Oh Tumblr, Where Art Thou?

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | December 6, 2010 1:52 pm

I’m relatively new to Tumblr and though I was skeptical (as if I need another website to maintain), the format is easy, fast, and a great way to reach a vastly different audience. After urging from Jamie Vernon, Joe Hanson, and others, my new Science of Kissing site has been up two and a half months. With ~1,600 followers already, it seems very easy to build readership and I like the format – kind of traditional blog meets Twitter. Plus Tumblr promotes a friendly environment with lots of sharing and reblogging between users. I’m now fully converted–a born-again Tumblr you might say.

If you haven’t already heard, Tumblr tumbled last night. The site went down. At about 7pm, their twitter feed posted: “We’re working quickly to recover from a major issue in one of our database clusters. We’re incredibly sorry for the inconvenience.” Fourteen hours later: “This has been a slow and painful recovery, but we’re almost through. We’ll have more info to share as soon as we can post to our blog again.” Yet those who try to log on continue to see:

Picture 9

Theories abound as to what’s going on from simple routine maintenance gone awry to hackers from competitive sites intentionally overloading the server. Some say we’re minutes away from recovery while others claim Tumblr is over. The End.

Well, I certainly hope not. What do you think is really going on?


Comments (7)

  1. Jacob Walker

    I read something about feuding websites, but I bet it’s just a server issue. The amount of time it’s been down is strange though.

  2. This must just be a server problem, David Karp has too much integrity to lie.
    I’m a nightly tumblr user and I must say it’s mindblowing how little there is to do when the site is down, I’ve taken to googling tumblr to get news on its recovery.
    On one site it’s catastrophic, by now it will have hurt the company’s image, but I’m hoping that will only drive away the impatient 12 year olds who are likely to have created this mess in the first place. As long as it wasn’t 4chan…

  3. I’d just gotten into Tumblr a couple of days ago. Being an astronomer, I created a blog to share news and log any of my own work, pictures and findings. It was going really well until…. CRASH! 🙁

  4. It’s killing me! I didn’t realize how dependent I was on Tumblr for my science entertainment. My followers miss me, I’m sure. I guess I have to take responsibility for tipping Sheril off to it in the first place. 😉

    I doubt that this is related to the 4Chan attack from a couple weeks ago. That seemed to just cause a minor blip in the traffic. Of course, you never know . . . It’s sad that in this day and age it only takes 16 hours of downtime for a web venture to be declared “catastrophic” and “disastrous”. The strength of Tumblr is the community, and everything will be fine. Where were you during the Great Tumblr Downtime of 2010?

  5. RT @Tumblr: “The recovering database cluster is online and healthy. We’re incrementally opening up access to blogs while monitoring performance.”

  6. Brian Too

    Trust me, I maintain technology systems, including database clusters. Stuff happens all the time that isn’t supposed to.

    I don’t mean literally all the time, but when a vendor tells you flatly “we’ve designed problem X out of the system. It’s impossible. Never going to happen again.” Then that problem, or something indistinguisable to it happens, it sort of shakes your faith a bit.

    Some systems and technologies are better than others, I won’t get into the details. However they all have the ability to fail and cause pain. Let the techs do their work; they are likely keenly aware of the consequences of systems failure.

    The only time to question the very viability and existence of a site is when they fall down over and over again, their explanations don’t make any sense, and the problems of their outages start to hit you close to home.


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry.Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.comFor more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.


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