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Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal Paperback – September 30, 2014
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, November 2013: Spoiler alert: The subtitle sorta says it all. That is, Nick Bilton's Hatching Twitter delivers "A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal," though not necessarily in that order. The book's four central players--Ev, Jack, Biz, and Noah--conceived of Twitter while working on Odeo, an ultimately doomed attempt to revolutionize podcasting. As their little chick grew, the four men's personal and ideological differences led to a power struggle that eventually left them all on the sidelines as a former stand-up comedian took Twitter into the uncertain future. Writing with the pacing and veracity of detail of a true-crime book, Bilton makes use of a trove of source material--from internal Twitter e-mails to extensive interviews with and early tweets by the founders themselves--and the result is as exciting and fast-paced as it is topically relevant. If you're looking for a thoughtful rumination about Twitter as a revolutionary global communications platform, keep looking. If you're looking for a quick, well-written, thoroughly researched human drama, the story of an utterly dysfunctional foursome and the accelerated unraveling of their once brilliant partnership, this is your book. #HighlyRecommended. --Jason Kirk (@brasswax) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Fast-paced and perceptive.”
--The New York Times Book Review
"Exhaustively researched...extensively detailed...unexpectedly addictive."
--The Wall Street Journal
"#Backstabbing, power struggles and profanity laid bare"– "It is breathless storytelling"
--The New York Times
"Deeply reported and deliciously written."
"A compelling read, more like espionage than a corporate history."
“With a cinematic approach befitting its eclectic cast of characters, the perceptive read…is rife with Byzantine-like intrigue, character clashes and broken dreams.”
“Nick Bilton’s impressively detailed fly-on-the-wall exposé of the micro-blogging site’s birth and evolution evokes all the titillating elements of a soap opera.”
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The story is very well told. It's a captivating read. It's very surreal to read about your friends and former co-workers in a book like this. Most of us live our lives only ourselves. Having this book is kind of like having a well researched MTV Rock Documentary about our work, friendships, and time in our lives. I think if you interview enough people, look at what happened in any situation, it's easy to put a spin and story on things. None of us know the details of everybody else's life.
I wish there'd been more discussion about the technical and models we pulled from to build twitter. Where the ideas came from and how they were put together. It's very weird to see how much focus there is on people's drinking, clothing, hygiene, and being broke. That we were pulling from txtmob, the unix finger command, carlton university's status update system, bike messenger dispatch, blogger, etc... that's not as sexy a story. That we considered how to look at transitions of mediums from desktop to web, from web to mobile, as a place to create new systems for communications in old ways, isn't as cool as intrigue amongst friends who ended up creating twitter. There's a lot of the people and not as much understanding twitter and it's context.
The order of things as they happened and as they are told in the book isn't the same. This is ok, i think, mostly because the book is about telling the story of twitter's creation. It's no a strict chronology. Reordering things makes for a better story arc. There were a number of people not interviewed and i think their story was diminished. Some of us were talked about more because they fit a better story arc.
One last thing, i'd say that Twitter's management problems were due to lack of ability to come together and make a decision, and not the anarchists refusing to follow rules and allow order.
Building products--successful and unsuccessful ones alike--requires a lot of things: A solid idea, the right team to execute on it, and good timing, certainly, but on a more complicated note, personal connections, social capital, back-room deals, and, most of all, a whole hell of a lot of luck. Yet the stories that get told about Silicon Valley all too often gloss over all of this (and the power-grabbing and horse-trading that always accompany it) in favor of the much simpler and totally inaccurate narrative about the brilliance of "that one guy." The "founder." The "inventor." The one who made all the money and took all the fame. Never mind the other people who helped come up with it, the people who supported it, the people who contributed to it, the people who toiled away to make it a real thing. Nope: Just that guy. You know, the next Steve Jobs!
Not so "Hatching Twitter." A lot of the reviews here have focused on how compelling Bilton tells this story, weaving the narrative of the tool's creation around some impressively researched details about a seemingly never-ending litany of back-stabbing. That's completely true, and the book's a worthwhile read for that alone. But to me, the most impressive thing about the book is how intently it works to dispel this standard myth of the lone creator, and how tirelessly his prose works to promote the truth, which is simply that making things is hard, and that it takes more than any one person to bring something as big and as important and as fundamental as Twitter seems to be into the world.
I can only hope that the next wave of brilliant, motivated early-twenty-somethings who make their out to California to find their fortunes in the world of startups read this book and take away that message. That it sticks with them, and that they remember, no matter how successful they get, that it doesn't have to be all about them. That there's plenty of glory to go around. This stuff we do here is already impressive--there's no need to mythologize it, to hoard credit, to take away the accomplishments of others for no other reason than to promote a small, self-serving lie.
And if they do, then maybe then they'll be able to treat each other better than the awful, inhumane way the Twitter team did.
Maybe. I'm not holding my breath.