Election day, however, will be all-consuming. This is something that virtually everyone on earth cares about, and that a large part of the American, and global, population will be tracking very closely (over 70 million Americans watched 2008 election day unfold on TV, for reference). The slow, somewhat unpredictable release of exit polls and eventually ballot data is exactly the kind of situation where Twitter usually mobilizes; then, however, it will be stretched beyond its practical limits. (It will also be a hazardous place, as the AP warned its staff on Sunday. Twitter may be good at sussing out facts but the process can be messy. In an election, where the outcome will simply be announced eventually, Twitter’s value as a fact-vetter is questionable.)

Twitter depends on users to curate their own feeds, and encourages a particular sort of curation: a follow list large and active enough to keep moving during slower periods, but small enough not to overwhelm during more active ones. Election day will not just be an outlier, it will be the outlier, an unprecedented flood inside the site’s rigid structure. (A structure which, it’s worth noting, will probably survive the technical strain of election day, after years of hardening against actual outages.)