Twitter advice

I know that opinions are a penny a dozen on the internet and I generally don’t pay any attention to them unless they are informed opinions, and I generally don’t comment on them. But this post by Michael Arrington on TechCrunch about Twitter bugged me.

Here’s why:

Experts I’ve spoken with say these are reasonable precautions to take, although they question why more slave servers weren’t set up in the past (”it takes ten minutes,” said one anonymous source). But as a Twitter user, I’m glad to see they’re preparing for the surge.

Nothing ever “takes ten minutes”. You can’t just pick a server and bung it into production as a slave server without thinking about what you are going to do with it and hence what load you are going to place on it. Typically ‘lesser’ machines are co-opted into being slave servers and people expect them to be able to replicate, keep up with replication, and take a read load. Oh and not need any admin either. You can “take ten minutes” to do this and have the system bite back at the worse possible time, or you can think about your needs, do the right thing and have the system work properly for a long time, your pick.

The smartest thing Twitter could have done would be to hire former Chief Architect Blaine Cook back as a consultant to keep an eye on things for the day (he seems to be the only person that can keep his crazy architecture actually live). But from what we’ve heard that hasn’t happened.

No, the smartest thing Twitter could have done (and most probably did) would have been to make sure that there is redundancy in their engineering team so that things don’t come to a grinding halt if someone leave, goes on vacation, is fired, or gets hit by that bus-driving psycho. Having critical knowledge locked up in a single person is bad for that person, bad for their co-workers, bad for the company and bad for the shareholders.


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