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.