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13 Nov 2009 / Julie

Jack Dorsey, on Twitter (advice for business and life)

@strnglibrarian 's video set up on TwitpicThis was my video set up for the Twitter event at TCNJ on November 4th. Jack Dorsey, inventor of Twitter, was speaking that night to the business school and the event was free and open to the public.

I was already in town having spoken at the Princeton Public Library with Amy Kearns on Twitter. Thank goodness i checked my email before i fell asleep that night or i’d have gotten up early, headed back to Maryland and then kicked myself when i found out about it later. Amy blogged about the event over at Library Garden.

The first time i’ve seen him in real life, Jack Dorsey seemed the typical soft spoken nerd boy who could sit around drinking coffee and talk to you about code all day. And that’s what this talk felt like, like it was just you and him chatting about awesomeness and changing the world.

While i did take video, it needs editing for length and uploading. and my sound card has died so i’ll do that at a later date when i can actually hear out of my speakers again. In the meantime you can check out the video TCNJ captured (i just can’t embed it).

Jack spoke about the business side of things in terms of how the Twitter people worked well (or not) together and with their product. It was a very valuable talk and i highly recommend you take a listen to it.

My takeaways:

Start from a place of transparency and openness. It’s always better to be human and communicate with people and tell them what’s going on from the get-go versus locking everything down and wondering why there’s dissent. Be open to criticism. Inspire the same communication and sharing/openness in others.

Just Start! The hardest thing to do is start. But you have to jump in it and get going to know if things are ever going to work out. Don’t keep it in your head and work out all the details in advance. You’re never going to be able to anticipate all the issues without external input. You can have an idea you think is Ah-Mazing but until you get it out of your head, play with it, tweak it, talk it over with other people and let them play with it are you ever going to know if the idea has wings. If it doesn’t, you have to be okay with that and try something else. Nothing can kill something faster than expectations that don’t pan out. Get it out as fast as possible and start to play. Jack had the idea for what today is Twitter when he was 15 (1991ish if i did my math right). Some ideas take time. A lot of time. and as long as you’re still talking, conferring, playing, and tweaking, you’re going to know along the way if it’s time to ditch it or not.

Release unto the world and let things grow. The biggest lesson of Twitter is that they had no idea what it was or what it could do. @replies? user idea. RT? user idea. Jack even mentioned that the company was calling them “status messages” and not “tweets” up until a week ago. Letting things grow organically rather than forcing things into the box you think it should be in is much better for the growth of your idea/product. You may think you know the best use for something, but there’s 6 billion people in the world that will tell you you’re wrong. And that’s when you’ll fail instead of succeed.

Company as editor. With all this user input and ideas from outside (and in), you have to know where to draw the line. You have to be a good editor. When an idea isn’t good for you, your company, or your product, you have to be able to shut it down. When someone isn’t good for you, your company, or your product, you have to be able to let go. Even when it’s your own idea, you have to know when to say when. It’s like Bonsai (from my limited knowledge of it, earned by watching the Karate Kid movies)… you have to prune the right bits so it can grow to it’s potential. Or like carving stone into an elephant… First, get a block of marble and then remove everything that doesn’t look like an elephant. You have to know what’s not your elephant and get rid of it to let the elephant shine through.

Jacks talk lasted a little less than an hour with questions but i could have spent hours longer listening to him. I’m sure he’s perfected what he says over time and time again of speaking but his simple brilliance didn’t assume anything or come from down upon high. You could tell he was “just Jack,” doing what he loves, just happening to be uber successful and on the tip of everyone’s tongues. Rock on, Jack. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

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