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The Twitter founder who doesn’t tweet

Last week I went to see Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone talk at an Inforum meeting of the Commonwealth Club of California.

I didn’t hear much that wasn’t already known but there were a few gems. One was how little engaged Evan Williams seemed to be with Twitter

  • Williams said he only Tweets about twice a day and prefers to use Twitter for consumption. I thought this was extraordinary because he is in charge of product development at Twitter. If you aren’t a “power” user that’s going to make it difficult to make the right decisions on product design, I would think…
  • Biz Stone commented on William’s lack of engagement on Twitter when he said that if he were buried in rubble, Williams would not be the first person he would Tweet for help.
  • Biz Stone commented on the failure of Odeo, a startup both had founded, focused on being a directory for podcasts. He said Mr Williams and himself had no interest in podcasts, they didn’t listen to them and didn’t make podcasts. This lack of engagement made it difficult for Odeo to succeed but… it was easy raising money for it.

That made me wonder about Williams’ lack of engagement on Twitter. What did that mean for the future of Twitter? After all, a lack of engagement doomed Odeo.

Up until the evening of the Inforum talk, that lasted about 11 days, Williams had made only 20 Tweets, just a shade under his two-a-day average.

Then after I published my Inforum report things changed, by a lot.

I’m pleased to report that Williams is now very engaged in Twitter. I counted more than 110 Tweets in the past 7 days. That’s nearly 16 Tweets a day, or a factor of 8 times Williams’ prior daily rate.

There is a healthy number of re-Tweets, showing that he is capable of spreading the love; and there are few conversational Tweets that mean little to observers. It’s a reasonably decent quality Tweet stream.

You can take a look for yourself: Evan Williams (EV) on Twitter

UPDATED: Maybe I spoke too soon. Sean Garrett, Twitter’s comms chief tells me I’m wrong:

“@tomforemski the jump is because Ev did an #askev Q&A session on Twitter. Ev uses Twitter all day long but doesn’t mean he always tweets.”

However, it was encouraging to see the extra Tweets by Williams. I always look at companies eating their own dog food, as unappetising as that sounds, it is important, imho. It’s important for us heavy users that the developers understand what we need and how we use the product or service.

Author | Tom Foremski: In Silicon Valley

Tom Foremski: In Silicon Valley
Tom Foremski is a former Financial Times journalist and the Founder and Publisher of Silicon Valley Watcher, which is an online news site reporting on the business of Silicon Valley and the culture of disruption. More
  • David Perel

    I think if you go by how the launch of the new twitter went, Ev knows exactly what he is doing. You just need to compare it to Digg, where Kevin Rose was a power user, to see the comparison.

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  • Jacques Bruwer

    Even thought Ev doesn’t tweet much, using the service for consumption still implies a very strong understanding of it. Twitter moved from 20 to 300 peeps in the two years Ev was at the helm. He definitely knows his stuff and Twitter inside and out.

  • Jacques Bruwer

    ahh *though .. no edit on comments ?