Spend Money on TWTR or Spend Time on Twitter

I was really excited about the IPO of Twitter today. This is one company/service that I have used consistently over the last 5+ years, and I expect to continue using it for the foreseeable future. Which is why I really like Felix Salmon’s advice on how you can invest in Twitter without spending the cash:

So how is the individual investor supposed to navigate these treacherous waters? It’s actually incredibly easy. And it works like this. Twitter’s profits, if and when they ever appear, are going to be some fraction of its revenues. Its revenues, in turn, are going to be some fraction of the value it provides to its users. I have personally already extracted many thousands of dollars in value out of Twitter, over the past five years, and it hasn’t cost me a penny. On an ROI basis, I’m doing unbelievably well — and my returns are only going to keep on growing into the future.

Here’s my advice, then: take the amount of money you were thinking of investing in Twitter, and divide it by the rate at which you value your own time. So, if you were going to invest $5,000 and you value your time at $50 per hour, then you’d end up with a figure of 100 hours. Then, instead of spending the $5,000 on Twitter stock, spend 100 hours on Twitter: the cost is the same. The value you get from being on Twitter — from interacting with people you admire, from learning new things, from being able to express yourself so easily and concisely — will be much greater than the value you’d ever get from buying $5,000 of Twitter stock. And you’ll still have $5,000 left over to do whatever you want with, whether it’s putting it into some other investment or spending it on something awesome — a holiday, perhaps, or a gift to a friend, or even some fine wine.

I estimate my time is worth $100/hour and I wanted to invest $1,000 into Twitter. So that’s 10 hours I will be spending on Twitter in the next few weeks.

(As an aside: my limit buy order at $30/share didn’t go through this morning as TWTR opened at an astronomical $45.10/share).

The Story of How Twitter was Founded

Nick Bilton pens a fascinating piece in The New York Times on the origins of Twitter and the roles Jack Dorsey, Evan WIlliams, and Noah Glass played from the company’s creation to becoming one of the top social media sites in the world.

On Jack Dorsey’s luck in discovering Ev Williams in a coffee shop:

In 2005, Jack Dorsey was a 29-year-old New York University dropout who sometimes wore a T-shirt with his phone number on the front and a nose ring. After a three-month stint writing code for an Alcatraz boat-tour outfit, he was living in a tiny San Francisco apartment. He had recently been turned down for a job at Camper, the shoe store.

His luck changed one morning as he was sitting at Caffe Centro off South Park. As Dorsey looked up from his laptop, punk rock blaring through his earphones, he noticed a man about his age. Evan Williams, then 33, was a minor celebrity on the San Francisco tech scene. A few years earlier, he sold the Web-diary service he co-founded, Blogger, a word he popularized, to Google for several million dollars. Now Williams was using some of his Blogger money to finance a new company, Odeo, that made podcasts. Odeo was co-founded by his neighbor and friend, Noah Glass. Its dingy loft headquarters happened to be located around the corner, a block from South Park. Williams had stopped in and ordered a coffee.

He sent a resume, got hired immediately, and the rest, as they say, is history. The idea for Twitter came a bit later, after the company Dorsey was working for, Odeo, became obsolete when Apple unveiled podcasts on iTunes:

One night in late February 2006, around 2 a.m., Dorsey sat in Glass’s parked car as rain poured down on the windshield. The two were sobering up after a night of drinking vodka and Red Bull, but the conversation, as usual, was about Odeo. Dorsey blurted out that he was planning his exit strategy. “I’m going to quit tech and become a fashion designer,” Glass recalls him saying. He also wanted to sail around the world. Glass pushed back: He couldn’t really want to leave the business entirely, could he? “Tell me what else you’re interested in,” he said. Dorsey mentioned a Web site that people could use to share their current status — the music they were listening to or where they were. Dorsey envisioned that people would use it to broadcast the simplest details about themselves — like “going to park,” “in bed” and so forth.

On how the name Twitter was born:

Soon, the question of a name came up. Williams jokingly suggested calling the project “Friendstalker,” which was ruled out as too creepy. Glass became obsessive, flipping through a physical dictionary, almost word by word, looking for the right name. One late afternoon, alone in his apartment, he reached over to his cellphone and turned it to silent, which caused it to vibrate. He quickly considered the name “Vibrate,” which he nixed, but it led him to the word “twitch.” He dismissed that too, but he continued through the “Tw” section of the dictionary: twist, twit, twitch, twitcher, twitchy . . . and then, there it was. He read the definition aloud. “The light chirping sound made by certain birds.” This is it, he thought. “Agitation or excitement; flutter.” Twitter.

One of Twitter’s early problems was the question of who was leading the company? Williams or Dorsey?

Dorsey raced home to try to figure out a plan for his resignation, but the Twitter board instead offered him a three-month window to fix the site and its issues. Not much changed, however, even as text bills mounted, and the site continued to crash. Before the three months were up, Dorsey recalled, Sabet and Wilson took him to a breakfast at the Clift hotel and told him that they were replacing him as C.E.O. with Williams. Dorsey sat before a bowl of uneaten yogurt and granola as he was offered stock, a $200,000 severance and a face-saving role as the company’s “silent” chairman. No one in the industry had to know that he was fired. (Investors would not want to be seen as pitting one founder against another anyway.) But Dorsey had no voting rights at the company. He was, essentially, out.

