Foursquare latest social-media site to stumble
What's worse than having an extended site outage that merits a lengthy, apologetic blog post? Having another site outage hours after you've confessed your site's sins.
Twice in two days, Foursquare checked into its unhappy place. The increasingly popular location-based site, which allows users to broadcast their social and business outings to friends, spent about 11 hours out of action Monday, then swooned again for several more hours Tuesday.
In between, the New York startup posted a note on its blog--titled "So, that was a bummer"--that explained the underlying problem and listed steps it was taking to prevent a future recap.
Many of those remedies involved future refinements to Foursquare's database system, none of which, obviously, could be put in place soon enough to stop whatever knocked the site offline again Tuesday night. But one change helped a little, by taking some mystery out of the malfunction: Foursquare's newly-launched site-status page.
By 6:39 p.m., the Foursquare status site had warned users of a "Partial Site Outage." Four updates and 3 1/2 hours later, it offered this description: "Running on pizza and Red Bull. Another long night :/"
I'm sure most users would have rather seen a note to the effect of "we've just rebooted and things are working fine." But even a "things are still broken" message is more news than many sites and services provide when they're down.
Two weeks ago, Facebook suffered an hours-long outage. But the only information it provided to users during that time was updates from its Twitter account. (Good thing Twitter didn't suffer its own outage then.)
Other companies have done even worse. After I criticized Verizon for not using an old system-status page to alert DSL customers of interruptions to their broadband service, the company revised that page to alert customers that "The system status tool is inactive!"
Experienced users know to check such third-party sites as downrightnow for reports of trouble and some assurance that it's not just them having issues with a site. But there's no replacing a dedicated system-status page, running on its own server, at an easily-memorized address: status.example.com or example.com/status.
Who else does this well? What sites desperately need to get with the program?
| October 6, 2010; 7:04 AM ET
Categories: Digital culture, Gripes, Social media
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