Here at downrightnow, we’re frequently among the first to notice when a popular web service hits turbulence. We also pay close attention to how quickly companies respond and what they have to say. With web-based email and social networking becoming ubiquitous and indispensable, users clamor for quick acknowledgement and detailed information whenever a web site suffers an outage. The past week has seen improvements from both Facebook and Blogger in how they communicate during and after service disruptions, and their efforts are worthy of praise.
We’ve griped before about Facebook’s tight-lipped attitude during past outages, but high-profile incidents this year (and some resulting critical news stories) may have helped inspire a more open philosophy. The company’s new Facebook Platform Live Status page, announced on October 29th, shows the current status of the Facebook Platform and lists recent incidents with an indicator of severity (yellow or red). Automatic updates are available through an RSS feed or email notifications. Elsewhere on the page, graphs show the API response time and error count and known bugs are listed according to developer votes. Although this information is aimed at developers of Facebook apps and pages, platform errors often impact regular Facebook users who attempt to use an affected app.
Blogger has historically been more forthcoming about software bugs and service problems, although updates are split between 2 different blogs: Blogger Status and Known Issues for Blogger. While this confusing distinction will remain for the time being, the blog service pledged on November 4th to improve its communication practices during an outage:
Going forward, in the case of significant service interruptions, we plan to publish a post mortem on the Blogger Status blog within 3 business days to provide details about what went wrong and what we’re doing to help prevent similar problems in the future.
Companies that communicate well during a service disruption reap several benefits: they put users at ease, eliminate confusion and redundant customer support inquiries, and send a signal that the company is on top of the situation (even if they are still troubleshooting). In contrast, companies that are slow to acknowledge issues can risk aggravating their most passionate and vocal users and opening the door to unwanted speculation about the cause of the problem and the company’s ability to respond. Congrats to both Facebook and Blogger for improving their efforts at communication.
On a related note, Twitter has rolled out its Lists feature to all users. We’ve created an “official announcements” list that includes the official Twitter feeds for the services monitored at downrightnow. You can find the list on the right side of our Twitter page where you’ll have the option to become a follower. Although many companies use their Twitter accounts for general purposes in addition to outage news, you can use the list to check quickly for official company updates.
downrightnow monitors the status of your favorite web services, combining user reports and official announcements to tell you when there's service trouble.