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Rushes Sequences - Biz Stone and Evan Williams interview - USA (Video)

Biz Stone and Evan Williams are the founders of the micro-blogging tool Twitter. They met with Aleks Krotoski and the programme two team to discuss the rise of their 140 character communication phenomenon and the role it has played in the politics of nations and freedom of speech.

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(Please note that this transcript is the 'raw data' text we receive from a transcription company. It is a tool commonly used in production to facilitate editing and review the content. We publish it for users in that same spirit, rather than it standing as a 'perfect' representation of the content.)

Aleks ok, erm we're seeing businesses, we're seeing politicians communicating with the public with they're with they're public by Twitter.  How do you think that this, that it's a different, or rather than the web, how do you think that communication via the internet is different than communication that they would do, traditionally via television, radio, newspaper?

Biz The one most, the biggest thing is its two way, its not broadcast.

Evan There's an engagement there, that you don't get from watching TV, you can't talk about.  Erm that, and that's the big thing we're seeing with like ............. Of companies is, and we were surprised, because they jumped in to Twitter and they started engaging immediately, the one of the first examples that we saw was this large cable company, here in the U.S.  They erm, there was a popular blogger and he also had a Twitter account and he was complaining that his cable was out, and he was I'm going to write about this cable company, Compass and how terrible they are and its going to be the number one search result in, in search engines for year to come.  And they were monitoring Twitter search for any mentions of they're brand name.  And they saw that within a few minutes and they replied to him on Twitter, and they said what seems to be the problem, they were going to send a van out to your house.  And they had his cable fixed in like 30 minutes, so the next day the blog post was, Compass has great customer service, and it was like a, you know a complete reversal and we were like wow, they're really smart about it, and so over and over again companies are just jumping in, engaging with customers and its great for the customers too.  So they can.

Aleks Are they actually engaging though, cause your seeing more and more cynical, erm cynical attempts to use these tools for marketing and people just not getting it?

Evan There is cynical but there's engagement.

Biz Yeah and the, basic way Twitter works is people opt in information they want and there are many, many of the most popular accounts on Twitter are commercial accounts, and there are people just selling stuff and people want to know, because people you know get into commercial transactions and information is helpful.  And whether its I want the daily Tweet about the special at the café, so I can know whether to go there for lunch, or I wasn't to know as soon as erm, there's a great deal on this airline, then that's helpful information.  If they don't want it then they shut it off.

Evan And if the, if the companies aren't trying to provide useful information they'll get shut off, its not like a, its not we call it recipient driven communication, so its not up to the sender to say you will see this in your in-box whether you like it or not. Unlike e-mail.

Biz Yeah basically.

Aleks that's a really interesting concept, I haven't heard of that recipient driven information.  Erm, kind of riffing off the back of that and this is now for programme 3, you mentioned opt in, how aware are you, or how aware do you think people who use twitter, the account holders are of the privacy implications for what they put up on they're public accounts?

Biz I think that's, I think we're still .......... That out, I mean like I said, before, we're, we're 10 years into this idea of open the open exchange of information, first with blogging and now its Twitter.   And people aren't trying to figure out and discover what the right amount is still.  There are still, there are some people like over and then you know get burned and realise ok well that wasn't the right way.  And then there are people who do it sort of just right and they get all these great opportunities presented to them that they hadn't erm thought of before.  So I, I think the short answer is, we're trying to explore and figure out with our electronic communications, we're trying to add nuance, subtlety, things we don't have right now in e-mail and iam erm and that's what we're seeing not just with Twitter, but all over the web, all this great stuff that, that's emerging in social media is people trying to find new, interesting ways of communicating.  To become more efficient, become more engaged, become more informed, erm and I think it leads ultimately to, to having more empathy, to understanding more about what other people are, what's happening with other people and sort of putting yourself in they're shoes more often because your, your engaging with them.  So I don't know if that answers the exact question but I think the answer is we're still figure out, we're still evolving, so we'll still make some mistakes.

Aleks Do you think that, that people are re-calibrating they're notions of privacy?

Evan Erm yes, certainly in, it, it's a cliché but erm people are learning that putting stuff out there in, in the world as Biz was saying, has some great effects, and things that were private, a lot of things that
were private, just because it wasn't profitable to share them.  And so it was strange to share them, so it may be strange to say to the world I am having lunch at this place, erm because I mean they would have never have done that before, but that doesn't mean I care, or that it needs to be private.  And so people are understanding that in, in big numbers and as Biz says its been a process, its been happening when, when blogging started which we were involved in 10 years ago, this crazy notion why, first of all why would you have the audacity to think anyone would care what you read.  Erm and secondly why are you, you know not all blogs are private by any means they're personal information, but even like writing the sort of a journal on line .......... Its like why would you, and now it's a much more accepted idea that, that people would share parts of they're lives.  And, and I think it'll become just obvious.

Aleks Then of course, I mean on the flip side there's the, the .....................

General talking

Aleks You mentioned this idea of empathy, you mentioned this idea of reconfiguring almost how we do relationships.  How do people, how do you feel people form relationships in a 140 characters?

Biz Well its interesting because they, they're doing something again, something we didn't expect which is they're forming these tweet ups that they do, and you know and a lot of the criticism of on-line communication is like ............... always communicate on line and then we're going to loose all of this interpersonal erm all of our interpersonal skills and then the reverse is true.  They are meeting, they're wires are crossing on the Internet, and this is how Evan and I met in the first place, we, we discovered each other's blogs.  And we ended up working together.  Erm the, you know and so they're organising these Tweet up's and stuff so that they can meet new people and engage.  So, erm it's definitely having an impact in that, in that regard.

