Using twitter as an outage notification

Skywing Skywing at
Sun Jul 5 16:20:01 UTC 2009

Hmm... doesn't that kind of defeat the point of using Twitter instead of your own infrastructure to begin with, aside from adding another (Posterous) single point of failure for all your communication mechanisms?

Perhaps it is not so important for snow days vs. outage situations, but it seems to me like it would be simpler and more reliable to go directly to the source and not use Posterous.

(Besides, I suspect the chances are reasonable that between mail/www/Twitter, you're going to have a low set of users in the other social networking sites crowd who don't have any overlap to begin with.  Diminishing returns?)

- S

-----Original Message-----
From: JC Dill <jcdill.lists at>
Sent: Sunday, July 05, 2009 08:18
Cc: nanog at <nanog at>
Subject: Re: Using twitter as an outage notification

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
> 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.


[1] To setup: create an announcement mailing list with a name like
post72045gh at - 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.


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