Tag Archives: web

Review: Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal

Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and BetrayalHatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal by Nick Bilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A taut, well written, and gripping narrative about the rise of Twitter and the intrigue that led to a Game of Thrones-style power struggle, although without the head lopping. As a narrative, it’s excellent and excellently readable, although I can’t help but wonder about author Nick Bilton’s personal allegiance.

This is a story with pretty clearly defined heroes and villains and Jack Dorsey is definitely the book’s villain. He’s credited as having provided interviews which led to the writing of this book, although the author notes that not all interviews were necessarily happy to provide them. If he wasn’t displeased before, I can’t imagine he’d be happier now, because Bilton pulls no punches in how he depicts Dorsey as an egomaniac, a manipulator, and a Steve Jobs wannabe.

On the one hand, this is troubling; one expects such an account to be as neutral as possible. And while Ev (the other main player in the Twitter power struggle) has his own flaws, they’re usually not depicted as severely as Jack’s. It’s possible that these two men really are that different, but it still feels like we’re meant to root for Ev and feel hurt by the betrayal that ousts him from his own company. So does the work succeed, even though it doesn’t feel neutral?

On the other hand, this book is written really, really well. It’s a hell of a tale and it’s a rare talent that can turn board room politicking into exciting drama. The emotional content of the book is above and beyond any other “corporate narrative” I can recall; this book is many things, but it’s not dry. It is a quintessential ‘can’t-put-it-down’ read.

My personal recommendation? If you’re reading this to make a judgment about Jack Dorsey’s personal character, or if you’re, say, writing a research paper about Twitter . . . I’d hesitate to consider this one a source. My feeling coming away from the book is that there are two sides to every story and this book is only one side.

On the other hand, it’s damn fun, full of highs and lows, and it explains the genesis of Twitter perfectly; the early days of the Fail Whale, why the damn site crashed all the time, why it all felt like it was cobbled together with superglue and wishful thinking (because it really was), and all the other quirks that have become part of Twitter’s character and its charm. From the inability to actually explain what exactly Twitter is (even the creators disagree!) to its evolution from “What are you doing” to “What’s happening,” if you’re a Twitter user, this is a book you’ll want to pick up. Even if you’re a Twitter agnostic, or even just Tweet-curious, it’s a fine book of corporate narrative drama that delights and entertains.

View all my reviews

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I Feel Bad About Running An Adblock But I Can’t Stop

Bloggers tend to have a complicated relationship with advertisements. For professional bloggers (i.e. those who make a living off this sort of thing), that’s the lifeblood of their profession. In fact, I’d go as far to say advertising is what’s created the Internet as we know it today (well, technically, the World Wide Web, but nobody seems to use that term anymore).

We expect to get content for free these days, but we also expect it to be of a professional quality. The days of some dude’s crappy Geocities page being the only source of information are long over; now, you can peruse hundreds of blogs written by people that, in a different decade, would be reporters for actual newspapers and the like. And advertising is what makes that happen.

And then there are the ad blockers. A brief description for the non-tech readers: an ad blocker is an app you can install, typically directly into your browser. It will scan the content of each page that you access and it will disable the various ads, pop-ups, sponsored content links, and other stuff that websites use to generate advertising revenue. The end result is that each page is decluttered from all the extra stuff that gets stuffed in there and it creates a cleaner, more enjoyable browsing experience.

For the user, there is no real downside. For content creators, however, there’s a huge downside, in that websites earn money by how often those ads they display are viewed and if people are blocking the ads, they’re not getting the page views, which means earning less money. It’s not a big loss if only a few people do it, but if enough users are blocking the ads, it can really hurt the content creator.

Aside from that, there’s a moral dimension as well: those ads are how creators get paid for their work. By blocking the ads, you’re getting the content for free, or at least, you’re not contributing to the creator getting paid. Is that stealing? You could make an argument that way. Certainly, I feel bad for using it. I feel like I’m taking advantage of the system.

Some creators get around it by moving to a subscription-based model; for a small fee, you get an ad-free experience and maybe some addition perks. For most people, there a likely a few sites that they use heavily enough where this is possible, but certainly not all of them; there’s just too much content out there.

Recently, I tried turning off my ab block to see if I could get by without it. The price of good content is a few ads, I told myself. After a week of browsing without an ad block, I was in a hurry to reactivate it.

It isn’t just that the ads are annoying or for things I don’t care about. They’re actively harmful to my experience on the site. The human eye is drawn to movement and so while I’d be trying to focus on reading a page, the videos would play or pictures would shift, and every time it happened, my concentration was broken for a moment as my gaze shifted to the thing. Not to mention the sheer visual clutter for most pages.

Compare that to the clean, quiet space created by an ad block and you’ll see why, regardless of feeling bad about using it, I was in a hurry to go back.

I don’t have a solution to the problem. It’s just something that I’m thinking about right now.

And for what it’s worth, I pay WordPress a small fee each year to keep ads off my site, so you’ll have an ad free experience here regardless if you use ad block or not. But I’m also a hobbyist blogger who doesn’t depend on the success of this site to eat, so it’s hardly a fair comparison.