Does anyone make a move these days before posting it to their Facebook page or Twitter feed?
If it has become difficult to leave the house before determining how to sum it up in 140 characters or less, Jack Dorsey is partially to blame — or thank, depending on how you view the medium. The co-founder of Twitter, who goes by Jack to those who use the site, has always been interested in telling his friends what he’s doing and when he’s doing it. And while his approximately 1.6 million followers surely care these days, it wasn’t always the case. “I remember I would write on my first BlackBerry what I was doing,” Dorsey said. “None of my friends were that interested.”
His first official Tweet was entered on March 21, 2006, and since, the homepage to Twitter looks almost the same as it did then. Perhaps, in part, because he paid attention to all of the negative attention that sites like Facebook have received when altering their interface. The tweaks that have taken place on Twitter have mostly been driven by the users, such as the ability to retweet or provide hash tags. “Users have really defined it for themselves,” Dorsey noted. “It’s surprising and exciting that users would invent new ways to organize data.”
Dorsey, who lives in San Francisco and New York, doesn’t disclose the total number of Twitter users. “While we could have millions and millions of users; it’s more about how many people are consuming the data,” he said. “It’s a big number, and it’s not quantifiable.”
One by one, industries have adopted the microblogging service as a communication tool, from airlines such as Jet Blue, to political groups, financial services and celebrities who want to share every detail of their day — sometimes too much so. Back in April, Ashton Kutcher challenged CNN to a popularity contest, to see which could get one million followers first (surprise, surprise, Kutcher won). Now there aren’t many in the media who don’t have a Twitter page: Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart and Arianna Huffington are among those who keep their fans/followers in the loop on a daily basis. And just this week, the first Tweet from outer space was recorded.
Dorsey has also observed a rise in tweets among journalists and from “man on the street” accounts, as in the case of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, when even established news organizations were relying on tweets from those trapped inside the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel for their information.
“There’s a real time immediacy on Twitter,” he said. “People see events unfolding in a real time way that’s extremely powerful. It provides a narrative around all of these original stories.”
But can the news be sufficiently served by quick bites of information, often served up in short sentence fragments? Dorsey seemed certain Twitter will serve as another source of news, another place people look to receive updates. “People will see these ‘man on the street’ tweets and do their own due diligence to find more on the story,” he said.
The challenge remains, though, as to how to capitalize on Twitter’s popularity. In terms of advertising, Dorsey said the company has no plans to run banner ads or similar promotions on its home page.
But Twitter isn’t the only thing keeping Dorsey busy these days. The longtime programmer has also found time to become a licensed massage therapist, and he revels in fashion design (Dorsey has designed a pencil skirt and asymmetric skirt).
“I took a sewing course and fashion design course,” he noted, adding he’s become obsessed with denim since meeting Scott Morrison at Paper Denim & Cloth. “He brought me to that world,” Dorsey said. “I love his apparel so much. It’s so well-crafted.”
He also pointed to Issey Miyake as a source of inspiration.
So will more talk of fashion start appearing in his Twitter feed? Dorsey didn’t say. Although he clearly watches what he tweets more carefully these days — with one particular person in mind. “The only time I changed what I started to write was when my mom joined. Now I’m a little more, well, careful.”