Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Foursquare gets transparency

Early Monday morning of this week, Foursquare went down hard:

11 hours later, the #caseofthemondays was over and they were back online. Throughout the those 11 hours, users had one of the following experiences:

1. When visiting, they saw:

2. When using the iPhone/Android/Blackberry app, they saw an error telling them the service is down and to try again later.

3. When checking Twitter (the not default source of downtime information), they saw a lot of people complaining and the following tweets from the official @foursquare account (if they thought of checking the @foursquare account):

Those were the only options available to a user of Foursquare for those 11 hours. A important question we need to answer is whether anyone seriously cared. Are users of consumer services like Foursquare legitimately concerned with Foursquare's downtime? Are they going to leave for competing services or just quit the whole check-in game? I'd like to believe that 11 hours of downtime matters, but honestly it's too early to tell. This will be a great test of the stickiness and Whuffie that Foursquare has built up.

The way I see it is that this is one strike against Foursquare (which includes the continued instability they've seen since Monday). They probably won't see a significant impact to their user base. However, if this happens again, and again, and again, the story changes. And as I've argued, downtime is inevitable. Foursquare will certainly go down again. They key is not reducing downtime to zero, but how you handle that downtime to avoid giving your competition an opening and even more importantly using that downtime to build trust and loyalty with your users. How do you accomplish this? Transparency.

We've talked about the benefits of transparency, why transparency works, and how to implement it. We saw above how Foursquare handled the pre- and intra- downtime steps (not well), so let's take a look at how they did in the post-downtime phase by reviewing the public postmortem (both of them) they published. As always, let's run it through the gauntlet

  1. Admit failure - Excellent. The entire first paragraph describes the downtime, and how painful it was to users.
  2. Sound like a human - Very much. This has never been a problem for Foursquare. The tone is very trustworthy.
  3. Have a communication channel - Prior to the event, all they had were their twitter accounts and their API developer forums. As a result of this incident, they have since launched, and have promised to update @4sqsupport on a regular basis throughout the incident.
  4. Above all else, be authentic - This may be the biggest thing going for them. 
  1. Start time and end time of the incident - Missing. All we know is that they were down for 11 hours. I don't see this as being critical in this case, but it would have been nice to have.
  2. Who/what was impacted - A bit vague, but the impression was that everyone was impacted.
  3. What went wrong - Extremely well done. I feel very informed, and can sympathize with the situation.
  4. Lessons learned - Again, extremely well done. I love the structure they used: What happened, What we’ll be doing differently – technically speaking, What we’re doing differently – in terms of process. Very effective.
  1. Details on the technologies involved - Yes!
  2. Answers to the Five Why's - No :(
  3. Human elements - heroic efforts, unfortunate coincidences, effective teamwork, etc - Yes!
  4. What others can learn from this experience - Yes!

Other takeaways:

  • Foursquare launched a public heath status feed! Check it out at
  • I really like the structure used in this postmortem. It has inspired me to want to create a basic template for postmortems. Stay tuned...
  • Could this be Facebook's Friendster moment? I hope not. My personal project rely's completely on Foursquare.
  • I've come to realize that for in most cases, downtime is less impactful to the long term success of a business than site performance. Downtime users understand and just try again later. Slowness eats away at you, you start to hate using the service and jump on an opportunity to use something more fun/fast/pleasant.
Going forward, the big question will be whether Foursquare maintains their new processes, keeps the status blog up to date, and can fix their scalability issues. I for one am rooting for them.


  1. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my difficulty. You are amazing, Thanks. free amazon gift card

  2. Great website and good content. thanks for sharing the information, please keep updating, looking forward for more recipes
    bryst tape

  3. All the best blogs that is very useful for keeping me share the ideas
    of the future as well this is really what I was looking for, and I am
    very happy to come here. Thank you very much
    earn to die
    earn to die 2
    earn to die 3
    Hi! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and finally got the
    earn to die 4
    courage to go ahead and give youu a shout out from
    earn to die 6
    Austin Texas! Just wanted to tell
    earn to die 5
    you keep up the fantastic work!my weblog
    age of war
    Hi! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and finally got the
    happy wheels
    strike force heroes
    good game empire

