In the Belly of the Whale: How to get your Twitter problem fixed

Update: If you follow @Support, you can DM them (even though they don’t follow you) and ask your question that way. Though it doesn’t always work. For what is often a better but sometimes slower way to contact Twitter support, read on:

Top Issues

Account hacked?

  1. If you’ve been suspended, read this first.
  2. Change your password. If you can’t login, have Twitter reset your password.
  3. Revoke bad, unfamiliar or unused apps.
  4. If you’re still having problems, let Twitter know your situation at http://bit.ly/TWICKET
  5. Write one or more tweets letting your followers know what happened.
  6. Contact anyone who unfollowed you because of the hack, letting them know what happened, and that you’ve fixed the problem according to these steps.
  7. Tell others how you fixed your problem: Twitter accounts are often hacked in groups, and if you were hacked, it’s likely others were too, and are searching for information on what to do.

Account suspended?

  1. First, check your email inbox for any notification from Twitter.
  2. You many also want to read the Official Twitter Rules to see why you might have been suspended. If you’ve been used automated tools to follow or unfollow users, read the Twitter’s following best practices.
  3. Next follow these steps to confirm that your account was actually suspended and to appeal suspension. Alternatively, remember that you can you can follow @Support and send them a DM (you used to also be able to send an email to [email protected], but apparently they no longer monitor that).

If you didn’t get any email notification, you’ve filed a ticket regarding suspension and it’s been awhile and you haven’t heard anything back yet, send a tweet something this:

@Delbius my ticket number is #12345 want to know if/why my account was suspended & what I can do

Suspension is not always a death knell!

Accounts can be permanently suspended. But for lesser infractions, or for some first-time infractions, accounts can be restored/unsuspended. Just because it was suspended does not always mean you can’t get it back. It DOES mean though that changes to your practices MUST be made or problems fixed.

Twitter has a number of “tests” for an account before it comes under review or suspension. They don’t divulge all the flags against you but point out the main area they feel you need to improve in.

Be sure to read Automation Rules and Best Practices

Granted, Twitter could provide more details to users whose accounts become suspended. A common error that can get your account suspended is automated following/unfollowing combined with links that are clearly from feeds. This marks an account as possibly fully automated which Twitter does not want.

Missing Tweets?

There are several different kinds of issues that could be happening here:

  1. Your Tweets and Hashtags are not showing up in search.
  2. Your Tweet count is incorrect.
  3. You’re missing a group of Tweets from my Profile timeline.
  4. You’re  missing mentions and/or @replies.

All these issues and more are explained at “Help! My Tweets Are Missing!

What to do if you have a general problem

  1. First, you might try clearing your browser’s cache.
  2. Also good is to check Twitter status.
  3. You may also want to check detailed status for different parts of the Twitter service. (And even more detailed.)
  4. It’s never wrong to file a ticket with Twitter letting them know you have a problem and are seeking help. Watch your email for a response after filing a ticket.
  5. You can also check Twitter known issues, search for help about your Twitter issue, or check the Twitter FAQ. If you leave a comment on a Twitter known issues page, Twitter may be in touch with a temporary solution in advance of fixing the problem permanently. However, if you notify Twitter about your problem by filing a ticket at http://bit.ly/twicket you will often receive an email suggesting possible known issues to read.
  6. You might want to read this interesting article to better understand how Twitter has organized their help system.
  7. Besides http://bit.ly/twicket, you can also reporting bugs or problems to Twitter via http://twitter.com/HELP

SPECIAL TIP: If your problem is on Twitter.com, you can reset your browser cache (which is known to fix some problems) by using your keyboard. Here’s an approach that works for most: Hold down the “Ctrl” key (command for Mac) and press the F5 (function) key at the same time. If that didn’t work, see http://j.mp/ClearCache.

Options for help outside of Twitter

Many things are not Twitter problems, per se. It’s always a good idea to search for a support website or support account relevant to your problem if it’s an application or third-party service, such as TweetDeck, TwitPic, etc.

