The first time I went to Twitter this morning, I got this:
Before that, the computer had been asleep all night.
I still haven’t tweeted anything this morning.
There must be some meaning behind the message, but the message itself says nothing useful.
When I’ve seen this before, I thought perhaps Twitter in my browser had been hitting the API too hard for updates or something. But I didn’t even have my browser open. Neither my computer nor I had been doing anything with Twitter — as far as I know.
This story says, “Twitter restricts the amount you can access the service to a set rate in an effort to prevent apps from mercilessly pinging Twitter every x number of seconds.” But what apps are pinging the server? How? What can a user do to get an app to back off — or even see which app needs to back off?
I have many dozens of apps on my phone. Could it be one of those? Since the computer was asleep and the phone was on I’d guess so, but I have no idea. When I look at the apps that might be open, in the “tray” (or whatever that is) at the bottom of my iPhone screen (which only appears if I double-click on the button), I see nothing obvioius that might hit Twitter. Clock? Calendar? Voice Memos? Foursquare? Of those I’d guess Foursquare, but I can’t find where in Foursquare I could control how it hits Twitter’s API, or have anything to do with Twitter. Its settings say nothing about Twitter.
Could it be the Twitter app? I just noticed that it was open too. I can’t think of any other culprit at this point.
This piece by Chat Catacchio points to Twitter’s Rate Limits FAQ. That in turn points to a Rate Limits page. That points to an About Rate Limits page. And that points to an API rate limiting page. Nothing helpful in any of them, that I can see.
Adds Chad, “Some API clients, including Twitter’s own products, have additional rate limit allowances.” What those ‘additional rate limit allowances’ are, only Twitter knows.”
Whatever the trouble is, Twitter doesn’t provide an easy way to shoot it.
Here’s the bigger problem: We have come to treat Twitter as infrastructure, and clearly it is not. It is a huge single point of failure, and it sorely needs to be substitutable.
By that I mean you can tweet on other sites, or on your own server, and have those tweets followed by anybody. It means your followers don’t need Twitter to follow you — they don’t need anybody other than you.
[Later…] I turned off the Twitter app on my iPhone, and haven’t run into the usage limit again yet. Coincidence?
If the Twitter app really is to blame, there needs to be a way it can warn the user that it’s hitting the API too often, and offer a way to reduce that form of background traffic.
[Later again…] Well, it’s now the 13th. I haven’t had the Twitter app open on the phone, I’ve turned off a number of other services on the Web that might be hitting the Twitter API on my behalf, and I hardly looked at Twitter at all today before making one tweet. And I got the “hourly usage limit” message again.
This is fucked up.
By the way, I would pay Twitter to avoid this hassle. I that the idea? If so, maybe it’s working. But it’s a shitty shakedown, if true.