Jack Yan
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The Persuader

My personal blog, started in 2006.



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30.05.2015

Why Facebook’s errors might be increasing

Now that I’ve figured out that Facebook only works on alternate days (or at least evenings, since it gave up the ghost again for the early afternoon), I’m back into my usual swing of things. It’s not so much that I spend that much time on social networks, but getting to the bottom of things interests me.
   The other angle is that having spent my teens watching this technology develop (I saw the original War Games at the cinema), and knowing how much these companies are worth, I have an expectation about where the level of service should be. Frequently, it’s not, and it’s worth calling them out, showing people that the emperor has no clothes, and reminding all of us that size is nothing to be scared of. (It’s like my usual quip about banks: how come a cheque took 24 hours to clear in 1976 and five to seven days in 2015? Are computers seven times slower today?)
   The feedback has been interesting. I’ve run into a lot of people with the same problems, which at least gives me some clue about the reasons. The problems tended to be focused on Europe and the US east coast, suggesting that there was at least one server with writing difficulties. Given my experience on Vox, mentioned in my last post, this doesn’t surprise me. Hard drives develop faults, and at least Facebook has more back-up systems than Vox did, which probably restored the account (one hopes).
   One friend asked whether I was being targeted. I suppose I encounter these issues frequently, which is why I theorized yesterday that adding to an account that has 6 Gbyte of data might be problematic. I don’t know if the others had Facebook accounts with a lot of data. But it’s another theory that remains with me. (My joke was that it was proving difficult to shift 6 Gbyte of data to and from the NSA.)
   Another friend sent me his screen shot this morning, showing that he could not post a comment to my wall, confirming what I believed: that there was something wrong with my account and saving data to it. But it had nothing to do with me.
   Interestingly, I did run into one netizen who completely disbelieved the situation, saying she had never encountered anyone with such problems before. I could only conclude that we moved in different circles, although the errors I confronted were no different to the ones that hit Facebook users worldwide for in October 2013 (including major TV networks and companies), or for around 35–40 minutes in June 2014. Luckily she and her entire circle were spared (or was this down to an incredibly short memory?), but the people I knew weren’t so lucky, getting caught out in both outages. Those were fixed more quickly because millions were caught out; Facebook is less likely to get round to faults that hundreds or thousands experience as quickly.
   The fact is Facebook’s amount of errors is increasing annually, and these outages are becoming more commonplace. You can argue that having a website that mucks up every once in a while is tolerable, but, looking back at the bugs I filed at Get Satisfaction, I can’t agree. Facebook’s silly bug of failing on the 1st of the month seems minor compared to a site on which you could no longer post, like or comment—its three cornerstone activities.
   It’s why I report spambots and spammers, because it’s the responsible thing to do (would you, in the real world, ignore a physical hazard?) as Facebook has some compromised accounts that are months, if not years, old, that need to be seen to, because they take resources away from the rest of us.
   I also post about these mainly to give other netizens some solace that they aren’t alone. The one thing people wonder when they confront these errors is, ‘If I’m alone, will this ever get fixed?’ In Vox’s case, the answer was a firm no: I left the site at the end of 2009 when they couldn’t fix things; a year later, the place would close down completely. This is not a fate that Facebook can ignore, although it is far better resourced than Six Apart was when it came to that site, and the scenario will not play out like that or on such a brief time-scale.
   And, of course, Facebook is worse than Google when it comes to keeping people informed or having some kind of support (even though Google’s support is completely dismissive the moment a matter falls outside the norm—but surely that was the reason one visited their forums to begin with). Bringing a bit of extra pressure may have helped get LaQuisha Redfern’s account reinstated, as well as that of another friend last week when I fired off a complaint to Facebook directly over its ridiculous passport policy.
   In 2011, Bob Cringely believed that Facebook would peak in 2014, and I have to say that has come to pass. The novelty wore off some time ago (Timeline helped give Facebook more life), our lives are getting busier, organic reach is in the toilet, and the frequency of bugs will drive people away. Thank goodness for its shareholders that it diversified.

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Filed under: internet, technology, USA—Jack Yan @ 13.02

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