March 10, 2014

March 10, 2014

Things I’ve Read: Hatching Twitter

The Social Network was my favorite movie of 2010, and remains solidly entrenched in the middle of my Top Ten. Some magical combination of Sorkin dialogue, Fincher direction, and frankly fascinating source material made an indelible mark on my psyche. I watched it again just the other week (in the midst of moving- and packing-induced stress) and it was just as good the eighteenth time around. Where our ancestors had Edison and Tesla, we have Zuckerberg and Saverin.

And Dorsey. And Stone. And, to a lesser-but-just-as-essential extent, Glass.

Who are they? They’re the founders or Twitter.

Hatching Twitter is very similar to The Accidental Billionaires, the book on which The Social Network was based. (Not written by Ben Mezrich, though, whose entire opus is worth a read.) The book follows the four men behind Twitter: Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, Evan “Ev” Williams, and Noah Glass. Though you’ve probably heard of one of two of them, you probably haven’t heard of all four. I had seen Biz Stone on Colbert and read a Forbes interview with Jack Dorsey, but that was it. Intriguing, since the book details how all four of them played key roles in the development of Twitter. How important those roles were and continue to be depends on who(m) you ask.*Each of these guys (with the possible exception of Noah) want to be The Guy. The Zuckerberg of Twitter, if you will. And at any given time, they were each The Guy. Until one of the others pulled a coup and set himself up as king. Boys, amiright?

It’s not just about the founders, though. HT explains how the now-commonplace norms of Twitter came to be. @ and #. Handles. 140 characters. You know that box on Twitter.com, that says “Compose new Tweet…”? It used to say “What are you doing?” Then it said “What’s happening?” And the difference between those two questions—between those two ways of thinking, in fact—is much more than semantic. It speaks to the two camps of Using Twitter: Do I tweet about myself, or do I tweet about the world?

Oh, and how did it come to be called Twitter anyway? READ THE BOOK.

In the immortal words of Levar Burton, you don’t have to take my word for it.

*Speaking of grammatical nitpicking, we must come to an agreement about this Daylight Saving(s) Time business. I propose a hyphen to more clearly delineate “savings” as a gerund adjective rather than a noun. Thus “Daylight-Saving Time” a la “life-changing technology” or “footnote-reading grammarian.”

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