Foursquare’s Fail Whale

Foursquare, the location-based service where users check in and earn badges1, is becoming a victim of its own success. Recently surpassing one million checkins per week, the service has experienced very short, intermittent interruptions.

Twice in the last two weeks, I’ve encountered Foursquare’s version of Twitter’s now-infamous “Fail Whale.” In Foursquare’s case, the outage notice depicts a a mayor2 adorned with a cracked crown accompanied by the message, “Looks like we’ve got some problems on our end. We’re on it though – stay tuned!”

Granted, a short outage once a week is nothing to complain about, but it further confirms the service’s growing popularity.

Foursquare: Looks like we've got some problems on our end. We're on it though - stay tuned!

  1. Badges are awarded based on various accomplishments, such as checking in at 50 different venues or check in to one location with 50 or more people.
  2. Any Foursquare user who checks in to one location the most number of times in a two-month period is labeled the mayor of that location.

Twitter’s Creative Error Messages

The now-infamous Fail Whale isn’t Twitter’s only creative way of responding to problems with its service. As I discovered last week while creating a Twitter list of everyone involved with WordCamp Boston, the folks behind the service have some other, equally creative, graphics to inform users that something has gone wrong.

Twitter: "Something is technically wrong. Thanks for noticing—we're going to fix it up and have things back to normal soon."
Twitter's error indicating something has substantially gone awry.

Twitter Copyright Missed The Ball Drop

Browsing Twitter today, I noticed that the copyright notice in the footer still displays the year as 2009.

It’s not a big deal, but it may show that the folks running the site are busy with more important things, like preventing updates regarding the earthquake in Haiti from overloading its servers.

On the other hand, why not automatically render the year and present the copyright notice as © Twitter 2006 – XXXX?

Twitter footer showing 2009 copyright

Twitter’s Newest Feature Aims to Standardize User-Initiated Convention

As Twitter grapples with its explosive growth over the past months, the service has begun formalizing practices its users created. First, it was the use of “@” to identify a user’s handle, followed by hashtags (#[term]) to better organize tweets on related topics and aid in searching. Most recently, Twitter has formalized the retweet process. Early Twitter users adopted the “RT @[handle]” syntax to indicate tweets that were the product of another user. Now, users for whom the beta feature has been activated will find a Retweet button (Retweet Button) on individual tweets. The resulting tweet is marked with the chasing-line icon in place of the familiar “RT” tag. Below is a screenshot of the announcement, which includes an example of how retweets are now displayed.

As co-founder Evan Williams explained earlier this week, the move was in part motivated by Twitter’s desire to standardize a function that has become central to the service. As part of this new feature, users will only see retweets from others that they follow, a change intended to cut down on the redundancy that can result when a popular tweet is retweeted by many users. That decision, while controversial, should reduce the clutter (“noisiness” as Williams referred to it) that some Twitter users have complained about. Personally, I think the move was a smart one, because the appearing/disappearing act the Retweet function has played recently was getting annoying.

The announcement that appeared atop my Twitter page after I recently retweeted.
The announcement that appeared atop my Twitter page after I recently retweeted.