone, I counted more than a hundred pictures uploaded, some five hundred comments and status updates. That’s a tonne of content being created and put on the web! Why? Because that’s how we’re using technology to communicate and share experiences with each other today.
The Internet has become the telephone of our age.
But what if Facebook, instead of Twitter had gone down? And what if, besides going down for a couple of hours, there were some more long-lasting effects. The Twitter outage last week didn’t just result in some idle time as some of the Tweeps I quoted might have made it seem.
@Rinnah reported: ” I’ve lost my tweet history … from 2K+ tweets i now only have 800+ tweets … not that it was words of wisdom, but still …”
Call it what you will, but that’s a chunk of content you’ve created that’s just gone missing, and perhaps permanently (Many twitterers reported that their tweets have returned since). I think we need to be acutely aware of this.
Conventional wisdom will tell us the cloud never fails. That whatever you upload, will still be there when you need it. I’m starting to doubt this.
As a newly-minted father, I’ve already hoarded a pretty large collection of pictures of my month-old daughter. I’ve put them all on Google’s Picasa (http://picasaweb.google.com) service. And another set on Nokia’s Ovi Share service (http://share.ovi.com).
I’m also taking extra precautions by making sure I have copies of the pictures on my desktop computer and phone, and I’m considering printing out hard copies of the best pictures.
But beyond pictures, people are realising that because of the instantaneous nature of social networks, and the glib and short posts services like Twitter are encouraging, we’re not really holding on to a lot of the content we’re creating.
Bloggers used to be able to fall back on blog archives. Twitterers (like me) realise our ability to go back in time is rather limited. Now, I agree that a lot of the content and conversations that take place on Twitter is fluid, but increasingly frequently, I’m finding myself that I want to go back and look for a specific tweet I sent.
If you’re facing the same conundrum and want to hold on to all your tweets, do what I do and use a (currently free) tool called Twapperkeeper (www.twapperkeeper.com). This simple tool basically ”follows” every tweet you post and captures the data from the time you set it up (obviously, it can’t retrieve tweets no longer displayed on Twitter’s on stream). Not only is it an online repository of all the tweets you’ve ever sent out, you can also download your tweets in various formats to keep offline.
There are more social networks to talk about of course and plenty of tools out there to help you retrieve whole albums of photos from Facebook or downloading your entire blog archive from Blogger.
I’ve not got the space to cover that here, but I’d like to impress the point: think about what you’re putting up on the Internet and how you can keep that data in case of an Internet-wide blackout.
q David Lian is now frantically trying to deposit 382 of his daughter’s pictures to 11 different locations just to be extra safe. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/davidlian.