  4. Welcomes to google terminal from Austin Texas! google snake
    Amazing insight you have on this, Happy wheels it's nice to find a website that details so much information about different artists... Age of war 2 This article always blew me... Earn to die For how many times I have read this.
    slither io Hi! I’ve been reading your blog for a while slitherio it's nice to find a website that details so much big farm

  5. The war between humans, orcs and elves continues. Lead your race through a series of epic battles, using your crossbow to fend off foes and sending out units to destroy castles. Researching and upgrading wisely will be crucial to your success!
    slitherio | unfair mario 2 | age of war 2
    The game controls are shown just under . Movement mechanisms primarily include acceleration and tilting controls.
    cubefield | tank trouble | happy wheels | earn to die 3 | earn to die 4

  6. I read this blog, thanks for sharing another great article.
    slither io | wings io | science kombat | tank trouble 4

  7. Coach Outlet

    Christian Louboutin Shoes

    Valentino Shoes

    Michael Kors Outlet

    Coach Factory Outlet

    Coach Outlet Online

    Coach Purses

    Kate Spade Outlet

    Toms Shoes

    Hermes Belts

    Louis Vuitton

    Fendi Handbags

    Giuseppe Shoes

    Michael Kors Outlet

    Stephen Curry Shoes

    Salomon Shoes

    North Face Outlet

    Coach Outlet

    North Face Outlet

    Burberry Outlet

    North Face Outlet

    North Face Jackets

    Skechers Shoes

    Toms Outlet

    North Face Outlet

    Nike Air Max

    Nike Hoodies

    Marc Jacobs Handbags

    Marc Jacobs Outlet

    Jimmy Choo Shoes

    Jimmy Choos

    Burberry Belt

    Louis Vuitton Belt

    Salvatore Ferragamo

    Marc Jacobs Handbags

    Lululemon Outlet

    True Religion Outlet

    Tommy Hilfiger

    Michael Kors Outlet

    Coach Outlet

    Red Bottoms

    Kevin Durant Shoes

    New Balance Outlet

    Adidas Outlet

    Coach Outlet Online

    Stephen Curry Jersey

    Vans Outlet

    Ralph Lauren Outlet

    True Religion Outlet

    ED Hardy Outlet

    North Face Outlet

    UGG Outlet

    UGG Outlet

    North Face Outlet

    Ugg Boots Sale

    UGGS For Women

    Skechers Go Walk

    Adidas Yeezy Boost

    Adidas Yeezy

    Adidas NMD

    Coach Outlet

  8. Thank you for your post, I look for such article along time, today i find it finally. this post give me lots of advise it is very useful for me | supermechs | wingsio | wingsio game | super mechs | wingsio | super mechs 2 | wingsio game

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Thank you so much admin is already providing the information to us and here we are sorry permission to share articles may be useful for all of you in particular who are looking for Cara mengatasi trigliserida tinggi

  11. Thank you for sharing valuable information. Nice post. I enjoyed reading this post.Can you play more games at :
    strikeforce kitty 2 | red ball | strike force kitty 2 | strike force kitty

  12. This article is really fantastic and thanks for sharing the valuable post.
    descargar facebook gratis | descargar facebook | facebook descargar

  13. This reminds me when this one time I went to this new restaurant and I was amazed that so many people are willing to pay extra for what they could get at half the price somewhere else. Agen Poker

  14. I find your opinion quite interesting, but the other day I stumbled upon a completely different advice from another blogger, I need to think that one through, thanks for posting. Poker Online Indonesia

  15. Thanks, great post. I really like your point of view! Judi Poker

  16. I really liked this part of the article, with a nice and interesting topics
    Agen Domino

  17. Your post so Inspirative and good point.
    Thanks, great post. I really like your point of view!
    Bandar Ceme

  18. That’s awesome! This post gives truly quality information. I love this post it very interesting and helpful for us, Thank for sharing all, Thank you so much. Poker Bonus Deposit Terbesar

  19. This is great, you are good, i like your post and i still waiting our next post
    Bandar Ceme

  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. I love this post here is more information for us thanks for sharing with us.
    Escorts Delhi

  22. Wow. good post. I’d like to write like this too , taking time and real hard work to make a great article. Thanks for sharing. Bonus Deposit Poker