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Biz Stone: In the Long Run, Being Nice Pays Off
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Biz Stone: In the Long Run, Being Nice Pays Off

Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, is not the kind of guy you might think. And his ‘confession’ book is definitely not the kind of book you might expect. 

What was your ‘eureka’ moment? Have you expect that ‘the idea’ would bigger than ever?

– My “Eureka” moment happened in March of 2007 at a festival called South-by-Southwest or SXSW. It is a film and music festival but it also has what they call an “interactive’ part. This part has grown since but was, at the time, a smaller conference of startup entrepreneurs and programmers. It was our first chance since hacking together the prototype of Twitter in 2006 to see it being used out in the wild. Something happened that changed my opinion forever; it made me realize that we weren’t just working on a toy, we were building something that had the potential of becoming very important. There was a man at a pub who wanted to talk shop with his peers. The pub was too loud so he sent out a tweet suggesting a quieter pub. In the eight minutes it took him to walk to the other pub, it had filled to capacity and there was a line out the door. His tweet had been re-tweeted, and re-tweeted again.

Then what happened?

– Within minutes hundreds of people received the same message and convened in one spot. It occurred to me then that yes, this was just a party, but what if it had been something more serious? What if had been an emergency? Or something else? There was no technology that allowed people to converge so fast.

According to your book, “Things a Little Bird Told Me”, you seem to be a genuinely nice guy, probably the nicest one in Silicon Valley. Is it hard to be a nice one up there?

– Haha. No, it’s not hard to be nice anywhere. If you enjoy being nice and helping people then it’s not a chore, it’s just the way you’re wired. That’s just what I’m like, I don’t work at being nice, I’m just generally nice and helpful. I’ve found that in the long run, being nice pays off.

It seems like your role at Twitter was more to be a positive force and to keep up the company’s spirits. How does it fee like being a ‘Ringo Starr’?

– It came naturally to me so it was okay. At times it was stressful because I wasn’t just looking out for my company and my co-workers, I was also looking out for the reputations of my friends and how they would be perceived post-Twitter. Occasionally I had to be not-so-nice.

The book is not including any of the arguments between co-founders. Why?

– The book is based on my experience. I didn’t interview anyone else. Any arguments I personally had are in the book. Sometimes I argued about product, sometimes I argued about policy, and sometimes I argued about staying neutral in politics. I never wanted to be CEO so I had no such arguments.

The title is “Confessions of the Creative Mind” but apparently it’s a lack of big confession.

– The sub-title was my editor’s idea. The stress is supposed to be on the word “creative.” It was meant to convey my creative approach to problem solving both at Twitter and in my life in general. We may change the sub-title to something different for the paperback because it’s not a gossip book.

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Nick Balton’s version of Twitter, ‘Hatching Twitter’ was full of betrays and behind-the-close-door meetings and yours is quite different. Some critics mentioned that’s a perfect PR tool to clear the Twitter’s image. What would your respond to be?

– Nick and I were writing our books at the same time so I had no idea what he was going to write about. Many of the so-called ‘betrayals’ and closed-door meetings did not include me so they were not something I could include in my book.

If how Twitter has founded turn out to be a movie, just like a Social Network, what would it be like?

– If the story of Twitter was founded turns out to be a movie, it will be a comedy. It might even be a cartoon. I’ll probably end up being a dog who can talk.

Twitter had became phenomenon right after ‘Arab Spring.’ What was it like being a change-maker and play a key role changing the world?

– It was the people on the ground in the region that made the change, not me, and not my team. Twitter was a good tool for people to use in terms of communicating and self-organising but it cannot be stressed enough that the credit goes to the brave men and women who were risking there lives to bring about change in their country. During that time, I was called upon to do many interviews which I declined because it would have been inappropriate for me to link myself to that bravery and heroism simply because the tool I built was in the right place at the right time.

 

If the story of Twitter was founded turns out to be a movie, it will be a comedy. It might even be a cartoon. I’ll probably end up being a dog who can talk.

Any ‘guilty pleasure’ accounts on Twitter you can’t stop check it out everyday?

– Not really. At this point, I treat Twitter like an instant, global news feed. I scan Twitter to see if anything important is happening somewhere in the world before it hits the newspapers and television.

What makes a tweet ‘retweeted’ most?

– I’ve never been very good at knowing what makes for a good tweet. There are people who have made a living out of consulting on just what and when to tweet for maximum engagement. The only advice I can share is to be authentic and have fun.

What’s the next best thing in Silicon Valley?

– I don’t know. That’s part of the reason that it’s fun to live and work here. There’s always something popping up that you’d never imagine. It’s an exciting time where many creative people are trying out many creative projects.


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