Twitter co-founder Biz Stone talks of 26/11, Indian farmers in new book

Thursday, 24 April 2014 - 12:55pm IST | Agency: PTI
  • AFP

At a time when Twitter is playing a big role in campaigning process of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, here is a book from it co-founder that talks about what drives the micro-blogging site's success across the world and in India. "There was a series of terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India (November 26, 2008). People in the middle of the crisis used Twitter to report what was happening in real time, and in some cases Twitter served as a lifeline," writes Biz Stone in his book "Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind".

He also talks about how even a farmer in India can depend on Twitter. "A farmer in India with a crappy phone posts a Tweet asking what a certain grain is trading for at the market 50 miles from his home. The answer is double what he was planning to charge. This changes his life and the life of his family for a year," Stone says. 

According to Stone, once named one of Time's most influential people in the world, "People everywhere were finding the reasons Twitter was relevant in their lives - from reading movie reviews to helping the homeless to spontaneously raising money for world causes. While we were buckled down, focusing on performance, the rest of the world was figuring out what Twitter was for." 

The book, published by Pan Macmillan India, discusses Stone's innovation, creativity and the secrets of being a successful entrepreneur, through stories from his life and career. Talking about the role of Twitter in the 2008 US Presidential elections, he writes, "The week of the election was a big week for Twitter, not to mention for the United States, and the world. I sent the team a rallying email with the header: 'Adding a New Feature to Democratisation of Information'.

The mail read: 'Folks, Birds in flight have an amazing ability to move as one - immediate feedback and simple rules create something gracefully fluid and seemingly choreographed. "In the spring of 2007, we caught a glimpse of people harnessing a similar power for a new kind communication. South by Southwest 2007 introduced us to the incredible relevance of Twitter during a shared event.  "Now the world is watching as one of the most massively shared events in US history unfolds before us. Twitter is positioned to support this election process like nothing else before - 37 members of Congress are Twittering, both candidates have active accounts, millions of citizens are reacting to issues in real time, and political activists are organising protests - all using Twitter, all moving as one." He says when he wrote that note to the Twitter team, he wanted them to realise how important their work was.

"What happened next was amazing. Twitter exceeded and sustained normal capacity by 500 per cent - without breaking a sweat. The servers stayed up. And we had our first African American president!" he writes.

In his book, Stone also addresses failure, the value of vulnerability, ambition, and corporate culture. He says he is particularly prone to fantasising about Twitter user stories. "Information could be spread within minutes through retweets. Within one minute, millions of people could be made aware of something important. The more I imagined the possibilities, the more I saw that the whole value of Twitter was in the way people used it. "As a company, instead of talking about how great our technology was (which was tricky to defend, what with the Fail Whale and all), we simply started celebrating the amazing things people were doing with it. It was an odd reversal," he says.


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