Rescuing Twitter's trainwreck

Twitter's problems continue and are not likely to be fixed for months. The system's fundamental architecture is flawed, management is grasping at straws to figure out what's wrong, and hiring qualified folks takes time. Regardless of the significant funding already raised by the company, solving these problems is always a slow process. Twitter's issues are no different from any other business in the midst of a management-driven failure situation.

Twitter’s train wreck

Update 6/2/08 7:00PM EDT: Twitter is working well at the moment. Will it last?

Twitter's problems continue and are not likely to be fixed for months. The system's fundamental architecture is flawed, management is grasping at straws to figure out what's wrong, and hiring qualified folks takes time. Regardless of the significant funding raised by the company, solving these problems is always a slow process. Twitter's issues are no different from any other business in the midst of a management-driven failure situation.

Rescuing a failed project is challenging. As jjprojects told me on Twitter, it's "like changing the tyres of a car and fixing the engine while the car is still driving." Given this difficulty, I suggest the Twitter team adopt the sensible methodology advocated by Forrester Research. This diagram offers an overview:

Rescuing the Twitter trainwreck

Twitter should bear these lessons in mind as they develop their turnaround strategy:

  • You don’t have to fix every problem. Get the basic system working and worry about the rest later. I'm sure you're already thinking this way.
  • Users will be patient, but only if you make them love you. Everyone wants Twitter fixed, but communication is everything right now.
  • Learn project management. Wings and prayers won't work. Bring in experienced managers with excellent judgment who have fought these battles before. You need more than tech folks, even though the problems are deeply technical in nature.

While Twitter is repairing self-imposed damage born of poor planning and inexperience, it's likely competitors will emerge to take advantage of the company's misfortune. Although any competitor will face similar technical and engineering challenges, they will learn Twitter's hard-won lessons at a fraction of Twitter's cost.

Twitter, your repair process will take months. To prevent user defections en masse, hone your communication skills to a perfect, fevered pitch. It's your only hope.

(Click here to follow me on Twitter.)

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