Hatching Twitter

Summary Written by Scott Reavely
"This status thing could help connect people to those who weren’t there. It wasn’t just about sharing what kind of music you were listening to or where you were at that moment; it was about connecting people and making them feel less alone."

- Hatching Twitter, page 56

The Big Idea

People matter

"Some people are destined for greatness; others fall up a hill to get there."- Hatching Twitter, page 198

I expected to read about coding geniuses. And, I did. I expected to learn about strategic decisions that lead to greatness. I did. I thought the book would be about technology and business. But it was about people. After all, what is technology and what is business, if they don’t have to do with people!

I was surprised to learn Twitter came from some of the same people that fostered Blogger, a technology I’d used even before I tried Twitter. Evan Williams sold Blogger to Google and invested in Odeo where he met Noah Glass. They hired Jack Dorsey, Dick Costolo and others. Odeo eventually went to the great recycling bin in the sky, as did a majority of tech startups in Silicon Valley.

What continued, though, were the people and their friendships, their strengths and weaknesses, their weekend parties, and their inescapable loneliness.

Insight #1

Technology shortens distance between people

"This status idea could be the antidote to all of this, a cure for feeling lonely..."- Hatching Twitter, page 56

Twitter was created to speak to and hear from friends that were separated by space and time. Clunky at first, it was used to talk about what someone was having for lunch, what music they were listening to, what party they were attending, and who they were doing it with.

It evolved into much more than that. It shortened the distance between people and what was happening around the world. Whether it was an Oprah Show, the Pope or an Iranian revolution, Twitter proved an effective tool at shortening the distance between people and the world around them.

Speaking of distance, the author ends the book with a story about Tweeting from the international space station. Commander Hadfield wrote:“Loneliness is not so much where you are, but instead is your state of mind.”

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Insight #2

Don’t hire your friends

""Ev also reasoned that his friends would never betray him.""- Hatching Twitter, page 202

The subtitle of the book states that it will be about friendship and betrayal. And it is. Creating something world-changing is a crucible for forging deep friendships, but the heat also tears them apart.

I’d make the same mistakes, I’m sure, of hiring my friends. I’d want to surround myself with people who believe in me, who believe in what I’m doing. What is a friend if not someone who believes in you?

If I could, I would want to be generous with my friends and find ways to share my success, so I’d hire them to be part of my new start-up. I wouldn’t even think twice.

Yet, the story of Twitter is a story of the loss and the betrayal of friendships. Some of the friends were hired for jobs they weren’t right for and the relationship died a slow death. Others were right, but had conflict over direction of the company, which exploded in betrayal. And, some friends stuck together.

Over 100 times, Hatching Twitter references friends or friendships. This is more than a tacit admission that in the end, technology will come and go, but people matter. People, not things, give meaning to life.

Having said that, I would love to end this summary some other way.

Read the book

Get Hatching Twitter on Amazon.

Nick Bilton

Nick Bilton is a New York Times technology and business columnist and lead blogger for The New York Times Bits Blog. His background spans design, journalism, hardware hacking, data visualization and photojournalism.

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