  1. You can ask other users for help on the Twitter page at GetSatisfaction. Twitter used to say they monitored this site. Now they say instead “We encourage users to help each other get the most out of Twitter. Often the community provides answers and solutions faster than we can respond directly.”
  2. Searching Twitter to see if others have your problem can also be helpful. Try adding keywords to this example search for problems.
  3. There are also a variety of third-party services that try to help Twitter users get all kinds of questions answered. One example is the TweetQA service.
  4. And of course you can always send an @message to other users that you think might be helpful. Don’t bother sending @messages with questions to @Twitter though. Your best bet if you want a response from Twitter is to file a ticket.
  5. You can also try ComplaintCommunity which is also on Twitter as @CompComm


Too much spam?

There are several solutions to help you get less spam on Twitter. A good one to try first is TwitBlock.

How Twitter finds problems

Twitter “tracks tens of thousands of metrics in real time” to find problems. They also watch incoming trouble tickets, and comments users post on the Twitter known issues pages. They don’t pay much attention to tweets to most employees, so if you feel you must send a tweet a Twitter account like @Support, file a ticket first and include your ticket number in any communication.

How Twitter fixes problems

Twitter handles trouble tickets in the order they are received. For some tickets, you may receive an email with suggestions on what to do, and a note telling you to let Twitter know if you still have a problem. If you get this kind of email and fail to respond to Twitter that you “still have a problem” your ticket will be closed. So, watch your email after filing a ticket. Also, if you have left a comment about a problem you are having on a known issues page, you may receive a tweet with further information.

“Feature Darkmode”

This is an annoying method Twitter uses to keep things running when there are problems, or when things are being worked on. Basically, features are intentionally turned off! Learn more about why Twitter “breaks” it’s own feature here. Also, realize that if you get a FailWhale, sometimes its just a slow server, and if you reload the web page, you’ll get a faster server…or at least you’ll get to see the page you’re trying to visit :)

How Twitter has improved

UPDATE: In June, 2011, Twitter announced its new search and photo sharing services. Twitter engineering put out this blog post explaining the new details of how search would work.

Twitter’s biggest improvement was to switch to a queuing technology called Unicorn. This caused them to use 30% less CPU and much less memory on their servers. It was such a big improvement, it allowed them to deploy many fixes and new features without downtime.

John Adams of Twitter has stated “[garbage collection and] SQL problems are root of most of our issues.” Considering that, it is disturbing that Twitter recently decided to halt moving away from SQL for tweet storage, at least for the time being. To help take the load off servers, Twitter stores some things for up to 60 seconds to speed up your access to “real time” information.

On October 6, Twitter announced a new search architecture that would let them index roughly 50 times more tweets per second than they were currently getting. The new system is also “extremely versatile and extensible,” which Twitter hints will be used to “build cool new features faster and better.” And in late 2010, this information about how Twitter is using NoSQL was released. One tidbit: Twitter now logs 80 different categories of data. See also (below): “How Twitter analyzes social graphs.”

The geeky details

John Adams and Nick Kallen of Twitter in the video and slideshow below describes all the geeky details of how Twitter handles issues. Instrumentation and logging is critical at Twitter. Here is one of the key diagrams from the video:

 How Twitter is changing their infrastructure in 2011:

3 thoughts on “In the Belly of the Whale: How to get your Twitter problem fixed

  1. Please HELP!!! I am new to my position. I am in charge of managing our social media. I am certain we are WELL below the limits.
    We had a total of 293 followers, we were following 350. I left work friday PM and those were the numbers. I came in on Monday AM and ALL of our old tweets were gone. We had zero people we were following and 2 followers.
    I have filled out the forms. I have received email stating the problem is resolved but it is not.
    I am tasked with managing this for my nonprofit company and use it as a way to communicate with members.
    HELP.
    I need my followers and old tweets restored somehow. I have begun trying to “re-build” our list of people we are following, but whatever zeroed out our account also “blocked” people, so I am at a total loss. I have been going in by hand to “unblock” and follow people but I am new (tomorrow will be the end of my 2nd week) and I am desperate.
    Please help.

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