Twitter failings

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 Twitterโ€™s own products, have additional rate limit allowances.โ€ 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 โ€” they don’t need anybody other than you.

Can you do that with Status.Net? If so, somebody please tell me how. (This should be helpful.)

[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.


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15 Responses to Twitter failings

  1. Eric Leone says:

    Check out
    This will tell you what apps have access to your Twitter account. Remove anything suspicious there. If you still have trouble on the site after 60 minutes has passed then there is a bigger problem.

  2. Patrick says:

    As computing becomes ubiquitous, it has to become idiot proof. When shopping recently for a phone, I asked the very sharp young man selling, er helping me, “what makes a smart phone smart?”. Mostly it is fun and games. When I asked “what makes my having a smart phone productive, as in puts money in my pocket as opposed to sucks it out, and eat my time?” he had nothing.
    Convergence seems to explode the opportunity for unintended consequences in a set of relationships where there is plenty of budget for finger pointing, but not much for correction or redesign.
    While we see oligopoly in the communications sector, we still have chaos in its delivery. Shouldn’t the collusion extend beyond pricing?

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  6. Absolutely agree, Doc.

    When you’re ready, we’d love to set up a StatusNet site on the server of your choice so we can start making a social web based on protocols, not on a single service.

  7. Doc Searls says:

    Thanks, Eric. I have about 15 sites on that list. None look “suspicious,” but I don’t know how hard any of them hit the Twitter API.

    Whether or not one or more of them are a problem, the issue of APIs-as-infrastructure is raised. I suspect this will become more of a problem as the web-of-APIs becomes more prevalent.

    Whole ‘nuther ball-o-worms there.

  8. Doc Searls says:

    Thanks, Evan. Let’s do that. I’m kinda snowed right now writing a book, but let’s make it happen.

  9. Jason says:

    I notice something similar using Twitter for iPad searching or clicking through people looking for someone to follow. The message reads “Rate limit exceeded.” I thought it was odd because I was not sending out tweets, just browsing. If I switch to Flipboad or I am able to tweet again.

  10. I feel as if you could remove the word Twitter and replace it with SideKick, this way we’d all feel like we’re back in the eighties again… As much as everything changes it seems to stay the same. My thought is a simple one, is it the API or the programmatic approach used to write it? Are the pings based on apps in a request response, when they should be based on an event? Is it incumbent on Twitter to provide a user with that kind of detail?

    Todays Web makes yesterday PC based well behaved verses ill behaved, look like a walk in the … or better still a long walk off a short pier.

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  12. Doc Searls says:

    Where’s the server? If that’s the Q, give me a few days.

    Or maybe we’ll do it as a project at IIW. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  14. Mike McMinn says:

    Funny, I saw this post come up in one of the tools I use, wind forward 12 years, who would have thought Twitter would now be X and Elon will soon be monetizing the platform more and more.

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