People who use Twitter, a service which posts short updates to the Web and cell phones, love nothing more than to Twitter about themselves, and the medium they've so enthusiastically adopted. If you go by the Twitterers' collective reporting, every event, from an earthquake in Los Angeles to terrorist bombings in Mumbai, is more notable for the fact that people are writing about it on Twitter than for its inherent interest as news. The dominant narrative of Twitter is the rise of Twitter, the latest force to displace the mainstream media and roil the world's information economy. Too bad the real story of the company is one of top-to-bottom incompetence.
When the highlight of the evening is Twitter CEO Ev Williams meeting faded hip-hop star MC Hammer, you know the night was a waste. Indie-music consultant Corey Denis reports that the event "had ten actual music industry people there, tops." MySpace didn't have much to celebrate, either: It has yet to appoint a figurehead CEO to its MySpace Music faux joint venture. The only thing confirmed about Courtney Holt, the MTV executive widely rumored to be taking the job, is his gender. (Photo by Brian Solis/Bub.blicio.us)
Vastly overqualified for an administrative assistant job, yet willing to sublimate your ego by doing grunt work? Twitter CEO Ev Williams has a job for you. He and cofounder Biz Stone are seeking a "future entrepreneur" who's willing to make copies one day and invent a business model for the revenueless microblogging service the next. Here's the job listing:
BoomTown reporter Kara Swisher rappelled from a skylight at Jerry Yang's secret hideout to score this draft copy of an ad, in which a bunch of tech bigwigs come out in favor of gay marriage — or at least in opposition to Proposition 8, a California state ballot initiative which would ban it. No Valley company in its right mind would be seen opposing gay marriage, so why bother?Right: Because it's an awesome branding opportunity. The draft is a self-parody of corner office drama, full of Honorary Co-Chairs, Leaders, and Former CEOs. But the real story is: Who's missing? Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt are here, but not Larry Page. Twitter's Ev Williams is here, but not Digg's Kevin Rose. Federated Media: Present. TechCrunch: Absent. Mark Zuckerberg is not here, but Sheryl Sandberg pulled a John Hancock: She's right up top, where Owen can't miss her. Oh, look, she's trying to make nice! She's going to be sorry.
The Wall Street Journal is running a strange article about Twitter. Everything about it strikes me as bizarre, right down to the picture, which shows Jack Dorsey, the cofounder recently ousted as the company's CEO. Indeed, the article is more telling in what it doesn't cover than what it does.For example, it doesn't even allude to the company's office drama; cofounder Biz Stone subs in as spokesman for new CEO Ev Williams. It also skips over Twitter's latest privacy violation, which even affected the author of the piece. But it does, in a roundabout way, get at the heart of Twitter's problem: The tool for posting short text updates can be useful for businesses — just not Twitter itself. Cofounder Biz Stone suggests the company may find a way to charge business customers for "premium services." A great idea. If only it had tried it a year ago, before the market crisis made such a move look desperate, rather than a bold experiment. (Photo by Getty Images)
The good news: Jack Dorsey, the handsome programmer ousted as Twitter's CEO yesterday, can put his nose ring back in and stop seeing that CEO coach he hired. The bad news: His cofounder, Ev Williams, who's replacing him as CEO, is sugarcoating Dorsey's exit. Dorsey is not going to be working in Twitter's office, and his coworkers are saying their tearful goodbyes; he's effectively out of the company, though he retains the title of chairman and what is presumably a large stake in the messaging startup. So why did Dorsey get fired?"This has nothing to do with the economy," Fred Wilson, a partner at Twitter investor Union Square Ventures, told The Deal. True enough — but it does have to do with Dorsey's incompetence. One industry insider says he botched several acquisition offers — one by nattering on about his original idea for Twitter as a messaging service for ambulance drivers and bicycle couriers, an idea he still wanted to pursue after a Twitter acquisition.
Jack Dorsey, a programmer who's famous South of Market, is stepping down as Twitter's CEO. Why? Ev Williams, who's taking over, has a long, involved explanation about changing times and changing roles, and how Twitter was spun off from this loser podcasting startup he hated working on, and that's where he met Dorsey, who came up with the idea for Twitter as an in-house communications tool. Boring! What he really means:Williams is the guy who sold Blogger to Google. Everyone wants to hear from him, not some software engineer he hired. Dorsey is now "chairman," which is Valleyspeak for "founder we don't know what to do with."
Imitation is the soul of flattery, and the engine of Silicon Valley. Whatever can be copied, will be — especially when the copiers are pals. After a redesign, Facebook has made its status-update feature more prominent. It now asks users, "What are you doing right now? A sharp-eyed reader notes that those words are eerily similar to Twitter's "What are you doing?" We wonder if this will pose any problems for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's newfound friendship with Twitter founder Ev Williams.It shouldn't. Copycat wording aside, no one actually uses Twitter to tell their friends what they're doing. If Twitter updated its site to match user behavior, the question would be: "What are you complaining about? What aspect of your business do you wish to promote? Which URL do you wish to send? What jejune utterance do you wish to share with people who aren't actually your friends?"