Nick Bilton’s ‘Hatching Twitter,’ part I

We’ve got two new books in the mix currently, and let’s start with the one I’m most excited about (and thoroughly enjoying): Nick Bilton’s ‘Hatching Twitter: A true story of money, power, friendship and betrayal.’

Bilton, a tech reporter and columnist for The New York Times, chronicles the founding and development of Twitter – and the disintegration of friendships among the founders – in a way that reads like a human story and nothing like a “tech book.” But that’s a point I’m going to save for the second post.

For now, let’s introduce the four original founders, which Bilton spends the first 70 or so pages of the book doing – Evan Williams, Noah Glass, Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone.

Williams – or “Ev,” as he is called – is an early favorite to me if only because he’s named after a bourbon. ‘Jack Daniels’ is the only cooler and more timeless alcohol-related name I can think of that would actually work for a person (if you want to make a case for a first-name only musician named ‘Tanqueray,’ I’ll listen, but first-name only is sort of cheating).

Anyway, Ev became known in the tech world for creating Blogger – a self-publishing site – and introducing the word “blog” to the Internet. Since a blog network where anyone could publish anything never existed before, nobody could anticipate the overwhelmingly negative reaction Blogger would receive when publishers wrote about highly offensive topics. But Ev had a motto – “push-button publishing for the people” – that he would not sacrifice, and in turn this made Blogger’s popularity explode. Soon, more than a million blogs were hosted on the network and Ev became something of a public figure in this little Silicon Valley world.

Ev would end up selling Blogger to Google for tens of millions of dollars, making him a tech celeb or sorts and guy with the cash to invest in other startups. He would end up investing in Noah Glass’ podcasting project – a move he did despite suspecting beforehand that becoming business partners could messy up a genuine friendship – and over time they would grow completely apart, with wildly differing business sensibilities making them incompatible in the same company and the hunt for power turning the business uncivilized.

By chance, Noah lived across the street from Ev and came to know him and the programmers who were working on Blogger. Some of them would go out drinking, and Ev and Noah developed the friendship that would later be torn apart. Noah’s initial podcasting project, called AudBlog, allowed users to publish voice-based posts to their blogs from their phones. When Noah wanted to make AudBlog an official start-up company, Ev provided the initial funding for a company they would call Odeo with the primary function being people would make those podcasts and share them through downloads on the then-new iPod.

Before long, Ev, wildly rich from his Google stock, stepped back to enjoy the lavish life now afforded to him in his early 30s and Noah led the building of Odeo. The problem? Noah wasn’t much for a CEO. He was an extremely energetic, even sometimes spastic, idea guy, a brilliant mind meant to take direction, not necessarily give it. He would end up running through Odeo’s first lump of funding and going back to Ev for more money, which Ev granted with one condition: that Noah hand over the title of CEO of Odeo to Ev.

There’s an important theme buried in that request: the danger of ego. Ev didn’t truly love Odeo, and he didn’t believe in podcasting like he did blogging. But his own pride forced him into believing that if he didn’t want to be seen as a one-hit wonder in the tech world, then he needed to hit a second homerun. He was already the guy who essentially invented blogging and took it mainstream. Could you imagine his legacy if he recreated the future of radio in a digital world? That was the impetus of Ev’s interest in being Odeo CEO, and that, of course, would prove to be costly.

Jack is the most compelling character of the Twitter story, an utterly brilliant and socially awkward guy from St. Louis. He grew up with a speech impediment, which turned him inward towards his computer from an early age. He’d ride around St. Louis’ public buses, endlessly fascinating with structure and systems.

He had a nose ring and a tattoo on his right leg that symbolized an anarchist group and – you won’t believe this – would never be great at adhering to Ev’s power at Twitter. A driving force of the book would be Jack and Ev’s battle for Twitter CEO, with both bringing necessary attributes. Jack always thought Twitter was more about the status of the user – “What I’m doing right now” – and Ev believed the tool’s purpose was less egocentric than that, with the focus being more on the user’s surrounding environment – “What is happening right now.”

