Depending on your perspective, 15 years is either a very long time or barely a blink of history’s eye.
As of this past Sunday (March 21), that’s how long Twitter has been around… and 15 is a weird age when you’re a social-media giant. People still mock and tease the very idea of Twitter—the whole “gee, maybe I should text the world with my every vapid thought” shtick—yet most of us can no longer imagine the internet without Twitter’s contributions, visible and invisible.
Social media has entered an age of simulacra, when so much of what’s “new” is really a copy of something else. But Twitter, in its essence, has never really been copied; nor has it made any lasting attempt to copy Facebook, its main competitor.
Twitter continues to serve a unique role which we describe this way:
Twitter is for watching the forest, Facebook is for watching the trees.
We elaborated this idea in greater detail last year, so this year (today) we’ll spend a minute on Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s enigmatic founder.
Jack’s a weird dude, but mostly in benign ways. Our general impression is that, other than being smart and driven, he’s not like his Big-Tech peers; he’s unusually self-aware and he doesn’t have the same arrogance or “edge.”
This Rolling Stone interview, in particular, set him apart for us. He didn’t knock every question out of the park, but it’s notable that his answers didn’t raise the usual <cough> bullshit! <cough> from our inner skeptics (as is typical for interviews with tech CEOs).
Jaded though we may be, we’re willing to believe that Jack’s heart is in the right place. He doesn’t treat platitudes like a crutch and he doesn’t claim to know everything. He doesn’t share his peers’ temptation to placate the press with empty promises; similarly, he acknowledges that his words are ultimately powerless to convince people that he cares, that his legacy is more a function of his actions—what he can build (and/or fix) for people.
These are probably good approaches… but combine them with Jack’s elliptical way of speaking and he can often seem evasive. More broadly, people often don’t know how to “interpret” the odd trajectory of his life.
Still, Jack’s far from perfect. He does think before he speaks… but part of the bigger problem might be that he hasn’t spoken up enough.
One time, Seth Rogen tweeted that Jack did not “seem to give a f**k” about racism on Twitter, so Jack got on the phone with him and talked it out. At the end of it, Rogen said to him: “I think you have the right intent. But you all are terrible communicators.”