Twitter’s Jack Dorsey: Who You Know Still Counts

Posted by PicasaThe digital divide was wide tonight, at a 3 to 5 p.m. NJSBDC networking event at the College of New Jersey, followed by a talk by Jack Dorsey, creator, co-founder, and chairman of Twitter and considered an influential Internet pioneer (pictured, top).

Most folks at the networking either don’t Tweet or are just trying to figure it out. My card stack includes one lender, two executive coaches, two web developers, an attorney, three automotive guys, a logistics company, an interior decorator, and an education franchiser. Of that crowd only event planner Michael D. Young professed to be comfortable with Twitter, and the college students who sat behind me professed to be totally uninterested in Tweeting.

But Kendall Hall was packed, and Dorsey told a compelling story about being given two weeks and one other programmer to build the first model of an update system that works on cell phones. It debuted at the SXSW music festival in Austin in March, 2007. “It was the right place at the right time. And it was the first year at SXSW for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. But we failed, technically. “

System failures continued, sometimes for hours, even a whole day. They finally figured out that — though a communications firm — they weren’t communicating well. “We were not talking to each other and our investors, not practicing transparency.” The fixes included:

Lots more communication (blogging, twittering) without worrying about overload (“you filter out what you don’t need.”)

Building instruments to find out how people are using Twitter

Admitting mistakes.

Working in public and sharing the work with anyone interested. For instance, Twitter users invented the use of the @symbol, replies, retweets, hashtags, and even the word ‘tweet’ to stand for ‘updates.” “If we had not said we don’t know what it is good for, we would not be a success today. Tweet by tweet they defined what it meant to them.”

Dorsey says he is still tinkering with the business model, and no, he hasn’t made any money yet. (I asked why teens text rather than Twitter and he didn’t really have a good answer, except that it’s up to each individual and group to decide what is useful.)

When he watched President Obama address Congress he noticed the legislators were looking at their cell phones. Then his own phone buzzed. It was his Congresswoman, twittering her take on the speech. “I’ve never felt closer to my government,” he said.

The hardest part of starting a business? Starting. “It’s important to start as quickly as possible, to get it out on paper and allow others to play with it. If it is a ridiculous idea, it can be closed, and you move on.”

Dorsey had lots of good insights on “real-time communication” but the back story of how TCNJ snagged such a hot speaker has nothing whatsoever to do with social media. How did Dorsey get to TCNJ? He had grown up with the son of TCNJ’s new business dean, William W. Keep (pictured on left with SBDC’s Lorraine Allen).

It always is and ever will be, “Who You Know Counts Most,” world without end amen.

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