There was never any question about Jack’s ability to be a visionary in the tech realm, but he wasn’t naturally adept at leading people and he wasn’t a businessman like Ev was. One of the most amazing facts of Twitter’s story (to me anyway) was how long it took to start driving revenue. For an excruciatingly long time, the service had millions of users and made zero money.

Ultimately, Jack’s thirst for power and fame and – no coincidence here, given his vision of Twitter – status led him down a path of getting booted from Twitter, starting another company and then returning to Twitter in an ugly string of events. Like most of the characters in this book, being a high-ranking executive at company quickly taking its places among the world’s most influential and being filthy rich were not enough for Jack at one time or another.

Biz is the most charming of the four original founders. He grew up poor in suburban Boston with a violent (when not absentee) father, and instead of becoming an introverted, broken young man, he became a funny and engaging prankster. Part of Biz’s humor was a façade, of course – using jokes to avoid confrontation – but that was certainly a genuineness to it. Biz had see bad, so he was able to see good much more easily than most as he grew older.

He got a job at Google after it had acquired Blogger, and the only thing that made that relationship work was Ev. Biz didn’t have the personality to be a cutthroat corporate type, so Ev – who empowered and entrusted his employees from the start – was the perfect boss for him. Biz became indebted to Ev and would spend the coming years watching Ev’s back and following him wherever he went – even trading in $2 million in unvested Google stock for the opportunity to work with Ev when he left for Odeo.

The greed and power-hungry personalities drive the entire narrative Bilton has constructed around Twitter’s story, and Biz is undeniably less central to the story. But I find his humor and lightness and emotional vulnerability to be a vital sense of freshness in a story that can leave you exhausted by the rampant running of ego.

Twitter: @TMitrosilis Email:

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Nick Bilton’s ‘Hatching Twitter,’ part I

  1. Excellent goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff prior to and you’re
    simply too great. I actually like what you’ve obtained here, certainly like what you are saying and the way in which in which you assert it.
    You are making it enjoyable and you continue to care for to keep it sensible.
    I cant wit to learn much more from you. That iis really a great web site.

  2. Good post however , I was wanting to know iif you could write a litte
    more on this subject? I’d be very thanjkful if yyou
    coukd ellaborate a little bit further. Thanks!

  3. Cory says:

    Awesome things here. I am very glad to look your article.
    Thank you so much and I’m taking a look ahead to touch you.
    Will you kindly drop me a mail?

  4. Tisha says:

    Excellent article! We will be linking to this particularly great post
    on our site. Keep up the good writing.

  5. psychic says:

    Hello! I know this is kinda off topic however I’d figured I’d ask.
    Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest writing a blog post orr vice-versa?

    My sitee discusses a lot of the same topics as yours andd I think we could greatly benefit from
    each other. If you happen to be interested feel free to send me an email.
    I loook forward to hearing from you! Excellent blog by the way!

  6. guidance says:

    Now I am going away to do my breakfast, after having my
    breakfast cominng again to read more news.

  7. Wyatt says:

    Thanks for sharing such a fastidious opinion, piece of
    writing is fastidious, thats why i have read
    it fully

  8. Please let me knjow if you’re looking for a author for your blog.
    You have some really good articles and I believe I would
    be a good asset. If you ever want to take ome of the load off, I’d love to write some articles for your blog in exchange for
    a link back to mine. Please blast me ann email if interested.
    Many thanks!

  9. I’m now not certain wheree you are getting your info, however
    good topic. I needs to spend a while learning more
    or figuring out more. Thank you for fantastic information I was searching forr tthis
    info for my mission.

  10. minecraft says:

    This is my first time visit at here andd i am really happy
    to redad everthing at one place.

  11. mine says:

    Howdy would yoou mind leting me know which webhost you’re utilizing?
    I’ve loaded your blog in 3 ompletely different browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot fasyer then most.

    Can you suggest a good hosting provider aat a reasonable price?
    Kudos, I appreciate it!