Aleks But what do you think it is, I mean what are the tells that you can trust somebody, you know because why would you, why would you meet up with somebody off line?

Evan Whether you meet up or not you definitely get to know people over Twitter or electronic communication in general.  With Twitter in particular because its very light weight to share something and to breed something, then its about sharing details that you wouldn't necessarily share but they give you insight to people, whether you know them or not.  Its not just meeting new people, it's staying in touch, in a very lightweight way that just isn't practical.  Erm it's not practical to you know pick up the phone and call all of your friends that are across the country every day.  But you can hear from them on
Twitter every day, and it provides a real connection that you otherwise wouldn't have.

Biz And it keeps you much closer that it's not as awkward.  If you haven't talked to a friend in a month, it doesn't matter you can pick up the phone and you can, and you can immediately do like so how or you know that run, it sounded like a good run you had the other day.  You're immediately caught up on like the chitchat, you don't have to be like so how's it are you still married or is that a weird subject or.

Evan Yeah and if you end up talking, you end up having more interesting conversations because normally, if you don't talk to someone very much you only talk about the really big stuff, or like well I got a new job and how's that, its ok.   But its like hey it sounds like your running now or whatever.

Aleks but you go from I mean that's focusing on people who are existing friends, you know which is a different kettle of fish, that's you know you've got Facebook for that as well, I mean Twitter.

Biz You get to know people on, you don't get.

Evan I think the key to your question is you don't really get to know somebody from like Tweet.  You get to know them from a bunch of them.

Biz Right.

Evan And, and you get to know them over time in, in ................. and you start saying like that guy's really, I think that's, I like that guy he's funny.  Like I think I want to, if there's an opportunity to like and then you reach out and you start small, like maybe your favourite a Tweet by somebody and then you, and then you get engaged and you at reply them and suddenly your like communicating and it starts from there.

Aleks Do you think that there is a shift, that there's a seismic shift as it were in the development of relationships, or even that there will be a generational shift in how people do relationships now that we have the web?

Biz I think it's more about maintaining relationships than the relationships.  I don't actually there's, my personal experience I don't meet a lot of people and become real world friends with them through the Internet, that much, even though most of my friends I met through the Internet somehow.  But its, you know the real world contact is important and you know school and work and, and social life and hobbies are still going to be the main way people meet each other. But, but it can turn a chance meeting into a relationship, cause now when I meet someone at a conference or wherever, and if I get they're Twitter user name then I have, I have like a string back to them that otherwise there, there was no connection at all.  Even if I have they're e-mail address that I have to prompt them, that's, that's a big, much, much bigger step than following them on Twitter.  Its even a, a bigger step to engage with someone on a social network where you have to say now, now that I've met you once we're friends, your not really friends, but I might want to keep up with you.  And, and you don't even have to reciprocate, but that could eventually lead to a relationship that otherwise would not exist.


  • Comment number 1.

    Biz Stone talks about increasing empathy. Twitter, like Facebook, has been developing what's called "sentiment analysis" to try and bucket tweets into emotional parameters (negative, neutral and positive): Twitter's app is called Twitrratr:

    * https://twitrratr.com/search/coke

    This is to enable brands to better track whether users are "empathizing and engaging" with them.

    For confidentiality reasons, I won't be specific about what I'm developing --- other than to say that sentiment analysis (or the capturing of empathy) with current frameworks the way Twitter is has limitations which are commented on here:

    * https://www.marketingpilgrim.com/2009/08/why-sentiment-analysis-is-about-as-reliable-as-a-canary-in-a-coal-mine.html

    Current sentiment engines are a scalar approach to a complex N-dimensional problem.

    Under the Vint Cerf rushes, I wrote about the distinction between speed and velocity (one's a scalar with no direction and one's a vector with a starting point, a destination and direction). Sentiment engines as they're currently coded are scalar constructs.

    So I invented and am building a vectorial alternative.

  • Comment number 2.

    Dr Larry Brilliant's comments about Twitter are interesting (watch 5:00 --- end)

    * https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oKKz97WO-0

    Dr. Brilliant: I do not think that Twitter is a plus...I mean...My son, who's here, is going to initiate me further in the depths of Twitter---

    Dr. Vint Cer: That'll be an oxymoron - the depths of Twitter.

    (Audience laughs.)

    Dr. Brilliant: Well, whether it's IM or TM or SM or Twitter, it's wonderful to say "I am here at this time and meet you. NOT so good to debate the Bill of Rights and the Constitution and....THAT'S the issue."

  • Comment number 3.

    Incidentally, I’m neither in the “LUV twtr 140” or the “What Fry-esque ode/ homage / inconsequential about cats, socks and plastic attention deficiency can I compose with 140 characters to concern Professor Greenfield?” camps. The latter is exactly 140 characters with no spaces, btw (lol).

    Twitter serves a functional purpose and, whilst it can be satirized and is not the panacea for social engagement or corporate-community empathetic symbiosis, it does real-time delivery of links better than competitors like Pownce (who closed in December 2008 due to challenging economic conditions and were later acquired by Six Apart).

    * https://current.com/items/89891774_twouble-with-twitters.htm


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