Last night, Prairie and I were watching Bones on Netflix’s streaming service when Netflix suddenly stopped responding. In order to find out if there were service-wide problems, my first step was to turn to Twitter to see if there were any other people reporting problems — and as it turns out, there were. Reassured that it was a Netflix issue, and not something going wrong with my setup, we popped in a DVD until people on Twitter started reporting that things were working again.

It seems that using Twitter is becoming a more and more common way to get a quick handle on whether a particular website is having issues. This started me thinking about a website that could act as a simple, centralized tracker of uptime/downtime reports, gathered from real-time scanning of the Tweetstream. I don’t have the coding chops to do this, so I’m tossing the idea out to the Lazyweb in case anyone else wants to run with it.

The basic idea seems simple enough: scan the tweetstream for variations on the types of posts people make when a service is showing signs of problems. Basic search strings would be something along the lines of “* is [down|broken]” and “is * [down|broken]“. Anytime a hit is made on the search string, an entry is made in the database with the reported problem site and whatever might be considered relevant data from the source tweet (the tweet text, time/datestamp, perhaps even geolocation data for those tweets that are carrying it). Tracking reports of websites coming back online could be integrated as well, by watching strings such as “* is [back|up|back up|working]“.

The website would display a regularly updating display of downtime/uptime reports, one line per target website, with a series of stats indicating things like how recently the last problem or resolution tweet was recorded, the number of problem or resolution tweets found within the last 10, 30, or 60 minutes, perhaps a map showing geolocation markers that could indicate if downtime is widespread (indicating downtime at the website itself) or geographically targeted (indicating problems with a particular network, carrier, or ISP between the website and the Twitter users reporting problems), and whatever other data might be useful. It might be possible to use CSS to color-code lines depending upon variable such as the rate of problem tweets being found, too.

Anyway, that’s about as formed as the idea is in my head. If this sounds interesting to anyone else, feel free to grab the idea and run. If someone does build this based on this post, though, some mention or credit would be nice. ;)

Since I’ve occasionally groused about the hosting service I get with Dreamhost, I wanted to be sure to mention when things go right, instead of only when things go wrong.

For a few months, the server that my account was set up on, and which hosts all three domains under my control, was being tweaky, resulting in sporadic downtime. I’d been building up a small library of downtime reports in my support page with Dreamhost, when last month, things took a turn for the worse…and then, soon afterward, for the better. Of course, I didn’t really know about the “for the worse” part until I got the news of the “for the better” side of things.

The last time my site went down, when I submitted the support request notifying Dreamhost of the downtime, they replied relatively quickly, letting me know that the server I was on had become “unresponsive,” and they were working on getting this back up and running. About half an hour later, my sites came back up, and I didn’t think much more of it. Until the next day, when I got the following…

This is just a note to let you know that we’ve moved your account to a new server! We apologize for the lack of notice, but this was an emergency move as a perfomance and stability measure.

Apparently the server I’d been on had gone seriously downhill, and had to be replaced, necessitating moving my account to new hardware (and hopefully all the other occasional downtime I’d had was due to the developing hardware issues, and I won’t get those again). Most of the rest of the message was covering anything I might need to do to ensure that everything worked as it should, and as it turns out, I didn’t really need to do much of anything, as the transition was seamless. Then, at the end of the note…

…again, we really apologize for the abrupt nature of this move! To try and make up for it a bit, we’ve also set your account to now have unlimited disk and bandwidth, forever!

Ooooh. See those last few words? That’s nice to see. “Unlimited disk and bandwidth, forever!” No worries about storing large files (not that I tend to do that), no worries about surcharges on the (very) off chance that I get Slashdotted or Dugg. Just keep paying my yearly bill, and I’m set.

Dreamhost, I’ve had issues with you from time to time, but this? This is good. Thanks!