Twitterless and the New Notification System

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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11 Responses to “Twitterless and the New Notification System”

  1. DeejayKnight Says:

    It looks like the update will help you out tons on the backend side of things. As a site owner, I know EXACTLY how important that is, and won’t be disappointed about the new update.

    Then again, i’m not in the closed beta, so I don’t know how well the previous system worked! If there are more invite codes, I’d love to see one!

  2. LadyKaldi Says:

    I hate the new system and am now closing my account. Yours is a technical solution that dumps useability: that’s called NOT a solution. In fact — even when clicking over to the system, there was no information about who’d dropped. It was the same old page. In fact, as I read this, it seems there will be no more WHO information. So what’s the benefit of this. Done.

  3. Jason Says:

    I’m someone who is very much looking forward to Twiterless leaving closed beta so that I can try it out for myself. And while the new system now creates an extra step for people to find out who stopped following them, I believe that people who really want to know about who stopped following will take the time to do so.

    When it comes to scalability I think everyone should appreciate the fact that you are being proactive by taking these steps now so we don’t have to experience Twitterless’s own fail whale in the future.

  4. twitterless Says:

    @LadyKaldi Well there really was no choice in the matter. It was either keep the user base below 1000 users forever or let the system become completely useless in terms of timeliness. Given that the service is being offered for free, throwing money at the problem could have solved it but of course is not an option.

    To be fair, when you click the link that is sent to you with the new system, you have to click the “Update Stats” link to run the check. This is described in red text above the user profile when you follow that link, but perhaps it wasn’t made prominent enough. I agree that the service would be worthless without “WHO” information but it DOES have it, you just have to run the check explicitly.

    Thanks for your feedback and for beta testing Twitterless.

  5. Steven Bristol Says:

    Quitter still sends the name of the person who dropped. And since this change quitter become the better service. Suck it up, buy another slice, grow you site. Become so good that people will pay for the advanced features. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot now.

  6. twitterless Says:

    @Steven Bristol

    Yes, but how long does it take for you to receive notifications from Qwitter? I suggest you measure the time it takes to receive a notification from Qwitter against the time it takes to get one from Twitterless (even including the extra step) and I bet you’ll see that it’s around a 12 hour discrepancy. For most people timeliness is going to be more important than convenience, but for those who feel otherwise Qwitter is a good alternative.

    Perhaps letting users choose between the two types of notification is a better strategy. That way if it takes a really long time to receive a notification at least users will know that that’s the sacrifice they make for convenience. I have my doubts about whether or not people would pay for this service so I’m not going to head down that route any time soon, but I think giving both options might be a better compromise. Thanks for the feedback, Steve, as always I appreciate your candidness 🙂

  7. Steven Bristol Says:

    We can talk more about this in person tomorrow, but I personally don’t care how long it takes for the notification. It’s not like I’m about to call the dropper and try to get them back. Also, I don’t click through, I wait for the quitter notice…so basically the service is just a giant tease now.

  8. Amy Says:

    I was wondering why the changes were made, so I’m glad to see this explanation. I also appreciate the openness.

    My feedback is that on the page where we click the button to see who unfollowed us, the name(s) of the users who stopped following us should be more prominent and perhaps placed in a different location on the page. It is very easy to miss; in fact, I did miss it the first time I went there and thought the page wasn’t working correctly.

    FYI – the useqwitter.com site is now so bogged down that the line about when a user stopped following you is almost always wrong. I know this because Twitterless notifies me of when a user stops following me and then at some point in the future (sometimes hours later), I get the Qwitter notification.

    Thanks for your work and dedication to Twitterless. It’s a good service for those of us sadists who just HAVE to know who stopped deeming our ramblings worthy. 😉

  9. twitterless Says:

    @Amy I agree with you completely about the update link needing to be more prominent. I’m in the process of creating a special update screen that is impossible to miss and informative too.

    I’m glad to hear the app is working well for you and thanks for the feedback 🙂

  10. Nathan Says:

    I sent a DM about this issue as well: the new notifier is DMing me every time I lose a follower, even though I have “Receiving Notifications” turned off in my settings. I’m about to block tlessnotifier because of this.

  11. twitterless Says:

    @Nathan This has been fixed. Thanks for pointing it out and sorry for the inconvenience.

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