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Twitter's users dictate what's happening

I recently watched a video of Jack Dorsey’s presentation to The99percent conference, which you can see here.  In it, Dorsey shares three core takeaways from his experiences in conceiving and building Twitter. 1) Draw: get your idea out of your head and share it, 2) Luck: assessing when is the right time to execute the idea, 3) Iterate: absorb the feedback and refine the idea.

The third takeway is the most interesting. Despite his resistance on some ideas, Dorsey says that “almost everything you see today in Twitter was invented by our users.”  Twitter’s home page question when it launched was “What is your status?”  which clearly shows its techie roots. It has gone through many iterations based on user feedback, including “What are you doing?” to the current “What’s happening?”

Dorsey says that today the company has evolved to the point where it acts “more or less as the editor of the user base, and editor of the usage.”  Twitter is a platform for its users innovations.  The @ symbol before a user name was not invented by anyone in the company.  “It was an innovation by the user base that we saw and decided to implement.  The RT for ReTweet was invented by users as well.”  The company initially resisted it because they thought it was ugly.  But Dorsey quickly came to see it as “a beautiful way to rebroadcast content in a powerful and efficient manner.” The hashtag was not invented by anyone in the company, because they thought that was ugly too.  Then they gave in.  The word tweet was not invented by anyone in the company and Twitter resisted it for a long time, but eventually it just took hold.

Despite Dorsey’s reluctance on some of these innovations, he clearly is now a convert to the wisdom of the masses, in true Wikinomics spirit.  No doubt he wonders what other changes the users have in store for his company.

Author: Don Tapscott

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  1. Who would have thought that the word tweet was initially resisted by Twitter. Wow.

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  2. This is great ! While it's not new. Implementing it so profoundly is .
    congratulations. Many years a go when I was training to be a salesman I learned this from a book called “Listening “

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  3. Very interesting! It's always hard figure out what should be weeded out and what needs water to flourish initially! I must say, twitter is doing a good job of letting their users flourish :o)

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  4. One of the reasons they didn't want to embrace the term 'Retweet' was actually because they had never officially blessed the term 'Tweet.'
    That was just in the last year as they discussed adding the official Retweet button, which they eventually did.

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  5. @dtapscott The evolution of the use of Twitter into a news briefing and sensemaking stream is an emergent function across the world of Twitters. The flexibility of Twitter leadership to recognize and accept the way their community operates is to be commended. In the context of microblogging within a business context, I think that the “What are you doing?” question may still be more relevant than “What's happening?”, which could be distracting to individuals and groups who have come together to achieve specific goals. I think that long form blogging is still alive and well, for those who think the investment of time in more than 140 characters is worthwhile.

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