Last week - and this weekend - saw major outages at Amazon and Sony. Gamers hoping to get down to some serious wins over Easter were struck by the fail - highlighted here on the Playstation blog, while Amazon's super fail affected sites far and wide, most notably, Quora, Hootsuite and Reddit.
Amazon's latest health reports show that things have improved since the problem occurred and, realisitically, this kind of thing is bound to happen as increasing numbers take to the Cloud as a means to manage server demand. Mistakes happen, sites get attacked, someone unplugs the wrong connection. What counts is the ability to keep customers, users and other stakeholders informed, up-to-date and confident that you can fix the problem as quickly as possible.
If your web presence is your main communication channel and you are rendered invisible by someone else's crash, what can you do? Hidden among the acres of copy written in the last few days, probably the most useful is over at ZDNet, where Phil Wainewright has some salutary lessons for the user.
But what of the providers themselves? What lessons should they learn? The greatest cri-du-coeur has been that Amazon failed to communicate clearly and effectively with its customers during the crisis. Personally, I'm not surprised. Without exception, today's web giants are, I believe, appallingly bad at communicating with their users. For many years they were able to shield themselves behind remote access walls, responding only to emails (eventually), with very little human contact (if at all) and, in latter years, using minimal statements on blogs and webwalls to update users in a crisis. But believe me boys, (as mostly boys you are) a blog post does not mean you have 'communicated', created trust, understanding or cemented the necessary forgiveness to maintain your licence to operate.
Anyone who has ever tried to communicate directly with Facebook, Google, Amazon or other large web corporates will know exactly the level of frustration I am talking about. In a world where instant two-way communication is the lifeblood of a system that champions trust, engagement, transparency and the user as the vital ingredients of the service mix, our web giants are lacking in their ability to generate and maintain the kind of real relationships they tout so readily on the global stage but which they spectacularly fail to deliver at a user level.
Their technology may be great but the business model - as far as their public relations and communications is concerned - is more akin to the impenetrable walls of corporate non-communication circa 1950. And we all know how that turned out.
Some day soon, the big guys are going to have to wake up to the fact that they can no longer hide behind nerdy geekdom when it comes to good communications practice. If they don't, then some day soon, they'll suddenly find their licence to operate withdrawn by the users, customers and stakeholders they fail.
Fabulous - if fixable - code is not enough. You have to talk, respond and act and engage - just like the rest of us.