Using twitter as an outage notification

JC Dill jcdill.lists at gmail.com
Sun Jul 5 10:17:21 CDT 2009


Roland Perry wrote:
>> There's the temptation by some of companies to leverage the latest
>> technology to appear "cool" and "in tune" with customers, but by far and
>> large, when something goes down customers either do no nothing, wait, or
>> call in.  I think the best use of everyone's time is to make sure 
>> their call
>> center/support desk has the capability to post an announcement to 
>> those that
>> call in.
>
> It's a High School. They don't have a "support desk" (or more than 
> handful of phone lines [1]). Even the local radio station can't cope 
> with one call per school asking them to broadcast the news that they 
> have closed due to bad weather.
>
>> And then make sure something gets posted to the website.
>
> Unfortunately, the number of students polling the website for news 
> means it can't cope with the traffic. 
Really?  Um, wow.  How big is this school?  Is the webserver on an ISDN 
line?
> I don't believe they can justify paying more for better web hosting, 
> just to manage this once-a-year half hour event.
This is a case where it makes *perfect* sense to offload emergency 
notifications to another, larger system such as twitter, *as well as* 
post to the school website (ideally via a blog, so you can use posterus 
to do both actions in one email).  There's no fee, the cost to "set 
up"[1] is your time to securely configure a posterus account and a list 
to send to posterus (see below) and then to send an announcement post to 
posterus (and thus post on the school blog and on twitter) and to send 
an email to all students and parents notifying them so they can follow 
the school's announcement feed on twitter.

jc

[1] To setup: create an announcement mailing list with a name like 
post72045gh at school.edu - the name is kept private.  The mailing list 
will send to posterus (and yourself - do NOT use this list to send to 
regular users - if you want to do that make a different list, a public 
list).  This prevents students from sending out snow day emails by 
forging the school's secretary's email address and sending to posterus 
themselves - they would need to guess the name of the mailing list and 
send "from" that name to posterus to forge a snow day email.

For even more security, set the list to no approved posters.  The people 
who are authorized to send out the announcement will be authorized to 
*approve* posts from non-members (who are everyone).  Anyone on the 
school staff can post (but still, keep the address private, only 
distribute it to those who need to know!).  The posts are held for 
moderation and are sent to the people who can approve, and they have to 
click on the approval link and approve the post before it gets 
distributed.  Test this system with the people who will use it, so that 
they understand what happens if they are the first one to click on the 
approval link, and what happens if someone else is first (no messages 
left to approve).  Also, make sure they can remember the password for 
moderating the private email list - the whole thing grinds to a halt if 
none of them can remember their password at 4 am when they try to send a 
snowday announcement and it remains stuck in the distribution list and 
never gets out and posted.  The usual system people use to remember an 
infrequently used password (of having a password on a note by the 
computer in the office) doesn't work at 4 am when everyone is at home.

jc




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