  12. traps says:

    WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for

  13. Google says:

    Sooner or later, Google will find all new spam methods. This will allow you to answer only those calls that come in on your forwarded toll
    free number and route other calls to different locations.

    And then on March 20, the world’s largest paid private blog
    network – BMR – announced that its vast network had been almost entirely de-indexed by Google, causing chaos
    in the internet marketing industries.

  14. Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your website and in accession capital
    to assert that I get actually enjoyed account youyr blog posts.
    Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feeds
    and even I achievement you access consistently rapidly.

  15. gifts says:

    Its not my first time to pay a quick visit
    this web site, i am browsing this website dailly and obtain pleasant facts from here all the time.

  16. Zodiac signs says:

    I am really loving the theme/design of your website.
    Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility issues?
    A couple of myy blog visitors have complained about my website not working correctly
    in Explorer bbut looks great in Safari. Do you have any
    tips to help fix this problem?

  17. Une fοіs de plus un poste incontestablement attraʏant

  18. I always spent my halff an hour to read thjs webpage’s posts everyday along
    with a mug of coffee.

  19. Je suis entièгement en équɑtion avec toi

  20. Hmm is anyone else having problems with the images on this bllog loading?

    I’m trying too find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s
    the blog. Any respoonses would be grdeatly appreciated.

  21. cart says:

    What’s up to every single one, it’s genuinely a fastidious for me to visit this website, it consists of helpful Information.

  22. minecraft says:

    Very good post! We will be linking to this great
    article on our site. Keep up thhe great writing.

  23. lava says:

    I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Diid you make this webite yourself or did you hire
    someone to doo it for you? Plz respond as I’m looking to
    construct my own blog and would like to find out where u ggot this from.

  24. Hi there! I know this is kind of off topicc but I was wondering if you knew where I ould
    get a captcha plugin for myy comment form? I’m sing thee same blog
    platform as yours and I’m having problems finding one?
    Thanks a lot!

  25. skid says:

    I belirve this is onne of the so much vital inforrmation for
    me. And i’m happy studeying your article. However wwanna commentary on some common things,
    The web site taste is great, the articles is reallyy nice :
    D. Excellent process,cheers

  26. Keeep this going please, great job!

  27. Rune Reading says:

    Greetings from Los angeles! I’m bored at work sso I
    decided to check out your site onn my iphone duding lunch break.
    I love the information you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I geet home.

    I’m shocked att how fast your blog loaded on my cell phone ..
    I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, great blog!

  28. L’ensemƅle des articles sont clairement captivants

  29. Je suiis clairement een ɑccord аvec vous

  30. L’ensemblе de сes posts sont incontestablement passionnants

  31. Hi there everybody, here every one is sharing these familiarity, so it’s nice
    to read this website, and I used to visit this blog everyday.

  32. Yanira says:

    Hello, yes this post is genuinely pleasant and I
    have learned lot of things from it regarding blogging.

  33. Εuh êtes vօus sûr de ce que vouѕ nous dites ??

  34. Jе vaiѕ finir de jeter un cօup d’oeil à tout cela dɑns la semaine

  35. This is big, very few people are marketing there sites this way, and the potential
    traffic is Huge. If you would like to be notified via email
    when headline articles are published, click “Subscribe” on the tab at the top of this article.
    It’s important to bear in mind that bleaching doesn’t always
    result in the whiteness that you expected.

  36. Mezo Kimber says:

    I believe what you posted made a lot of sense. However,
    what about this? suppose you added a little information? I mean,
    I don’t want to tell you how to run your website, however what if
    you added a title that grabbed a person’s attention? I mean Nick
    Biltons Hatching Twitter, part I | Western Sideline is a little vanilla.
    You could look at Yahoo’s home page and see how they write news titles to get viewers
    interested. You might add a related video or a pic or two to get readers interested about
    what you’ve written. Just my opinion, it would bring your
    website a little bit more interesting.

  37. Jason.Wiki says:

    Hi! I coukd have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after browsing through some of the
    post I realized it’s new too me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely gld I
    found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back often!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s