Postmortems

Twitter outage 2008 - an inside story

From an HN discussion about a recent Twitter outage, we get an amusing true story from Maciej Cegłowski:

So storytime! I worked at Twitter as a contractor in 2008 (my job was to make internal hockey-stick graphs of usage to impress investors) during the Fail Whale era. The site would go down pretty much daily, and every time the ops team brought it back up, Twitter’s VCs would send over a few bottles of really fancy imported Belgian beer (the kind with elaborate wire bottle caps that tell you it’s expensive).

I would intercept these rewards and put them in my backpack for the bus ride home, in order to avoid creating perverse incentives for the operations team. But did anyone call me ‘hero’?

Also at that time, I remember asking the head DB guy about a specific metric, and he ran a live query against the database in front of me. It took a while to return, so he used the time to explain how, in an ordinary setup, the query would have locked all the tables and brought down the entire site, but he was using special SQL-fu to make it run transparently.

We got so engrossed in the details of this topic that half an hour passed before we noticed that everyone had stopped working and was running around in a frenzy. Someone finally ran over and asked him if he was doing a query, he hit Control-C, and Twitter came back up.

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