After ten years of hosting and maintaining websites, I fully understand that unexpected problems do occur, so I have a bit of sympathy for Comcast over last evening’s massive outage of that company’s internet service. But not too much sympathy, because Comcast is, after all, a billion dollar company that charges us premium prices for service. You would think they would have ample backup and redundant systems and all that. But enough about Comcast and its troubles.
I write to praise Twitter which once again demonstrated its usefulness when Comcast went down. Here’s my story: shortly after 9 pm last night I sat down at my computer to check the news and do a blog post but found I was without internet service. I performed the usual steps – unplugging the cable modem a time or two as a first step. When that didn’t work, I by-passed the wireless router and plugged directly into the modem. Still nothing. I then tried calling Comcast on the telephone. After about 20 attempts in 20 minutes, all I got was busy signals or brief recordings that said my call might be recorded but then was disconnected. Perhaps being unable to even get placed on hold should have been a tip-off that something big was afoot, but I attributed to Comcast’s ineptness, not a stretch given the sad state of customer service in corporate America these days.
Frustrated not by the outage, but by the failure of Comcast to respond, I grabbed my phone and did a Facebook update complaining about my internet provider’s lack of customer service. I then switched to Twitter to do the same and immediately saw a long series of Tweets not only announcing similar outages around the region, but advice on how to change one’s computer settings to by-pass the problem. Many were recommending changing to Google’s DNS settings, reporting re-connections after the switch. I know enough about computers to understand what that means, but I also wasn’t that desperate for internet service at that moment. I assumed that since it was a system-wide problem, it would be fixed by this morning. It was.
So congratulations to Twitter. As someone suggested – I think it was Lynne from Left in Lowell on Facebook – the new method of troubleshooting any problem is to try the obvious fixes right away but then search for the offending company’s name on Twitter, allowing you to discover if the problem goes beyond just your home or office. I’ve long felt that Twitter is an extremely powerful tool, it’s just that we haven’t fully figured out how to best use it. I learned a lesson in that regard last night.