Hatching Twitter

Hatching Twitter (2014) by Nick Bilton is an interesting but heavily slanted tale about the surprising rise of Twitter.

Many top technical firms were founded by people who have been to the top US universities and done very well in those places. Google, Sun, SGI, Microsoft and others were all founded by people like this. Twitter wasn’t, instead it was almost an accident created by extremely able, but not quite so brilliant founders.

Jack Dorsey was a very able programmer who remarkably had not used text messaging in the mid 2000s and thought that a broadcast platform for text messages could work well. Evan Williams, who had already founded blogger, sold it to Google and made himself rich funded the company. Twitter spun out of Odeo, founded by Noah Glass.

As the company grew it had to choose a founder and Dorsey volunteered. He wasn’t up to the job and was dumped by the board. He was then succeeded by Williams who also wasn’t up to the job and was then sacked by the board also at the instigation of his ‘CEO mentor’ Bill Campbell.

The book is a good tale. The cavalcade of technology investors and greedy celebrities including Al Gore who tried to get part of Twitter is amusing. Mark Zuckerberg described Twitter as being like a ‘Clown car that fell into a goldmine’ does appear to have some merit. However, the books bias and smearing of Jack Dorsey is over the top. Dorsey’s emulation and adoration of Steve Jobs is quite funny. While Dorsey wasn’t up to being CEO he did, more than anyone else, create the site.  He also wound up as a billionaire. The final part of the book where Bilton describes the fate of the founders and described Dorsey as sad and lonely is mean. Bilton contrasts the family life of the other founders with Dorsey’s alleged sad life as a billionaire. Nicely Dorsey now has children so the spiteful final swipe at him by Bilton is further blunted.

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