Twitpocalypse Explanation

What is it and what does it mean?

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7 Replies - 1387 Views - Last Post: 16 June 2009 - 11:18 AM

#1 Martyr2  Icon User is offline

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Twitpocalypse Explanation

Posted 13 June 2009 - 09:59 PM

I have noticed a lot of people on twitter talking about the Twitpocalypse and what it means. So I thought I would write a short message to talk about what it is and how programmers have known about data type overflows for years, which is what the Twitpocalypse really is.

People who are not computer programmers may not fully understand what the Twitpocalypse is and how it effects the wonderful twitter software they use every day.

In computer programming there is various types of data. Strings which are textual pieces of data, floats which handle decimal data and there is integer which handles whole numbers (yeah just like in math class). There are others, but the one that we are concerned about is the integer data type.

Computers represent integers typically using 32 bits. 1 bit to represent the sign of the number (negative or positive) and the other 31bits to represent the actual integer value. Being that computers only have 31 bits to represent the number means that computers can only represent a certain range of numbers. This range is from -2,147,483,647 to 2,147,483,647. If you try to store the value 2,147,483,648 it will be too big. Computers compensate for this by rolling around to the negative end and store the number as -2,147,483,647. Just like the odometer does on your car. When you run out of numbers it rolls around and starts from zero. This is known as an "overflow".

How does this work in the Twitpocalypse? Well, tweets on twitter are associated with ID numbers to keep track of them. This ID is based on an integer value. The number of tweets on twitter has reached (and surpassed already) this value. Any software you use to access twitter that uses a standard integer data type to store this ID will reach the overflow limit and start showing you negative numbers; or worse yet crash. Now hopefully most software out there has already compensated for this and used a data type that can hold larger integer numbers (like the long integer type).

So that is what it means. It is the allegedly "doomsday" number where twitter software may crash. Much like the Y2K bug was for the millennium. If your twitter software is giving you problems then it might be related to this bug.

Hope that clarifies things! :)


Update: Software list that is allegedly affected....

1) Tweetie (busted search apparently and trends were experiencing problems)
2) Twitteriffic (appears to be limited to apple store version only, not desktop)
3) Tweetmic (connection or timeout errors reported)
4) Twinkle (sat at loading screen)
5) TweetDeck initially was effected but has since released a patch
6) Destroy Twitter prior to their 1.6.4 update
7) Twidroid prior to their 2.1.6 update

This post has been edited by Martyr2: 13 June 2009 - 11:38 PM


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#2 Locke  Icon User is offline

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Re: Twitpocalypse Explanation

Posted 13 June 2009 - 10:14 PM

View PostMartyr2, on 13 Jun, 2009 - 10:59 PM, said:

Computers compensate for this by rolling around to the negative end and store the number as -2,147,483,647. Just like the odometer does on your car. When you run out of numbers it rolls around and starts from zero. This is known as an "overflow".


Yup. If you're adding signed integers, then that happens. But with unsigned integers, which will use all 32 bits to store the value of the number, it won't happen until a bigger number. I can't think of it off the top of my head...but multiply Martyr2's number by 2.

Thank you Digital Logic class! Otherwise I wouldn't have known what you were talking about in your post, as we covered adding binary numbers and checking for arithmetic overflow. :D

View PostMartyr2, on 13 Jun, 2009 - 10:59 PM, said:

So that is what it means. It is the allegedly "doomsday" number where twitter software may crash.


God forbid Twitter crashes...it's not like there aren't more useful things out there...like Facebook. :)

This post has been edited by Locke: 13 June 2009 - 10:16 PM

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#3 Raynes  Icon User is offline

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Re: Twitpocalypse Explanation

Posted 13 June 2009 - 10:46 PM

Facebook is overkill for what I use Twitter for. Twittering!
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#4 Martyr2  Icon User is offline

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Re: Twitpocalypse Explanation

Posted 13 June 2009 - 11:19 PM

You are exactly right Locke, it does involve a signed integer. Since each tweet is associated with a signed integer, that is the reason for the overflow. I am currently tracking which software appears to be affected by this. Right now people are mentioning twitterrific the most.

Fixes are going out through the Apple Store however and should be appearing shortly.

We know that the actually time took place yesterday (June 12) but people remain in the dark if using twitterrific especially.

:)

This post has been edited by Martyr2: 13 June 2009 - 11:20 PM

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#5 Programmist  Icon User is offline

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Re: Twitpocalypse Explanation

Posted 15 June 2009 - 05:58 AM

View PostMartyr2, on 13 Jun, 2009 - 09:59 PM, said:

...People who are not computer programmers may not fully understand what the Twitpocalypse is...

And, as thorough as your explanation seemingly is, they still don't know/care and probably never will.

Now, let me offer another definition of Twitpocolypse. This is the date (near future) when the number of twits in the world reaches a critical mass of stupidity which will then collapse in on itself forming a massive black hole which will swallow Earth and eventually our solar system.
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#6 Programmist  Icon User is offline

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Re: Twitpocalypse Explanation

Posted 15 June 2009 - 06:10 AM

View PostLocke, on 13 Jun, 2009 - 10:14 PM, said:

God forbid Twitter crashes...it's not like there aren't more useful things out there...like Facebook. :)

My wife was able to convince me to get on Facebook, which ended up being a great thing because I found friends from high school who I hadn't been able to find before. Aside from the that, 99% of the things people say on Facebook fall into the "who gives a flying f**k" category. Why would I sign up for a service that is nothing but the worst part of Facebook? Do we have the attention spans of gnats that blogs are now superfluous? Do we really need to get our information in tiny, pre-digested bites? A friend of mine was complaining the other day because he was getting so many tweets on his phone because a friend of his had lost a bet and had to do 200 (or something) tweets in 24 hours. It's like someone intentionally standing in a puddle of water and then complaining that their feet are wet. </rant>
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#7 JonBernal  Icon User is offline

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Re: Twitpocalypse Explanation

Posted 16 June 2009 - 10:53 AM

2 words

F$%^ Twitter! :]
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#8 MarkoDaGeek  Icon User is offline

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Re: Twitpocalypse Explanation

Posted 16 June 2009 - 11:18 AM

I've been seeing this Buzzword dropped all over the internet these past few weeks. Every other article on Mashable mentions the Twitpocalypse, but I never had time to read about what it all means.

Now I know. Thank you Martyr2.
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