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Twitter Outage Not the Worst Thing To Ever Happen

Forgive us a bit of a departure from partner-related stuff, but this is RCPU's favorite story of the year so far. Twitter, the annoying social networking site that RCPU recently joined because, well, we apparently had to, has been struggling with denial-of-service attacks recently. That much, you knew. But if you decided to take the weekend (and, we suppose, Friday -- as we did) off, you might not know that the attacks seem to have been the work of a bunch of Russians trying to knock a Georgian (Euro-style, not the college-football-fan kind) off the Web. 

Well, naturally, the poor guy who has been the victim of the attacks is an Internet star now and will probably end up with some sort of endorsement deal or massively hit-producing YouTube channel soon. But for the rest of us, the attacks have meant that we don't have to mess with posting updates on that ridiculous site -- um, uh, we mean, the attacks have meant that users have started to raise more questions about the safety of social networking sites and maybe even about the security of the whole Web 2.0 model.

But for many companies (including partner companies, we're sure), the Twitter outage hasn't been bad news. In fact, it has had the silver lining of preventing employees who don't necessarily need to be on Twitter from playing around on it all day. And it has also eliminated -- for hours at a time, anyway -- the chance that some employee will download malware or do some other accidentally nefarious thing by clicking on a link in a Tweet.

Social networking is supposed to be the sales tool of Web 2.0, the way we're all going to communicate and make deals and contacts now that e-mail is about as modern and useful as the floppy disk. But, as with any other technology, is has its drawbacks and its risks. Your editor's main opposition to Twitter is that as a (let's say) thorough writer, it's hard to keep Tweets down to 140 characters or fewer. Beyond that, Twitter seems even more self-serving and (harsh word coming) pompous than most social networking applications.

Beyond that, we can understand how difficult it must be for IT folks and managers in general to get a handle on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites in their companies. Block the sites completely, and IT people risk alienating employees and denying access to those workers who "need" to use social networking. Leave them wide open, and social networking sites can become breeding grounds for time-wasting (as if we needed another place to do that) and malware -- not to mention vicious attacks on Georgians.

We don't really have a solution to this dilemma. To be perfectly honest, we at RCPU were kind of hoping that Twitter would just sort of go away -- but that seems unlikely, despite some Russians' attempt to hassle a Georgian guy. (So, you might as well follow RCPU at http://twitter.com/leepender, right? Honestly, we mainly just re-post what you read here, but we might throw in a surprise here and there. All in 140 characters or fewer, of course.)

And we're sure that there are some companies that use Twitter and other similar sites for practical purposes. All these attacks have really demonstrated is that nobody is impervious to hackers (but we knew that) and that Web 2.0, for all its hype and all the excitement around it, probably presents as many problems as it does benefits. Still, we're enjoying the total randomness of the fact that some spat in Eastern Europe seems to have brought down the darling of the social networking scene. We really do feel for the guy who is being targeted here -- but would it be wrong to hope that the hackers win and to ask our Georgian tragic hero to take a fall here in the spirit of the greater good? Yeah, probably. But if we did cheer for that to happen, we have a feeling that we wouldn't be alone.

How do you handle social networking at work? Do you use it for actual business purposes? Do you have trouble controlling it among your employees? Are you addicted to it? Spill it all at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on August 11, 2009 at 11:55 AM


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