The ApocalyPS3 – When Good Networks Go Bad

You know, there’s a few lessons to be learned here.  Number one is that I’m writing this post because the Playstation Network is down, and number two is that Sony didn’t really do enough to communicate things effectively.  Let me set the stage.  After Canada’s stunning 3-2 overtime Olympic hockey win over the US, I decided to go online and play some Modern Warfare 2.  No dice.  I received an error message stating I had been logged out of the PSN.  Tried to play the solo campaign, and it still kicked me out of the game stating that my trophy information could not be sync’d.

Enter the internet.  I hopped online to research the error code, and saw on Gamespot Forums that pretty much everyone was getting this error.  No responses from Sony (not surprised, as it was not the official PSN forum).  Checked my e-mail account to see if Sony had sent an update.  None.  I even checked the PSN Blog, but prior to 8:30 PM there was no post.  Last channel, Twitter… Luckily I’m a Playstation follower, and yes, there was a tweet from the goodly folks at Sony. 

Look, I used to manage the network at my company, and yeah, network outages can happen.  The key is how they’re communicated and managed.  Not all PSN users are on Twitter, but we all had to register our e-mail address to join PSN.  Hmmm… If Star Wars Galaxies servers were all up for this period, surely Sony’s e-mail infrastructure would have been okay?  Later that evening, Sony added a Blog post to advise they were aware of the problem, and were working on identifying root cause.  That’s about 4.5 hours after the outage began, and it’s about 4 hours too late for my money.

This story does, however, illustrate a good use of social media to help communicate.  It was really interesting that Sony tweeted before it added a blog post to their own website, and apparently, instead of e-mailing at all.  Sony Playstation does, of course, market its wares on Twitter, and I’m okay with that, because I choose to receive these updates.  Still, this is a great example of where companies goes beyond just hawking how great its products are using 140 characters or less.  It’s about presence, and being online when your community needs you…

So, it’s 9:15 PM EST on March 1, 2010.  As I wrote this post, the ApocalyPS3 came to an end, and service restored.  People tweeted about its restoration now for over an hour.  Sony just posted a blog entry about 1 minute ago…  Not bad, Sony, but there’s room for improvement.

Talent And Technology

Everyone knows that technology is meant to make our lives easier.  Arthur Clarke (English physicist and sci-fi author) wrote back in 1961 that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  A pretty insightful comment for its time, and one that continues to get more relevant as technology advances.  I might also add, however, that the most advanced technology is one that everyone can use.  Its power (and magic) lies in its simplicity.

I’ve mentioned before that I work in IT.  Often, I get a twang of jealousy when I see the sort of wonders truly talented people can develop and create using technology.  Back in early December, I took a Visual Studio and .NET framework course, so I could better understand some of the day-to-day tools the developers I work with employ.  Perhaps the most valuable learning from that course is that development not only requires skill and knowledge, the best developers are gifted with talent.  The software, language (VB or C#), and programming .concepts are all relatively easily trained.  Applying those tools and concepts to automate tasks, integrate systems and improve productivity comes not only with experience, but with an inherant ability to think in a certain way.  Skills gained from experience can account for a lot… but the best have talent.

So where does that leave the rest of us?  Writing simple ‘select’ queries in SQL?  Nah…  While developing applications and building their frameworks require a certain talent, they pale in comparitive importance to the innovative ways people like you and me use those applications and frameworks.  The whole point of Web 2.0 is about the online community.  The more people who use the tool the better.  People employ Twitter, for example, in ways I’m sure their developers never even dreamed about.  The same can be said of Facebook, LinkedIn, and just about any of the most advanced technology out there.  Their power lies in simplicity, and the users and community that take what the development teams provide, and turn it into something bigger and better.

The Tremendously Simple Twitter UI

Why Twitter?

Prior to blogging on Standing Stones, if you had asked what I thought about Twitter, I would have gladly let you know that (for me anyways) it would be a giant waste of time.  I also would have been dead wrong.  I saw no value in micro-blogging to the world about anything, and I still think Ashton Kutcher is a bit of a knob.  As I started to look into getting the word about my blog out there, I found out that Twitter could be a tremendously valuable resource.  Since creating my account, I’ve discovered it is that, and much more.  If you’re not a Twitter user, here’s a few observations…

  • Before joining, think about what you are trying to achieve on Twitter.  Like any software tool, you need to decide how you will apply it (hence the word application).  For instance, I started following some of the companies and products I find most interesting, like Microsoft, Google or Playstation 3.  You can follow your favorite celebs, if that’s your thing.  The beauty of Twitter is you decide who you want to follow, and receive their Tweets.  None of it is forced marketing or advertising.
  • Build your brand.  Personal branding is all the hype right now.  Whether you’re a blogger, an entrepreneur, or a real estate agent (the list is endless, by the way), you can spread the word about your company and your products.  Again, the beauty is that you know you’re getting to people who want to hear about them… Your followers!
  • Start Tweeting. I don’t have a high number of followers, but I noticed that when I tweet regularly, I usually get a few notifications of new people who have somehow got word of my messages, and have started to follow me.  Don’t just watch other people’s tweets.  Participate!
  • Aggregate & Go Mobile.  There’s a lot of aggregation going on right now between Social Networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.  Consider using software like TweetDeck (image below) to aggregate your Tweets to update your Facebook Status or LinkedIn Profile.  Also, make sure to get a Twitter client on your smartphone.  I use UberTwitter on my Blackberry Bold.  Works like a charm!

There were none more skeptical about micro-blogging than me.  In fact, hardly any friends or family of mine use Twitter!  Why would I want to join?  Exactly because none of my friends or family are on there.  It gives me a great opportunity to build a new network of relationships (18 Million roughly).  Once you get into it, you’ll realize it’s a pretty powerful tool.  There’s a ton of other uses and tips I could share, but I’ll save some more for another post! 

Take care, and Happy New Year from Standing Stones.