rahaeli Profile picture
Jan 15, 2023 18 tweets 4 min read Read on X
The Twitter mentions tab has never been truly reliable, but like the embedded tweet Archane is quoting says, it's gotten much worse lately. From checking my tweets directly I'd estimate I'm seeing less than 30% of my replies.
People don't realize that's happening, because it's more reliable if you only get a few notifications. (I'll explain why in a second: short answer, services degrade at volume.) I only have about 10k followers; people with more are having a much worse time of it.
"Don't take it personally if people don't reply" was always a good rule for Twitter, but it's crucial now. The person you're talking to almost certainly didn't see the reply you think they're ignoring. This is why I like every reply to me I see: so I know I've seen it.
To explain why this happens, let's talk architecture. It's not efficient for a service to look up every post you've made every time you load your notifications and count whether someone interacted with it every time you want your notifications.
That's too much database load, even if you cache it. Instead, you run a separate process (usually called a worker or a service) that you basically send a memo to whenever someone interacts with a post (likes, retweets, comments, etc) in a way that should notify you.
You interacting with the post sends the service a memo that an interaction happened. That service takes that memo and puts a note in a separate part of the database that says "Susie interacted with Mike's post: like" or "Susie replied to Mike".
Then, when Mike loads his mentions, the site asks that database table "okay, what are the most recent memos about interactions?" It may do some batching ("X people liked your tweet"), or it may show them individually; it depends on the site.
The notification logging service can get behind on sending its memos, though. An example is on DW: when we make a news post, so many people get email notifications of it that it can take hours for the email sender to chew through them all.
(And we've had a perpetual issue with the email sender worker getting so overwhelmed that it forgets where it was in the to-do list, gets distracted, and starts over at the beginning of the batch, even if some already were sent: the source of the duplicate email problem.)
Depending on how the notification service is made, getting overwhelmed may mean a delay but 99% of the notifications get there eventually, or it may look like what's happening with Twitter: if the worker gets backed up, it just drops older memos to concentrate on the newer ones.
That's what looks to be happening with Twitter. The notifications service is getting overwhelmed more easily, because Elon has cut the resources available to that service, so it just throws out its backlog so it can keep accepting memos for newer interactions.
This is why there's no real rhyme or reason to which notifications you miss getting: it depends entirely on how overloaded the service was *at the time the notification event was fired*. It can come down to "it was overloaded for 2 seconds and dumped everything in that window".
Sites run multiple instances of these servers in order to parallelize the work (the more desks you have to put memos on, the less likely the memos will slide off the desk into the trash).
The more notifications you're getting, the more often a notification job for your account will go "I'm too overwhelmed, I'm dropping this one", while if you only get a few, the chance of you hitting a drop-out is lower.
Cutting resources to the notification service, which is what Elon has done, means the service is more likely to drop stuff on the floor, just like firing half a call center means there's more chance an incoming customer phone call won't connect.
Unlike in a call center, though, the difference is a lot of sites don't have a long "hold queue" for notifications. If there's no room for the memo on someone's desk, it just gets tossed in the trash: equivalent to you catching up with task backlog by throwing out the oldest.
And there isn't really a way to go back and catch up with work later. If the memo didn't get written at the time the event happened, or it got written but thrown out and the cleaners emptied the trash, you can't go back and recreate it.
So, tl;dr: notifications are very broken right now, it's getting worse instead of better, and the larger an account is, the more likely they'll lose notifications because the notification service was overwhelmed when you replied and the memo about it is sitting in a landfill.

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More from @rahaeli

May 27, 2023
A field guide to our cats, for new followers and those who might need a refresher from time to time! In order of acquisition:
Ginny: smartest cat I've ever been owned by, rules lawyer extraordinaire, hygiene police, can open locked cabinets by turning the key with her teeth, the cat my father has explained so much to she could pass her journeyman plumber's exam if she had thumbs Tuxedo cat asleep on a bath...Sarah sitting at the tempor...Ginny loafed up on the blan...Ginny, bright eyed and tota...
Ruth: unrepentant piss terrorist, eater of plastic, perpetually judging you, the cat who remembers very clearly that cats used to be gods and expects that level of devotion thank you. She's lucky she's cute and a lot sweeter than I make her sound A dilute tortie cat sitting...Ruth on the blanket on top ...Ruth curled up in a cat bed...Ruth looking up from a card...
Read 22 tweets
May 27, 2023
Surfacing this out of the thread from earlier because it's a perfect example of the problem I talk about with Trust and Safety all the time: I looked at that email and knew instantly what was going on. The reporters these people sent the emails to didn't.
When I pointed out exactly what was going on, down to pointing at the exact tactics being used, about half the responses I got were "that's such a convoluted idea, surely the simpler answer is right and you're making this up?"
This is because most good and genuine people in this world, despite all evidence, persist in believing that everyone is Good and Genuine too, *even when already in possession of evidence to the contrary*.
Read 19 tweets
May 26, 2023
Because I mentioned this in the replies to this tweet and people were dismissive: this screenshot has several telltales of fingerprinting techniques used to narrow down the identity of a leaker. The biggest giveaway is the irregular spacing after sentences (2 vs 3 spaces).
The stilted grammar and weird word choices in several places (but not everywhere) are likely also fingerprinting techniques. Fingerprinting is used to narrow down the identity of a leaker by dividing recipients into groups and sending slight variations to each group.
When you see which version of the fingerprinted document leaks, you identify which group got that version, then break that group down into smaller groups for the next communication and repeat until you have the leaker.
Read 9 tweets
May 14, 2023
Surfacing this because I was just commenting on it: we all know Pepe is a far-right dog whistle at this point, but it's the use of "fren" here that's particularly telling.
"Fren" is a funny misspelling of "friend". It's also a dogwhistle backronym for "far right ethno nationalist". People will try to tell you that second point is false, that the backronym was made up and the original usage was innocuous.
But that's the thing about extremist dogwhistles: they surf on a sea of plausible deniability. The original internet slang use of "fren" was innocuous. That's why far right ethno nationalists started using it as a backronym.
Read 16 tweets
May 13, 2023
The answer is precisely what Twitter used to repeatedly do: challenge the demand in court to draw out the process as long as possible.
The history of Erdogan challenging Twitter to remove things is a long, long, long one -- Elon fired everyone at Twitter who still knew it, of course, but Twitter has been blocked in Turkey for refusing to remove things before. But you don't even need to know that history.
All you need to know is Erdogan is trying to control the narrative for the upcoming election. The election is 14 May: that's tomorrow. The content Erdogan wanted taken down is election-related. File an objection in court and it won't be heard until after the election.
Read 7 tweets
May 13, 2023
All of this is precisely why I put a huge chunk of my time in February into providing a third party declaration in Netchoice v Bonta, the lawsuit over the CA version of this law. If anyone fighting Utah's needs one I will happily do the same.
These bills are terrible, they're unconstitutional, and they will place a severe undue burden on adults' speech, destroy the concept of privacy online, and lead to significant road blocks in accessing and disseminating information.
History is full of examples of how trying to age-gate content leads to harm, especially to marginalized people, and has minimal success in the pretextual goals of the legislation. I say pretextual because by now there is significant proof that they simply do not work.
Read 5 tweets

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