Ahoy, matey, Fail Whale off the starboard bow!

twitter-fail-whaleAccording to a March 31, 2009 article on CNN.com, Twitter is growing so fast that the system can’t seem to keep up with the increasing demand.

The result: more sightings of the “Fail Whale” — a whimsical drawing of a white whale being lifted up by small orange birds by artist Yiying Lu — that appears whenever Twitter is over capacity.

According to Nielsen NetView Twitter’s growth has been nothing short of astonishing: Unique visitor traffic jumped 1,374% between February 2008 and February 2009 — an exponential leap to 7 million users from 475,000.

Compare that with Facebook’s 228% increase to 65.7 million users during the same period of time.

The Fail Whale itself is a cultural phenomenon. The Fail Whale’s Twitter account currently has more than 2,772 followers. In addition, the CNN article adds that a Facebook group dedicated to the whale has more than 4,400 members.

Like Twitter, which has spawned the development of dozens of third party applications, the Fail Whale has also created a cottage industry of merchandise.

In addition, an absolutely hysterical Current TV parody of Twitter and the Fail Whale — recast as an evil and hungry creature bent on eating people on Twitter — has made it’s way around the Internet:

As much as twitterers (or is it tweeters?) dislike not being able to use the service, there is something strangely reassuring about the Fail Whale. Dare I say sometimes people even secretly hope to experience a sighting?

Happy “Twitterversary!” Yesterday, December 19, marked the end of my first month using Twitter (my username is @doctorious). I am no longer a newbie!

For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, it is a micro-blogging website that provides you with a simple (and free) means of answering the question “what are you doing?” — to a potentially unlimited network of friends and followers. You can make updates with your computer, mobile phone and via several other related methods.

Here is a very straightforward (and creative) video explaining what Twitter is and how it works:

I can’t recall exactly why I decided to sign up, but I was definitely influenced by discussions I had with my students about the ways by which Barack Obama leveraged the Internet in his successful presidential campaign. Notably, Obama used Twitter to publicize campaign events and to announce Joe Biden as his running mate.

Aside from my minimal knowledge about Obama’s use of Twitter, I really did not have much awareness about it until I signed up. Now, in one short month, I am a Twitaholic. The first step is admitting I have a problem, right?!

Although I haven’t used Twitter to announce anything as globally important as my Vice President, the service has quickly catapaulted to the top of my list of communication tools. By the time of my “twitterversary,” I accumulated roughly 250 “followers” and was “following” approximately the same number.  During my first month I posted roughly 900 “tweets” (updates) as well.

I have connected with an array of “tweeple” with an impressive degree of insight and intelligence. You might be surprised who you find on Twitter and the inordinate amount of information that is freely shared on the site. I recall how pivotal the service was during the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. Foregoing official reports, many people closely followed the unscripted updates from people who were in the midst of that shocking event.

With regard to the chances of your making a viable connection, to paraphrase  Rodney Rumford, social media services like Twitter have cut the “six degrees” concept in half to “three degrees.” I can attest to this as, for some reason, I am only separated from actor Kevin Bacon by “three degrees” on my LinkedIn profile and not the six for which the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” is best known!

In particular I have really enjoyed getting to know the following individuals and encourage you to learn more about them — you might already know or have heard about some of these interesting people:

@adonyawong
@ariherzog
@autismfamily
@bakomom
@barb_g
@bertdecker
@beverlymacy
@caseywright
@chrisabraham
@chrisbrogan
@danicar
@donttrythis (Adam Savage of Mythbusters — see a transcript of a brief exchange I shared with Adam)
@drgilpin
@frankkenny
@guykawasaki (Guy Kawasaki of Garage Technology Ventures — see a transcript of a brief exchange I shared with Guy)
@jimconnolly
@jpapakalos
@kimdeanart
@mchammer (MC Hammer — see a transcript of a brief exchange I shared with MC Hammer)
@mollermarketing
@nlbelardes
@nwjerseyliz
@prprof_mv
@rumford
@scottmonty
@shawnwelch
@shelisrael
@totspot

So, stop on by Twitter and give it a try — you just might find yourself addicted like me!