Friday, July 18, 2008

Forget about business cases on system downtime - I'm just gonna tell a story

This post was originally intended to be a thoroughly researched business case that explains how system downtime on a service can adversely impact the service's standing with its customers, and its bottom line.

But that sounded like too much work, so I'm not going to do it.

As long as you're all here anyway, wanna hear a story?

This story is called The Boy Who Cried Tweet. Perhaps you've heard a similar story.

Once upon a time there was a shepherd boy who was sitting on a hill in San Diego, California, counting sheep. (I know that San Diego isn't a sheep center. Bear with me.) Because there were only 140 sheep to count, the shepherd boy got bored quickly. To amuse himself he cried out, "Tweet!"

All of the townsfolk loved to tweet, so whenever someone would tweet, they would all gather around and tweet away. So the entire town rushed up to the shepherd boy and started tweeting at him. But the shepherd boy, instead of tweeting back, threw whale blubber at them.

The boy laughed at the scowling townsfolk, but they turned sternly toward the boy and said, "Don't start a tweet if you're going to throw whale blubber at us!" Still scowling, they marched down the hill.

Later in the day, the shepherd boy again cried out, "Tweet!" The townsfolk rushed up to tweet with him, but the boy again threw whale blubber in their faces, laughing all the while.

The mayor stood in front of the scowling townsfolk and said, "You've been warned, shepherd boy! Don't tweet if you're going to do the whale thing!" Again, the townsfolk marched down the hill.

As the sun was starting to set, the shepherd boy noticed a fire racing toward the town. (It was fire season in San Diego.) Hurriedly he screamed at the top of his lungs, "Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!"

But the townsfolk thought he was going to throw whale blubber at them again, so they remained in the village and didn't come up. The sheep, scared by the fire, all ran away, and the boy had to run away to New York and hire himself out as a puppet.

Well, now I fell really bad. I was initially going to write an ironclad business case, but I ended up not doing so. I could have talked about how, when users are unable to access services such as Twitter and, they start to explore other services, and the original service (Twitter,, whatever) retreats to the back of their minds. Perhaps I could have written what Christina Warren wrote back in May:

The reason I’ve been on Twitter less...[is] because the damn service has been incredibly unreliable for me both on my MacBook (via Twitterrific and the web client) and on my BlackBerry (via Twitterberry, which was better in the last update but still totally lags in features compared to all the iPhone programs, and the iPhone isn’t even unlocked for 3rd party programs yet!). Unreliable service plus a million people = tons of frustration. When I get frustrated, I tend to just NOT use something as much.

I was hoping the problems would start to sort themselves out — and for a while it looked like that was on the verge of happening. But then the service started totally getting sucktastic over the last ten days and eating my updates and hiding my replies and I just had to go. AHHHH.

But I didn't. I just told a stupid story. Sorry about that.

Would you like to hear the story about The Boy Who Cried Scrobble?

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