On Ev Williams ignoring the advice that it’s bad to hire your friends in a start-up:

He [Williams] saw his success as the result of a lot of hard work and also a fair bit of luck, and he wanted to give the people he knew the opportunity to be a part of it. He hired his sister, to stock the kitchens at Twitter; his wife, Sara, was hired to design the new offices; and he employed numerous friends from Google. Among them was Dick Costolo, who had recently sold his start-up for $100 million. After they bumped into each other at a party in 2009, Williams asked him to be Twitter’s chief operating officer. On his first day, Costolo, a former improv comedian, thumbed his first tweet: “First full day as Twitter COO tomorrow,” he wrote. “Task #1: undermine CEO, consolidate power.”

In the end, this is a familiar story in Silicon Valley:

In Silicon Valley, most companies have their own Twitter story: a co-founder, always a friend, and often the person with the big idea behind the company, who is pushed out by another, hungrier co-founder. 

Twitter is my favorite social network, so I highly recommended reading this piece in entirety.

A Hotel Room With 140 Characters

I can’t decide whether this idea for a “140 Character Hotel” is genius (or ridiculous):

The first “Twitter experience hotel” (aka Sol Wave House) was introduced this summer in Majorca, Spain, where guests can ping requests to a “Twitter concierge” using hashtags like #fillmyfridge; flirt from poolside Bali beds by tweeting numbers printed atop the beds, like “How’s it going #balibed10?”; and sip cocktails while checking their smartphones for a live feed of virtual conversations bubbling up from every corner of the hotel.

Meliá Hotels International, which owns more than 350 properties, including Sol Wave House, is pioneering the concept amid the still rising popularity of smartphones and social networking. The Internet is in more pockets today than ever before. In July the International Data Corporation, a research group, said the worldwide smartphone market experienced 52.3 percent year-over-year growth. (In the United States, 56 percent of adults own a smartphone, up from 35 percent in 2011, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project surveys.)

That sandbox includes a Twitter concierge that guests can instruct via tweet to “Get the Cava on ice” followed by “1 bottle, 4 glasses to the solarium,” as one visitor did last month. There are images of mustaches on mirrors in the rooms, encouraging guests to tweet goofy selfies. And on Friday afternoons at the height of the season, the concierge uses a pool party hashtag (#twitterpoolparty) to summon sun worshipers.

On second thought: the few times I’ve stayed in hotels and had a negative experience, tweeting something publicly was the fastest way to get an amicable resolution.

This is an actual line used in the Times article: “For the foreseeable future, though, the Twitter hotel is #heretostay.”

Why Twitter Parody Accounts Should Stay Anonymous

I completely agree with Matt Buchanan’s piece in The New Yorker:

Parody accounts are, oddly, one of Twitter’s most distinguishing features. Anyone can have virtually any username on the service, as opposed to Facebook and Google Plus, which require users to display their real names. While fake Twitter accounts are sometimes created in an attempt to deceive, they’re just as often meant to be humorous, and have become a routine reaction to practically every news event, a fact lamented by Alex Pareene in The New Republic. Most fake Twitter accounts are, in fact, unfunny; some are in poor taste, like the fake Tsarnaev brother accounts that emerged almost immediately after the two were identified as suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. But at their best, they ascend to “the highest cultural rung” of “the making-fun-of-others department,” as Louis Menand wrote of parody in the magazine in 2010. “Part of the enjoyment people take in parody is the enjoyment of feeling intelligent,” Menand noted. “Not everyone gets the joke.” The highly self-selected audience necessary for parody presents itself automatically on Twitter, which allows its users to choose exactly whom to follow.

 So why does the unmasking ultimately happen? Buchanan concludes:

Yet Twitter also constantly undermines the parody it creates. The primary currency of social media is fame, and it is fame that drives the authors of popular parody accounts to uncloak themselves, destroying the account in the process. If fame is all the authors of parody accounts care about, as @MayorEmanuel wrote in one of his last tweets, “it’s pretty clear that the party’s over.”

Do you have a favorite parody account on Twitter? I am a fan of @TheTweetOfGod and Lord Voldemort.

The Facebook Hashtag

The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook is working on incorporating the #hashtag, mirroring the use on Twitter:

Facebook is testing whether to follow Twitter’s lead and allow users to click on a hashtag to pull up all posts about similar topics or events so it can quickly index conversations around trending topics and build those conversations up, giving users more reason to stay logged in and see more ads. Instagram, which Facebook acquired last year, already uses hashtags, allowing users to sort photos by the symbol.

Facebook’s work on a hashtag is a sign of the heightening battle between Facebook and Twitter, as both compete for mobile users and fight for advertising dollars. For years, Twitter and Facebook seemed to occupy different poles of the social-media spectrum. While Facebook was the home of close friends and family, Twitter was the real-time broadcasting device for the rest of the world.

Facebook’s already copied Twitter in the status people fill out (the more casual “what’s on your mind?” is close to Twitter’s “what’s happening?”), so this latest move isn’t all too surprising, in retrospect.

On Twitter, The Expanse and Beauty of #NYTBooks

The best thing on Twitter today was the sudden proliferation of the #NYTbooks hashtag. I don’t know who started the tag, but I participated in the festivities and loved reading through what others had to share. Here were some of my favorites:

And a couple by yours truly:

Did I mention I love Twitter?

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Update (11/1/12): The #NYTBooks meme began by Mother Jones’s Timothy Murphy, according to Poynter.