A few weeks ago I was trying to update some files I have stored on a cloud storage service (that will remain nameless). I had moved my files there a while back as a way to make it easier to access them from my various devices and to avoid losing them during the next inevitable hard drive failure. For the most part I’ve been happy with the service, but on this day, I was unable to access the site.
Not good, as I was rushing to make some changes and send the files to a colleague.
Frustrated by my situation, I asked a co-worker to see if he was also having problems. He was, so we did the next logical thing you would expect. We went to the service provider's status page to see what they had to say. According to it, the service was healthy and there were no current service or maintenance notices.
Twitter! Of course. Whenever services like YouTube or Hulu have outages, users light-up Twitter with comments and laments. Sure enough, a quick Twitter search showed that, yes, there was a widespread problem that had started only a few minutes prior, and already there was a trending hashtag.
This example shows what's great about Twitter. It is an immensely powerful platform for creating instant virtual communities sharing information and opinion around a topic of common interest. The Twitter community as a group was able to do a better job than the service provider itself of informing users that there was a problem with the service. I and the other storage service users — at least the ones also on Twitter — had formed an impromptu global network of monitors, watching the service from hundreds of thousands of access points. Together could confirm for each other that there was a service-wide outage.