Earlier this year, two of Twitter’s cofounders, Ev Williams and Biz Stone, joined Charlie Rose on his PBS late-night interview hour for a “conversation about conversation.”
The two Twitter titans had a lot of interesting things to say – so we thought it was worth sharing some choice tidbits with you, below.
140-character messages need complementary long-form conversations in order to be meaningful and substantive
Biz Stone: The long-form conversation, long-form journalism, deeper dives, more meaningful and relevant approaches to what’s happening in the world – that’s what’s really important. And in our experience, that’s what drives a lot of the tweets, retweets, and links that get passed around on the platform.
Ev Williams: In the best case, they are complementary. The long form gives you ideas that you want to engage with people on, and the opposite can happen as well. Conversations that start as little blips can catch someone’s imagination and turn into something much deeper. In the worst case, people get obsessed with the short form.
Search engines give you answers – but what you really need sometimes are inquisitive responses
Biz Stone: I’ve been thinking recently about how you use a search. People ask a search engine a question, and the search engine returns what is essentially a document. But a lot of times, a question is better asked of a person. If I ask, “Where’s Howard Street?” a person might respond, “Well, where are you going?” And then I’d say, “This particular hotel.” And they might say, “Oh, you don’t want Howard Street. You want Market Street.” So I should have asked, “Where’s Market Street?”
With discourse, we need to start valuing quality over quantity
Ev Williams: The question now is, How do we raise the quality of the discourse? It’s not just about quantity anymore. [And] it’s a hard problem. We have a couple of projects we’re working on. One is Branch, which is an online conversation platform, and the concept there is very simple. If you want to have a good conversation around this table, you can’t just say, “Whoever wants to show up can show up,” and, you know, say two words and leave, as if it’s just a free-for-all. That’s essentially what online conversation has been for the past decade, and there’s a beauty to that. The openness is great, but it doesn’t lead to quality conversations. What Branch does is allow people to host dinner-party-like conversations and say, “Pretty much everybody can watch, but we’re limiting who’s actually invited to sit down at the table.”
Email is ripe for revamping
Charlie Rose: What’s happening to email?
Ev Williams: Not as much as should be. In some capacity, email is the most intimate witness to our lives. Yet it hasn’t changed since the days of Hotmail. We keep files in there. We share pictures of our kids in there. There are receipts in there. Email knows a lot about our lives. I’ve been dying for someone to come at it from a completely different angle. It’s ripe for reimagining. Someone will do it.
Only commit yourself to projects you’re passionate about
Biz Stone: If you’re not emotionally invested, it won’t have a shelf life. That’s why Ev and I always gravitate toward the same thing, which is this idea of large-scale systems that allow people to express themselves.
And our favorite quote:
Biz Stone: Without longer-form, deeper-dive, more relevant conversation, I don’t think social media would have anything to be social or media about.
Watch the whole video on charlierose.com.
On a related note, another Twitter exec, CEO Dick Costolo, also did an interview with Charlie Rose back in September 2012. Insights from that convo here.
(Images via FastCompany)
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