Archive for November, 2008

Twitterless and the New Notification System

November 5, 2008

This week a new notification system was rolled out that admittedly is less convenient for Twitterless users than the old system.  The old system would notify users not only when people stopped following them, but it would also tell users who the followers were that dropped them, which is of course the whole point of Twitterless.  The new system only tells users how many people have stopped following them, but instead of saying who in the direct message it gives users a link to a page where they can run a checker to find out just that.

So why implement a system that is seemingly less useful than the original?  The answer can be summed up in one word: scalability.  From the start it was clear that given the nature of Twitter’s API and the sheer amount of data that must be parsed for each user every time their follower list is checked against that Twitterless’ biggest challenge would be scalability.  To date Twitterless has around 600 users, and with every new user the time it takes to notify people of dropped followers increases.  In fact, this is the main reason why Twitterless has been a closed beta – to keep numbers low while a system was created that could actually handle a larger load.

It turns out these fears were justified.  A competing site, useqwitter.com, does the exact same thing as Twitterless (only over email instead of direct message), and since being launched 2 weeks ago as an open beta has no doubt gained much more than 600 followers.  As a result, it took around 8-10 hours longer for useqwitter.com to notify users of dropped followers than Twitterless did with the old system.  Unless the folks at useqwitter.com buy more servers and throw more money at the problem, this discrepancy will only get worse.  There is no doubt that if Twitterless were taken out of closed beta with the old system, it would start to experience a similar slowdown.

By offloading the checking of followers to the users, Twitterless can now notify people about dropped followers within minutes.  Only users who choose to run the check will be taxing the system at any time.  Another problem that was facing Twitterless were users with followers numbering in the thousands.  Because people with that many followers are constantly losing and gaining followers, they were always getting placed in the queue to be checked while people with less followers would have to wait.  The new system will be more convenient for people with less followers because their checks will take much less time to run.  You would have to imagine that people with 2-3k followers start to care less and less about who is actually dropping them than how many are dropping them in a given moment.

Because people with thousands of followers will get a ton of DM’s due to the large volume of daily dropped followers, an option will be created for those users to receive DM’s on a set schedule, such as hourly or daily.  

So far there have been very few complaints about the new system, so it can be tentatively chalked up to a successful transition.  For those of you who are completely turned off, you should check out useqwitter.com if being told who dropped you in the message is more important than timeliness.  For those of you who stick with Twitterless, feedback about the new system is like gold and will help shape the system over the next few weeks, so leave it early and often.  

This also means that Twitterless is nearing the end of its “closed beta” status, so those of you who have been waiting for codes may not have to wait much longer anymore.  Thanks to everyone for understanding and keep sending that feedback!

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