Wednesday, 30 March 2011

How an outage can provide hours of fun thanks to Twitter

Watching TV last night and idly glancing at the laptop, I noticed I couldn't get to the BBC website.So, I did what any sensible person does in those circumstances and checked twitter, and it was already starting to buzz with the news.  Shock horror, not reachable, the end of the world must be nigh, run to the hills.....

Rory Cellan-Jones was "Lying in bed reading twitter in the dark and trying to remember where I put my "how to switch the BBC website back on" manual".  A hashtag suddenly appeared (#bbcblackout).  Soon both it and BBC were trending worldwide.  The jokes were coming thick and fast, and even though I wanted an early night, I stayed up to follow it. My twitterstream got overloaded with the number of tweets coming in with the hashtag.  The techies on twitter were working out that it was a network problem, and the DNS entry had disappeared. Then the conspiracy theories started, the site had been hacked, it was a DoS attack, it was the work of Anonymous because of the BBC's handling of UKuncut.

I worried about the guys trying to fix it, and hoped no-one had made a change just before it happened..... Although I was bit pleased that outages happened to others as well.

It was all great fun. Then, it all came back to life. I went to bed. This morning,  there's a short statement saying what happened.  I was in a meeting so couldn't talk to anyone, so sent a tweet asking someone to explain it to me. It sounds like their BGP prefix stopped being advertised through their routing peering exchanges, was the response. Then the same person very kindly put it into my language, and all in under 140 characters: BBC's core networking kit stopped telling the world where to send data to that was addressed to them.

Who would have thought a website outage could have caused such concern, fun, entertainment - even though it must have been a nightmare for the BBC's  technical team. 

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