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

Hatching Twitter by Nick BIltonHatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal
by Nick Bilton 
Published by Portfolio Hardcover (November 5, 2013)
Buy it at: Amazon

The best trivia

  • Oprah is a little technophobic. When she taped a show all about Twitter, her staffers had to create a special keyboard with stickers that told her exactly what keys to press. She still missent her first tweet, and founder Ev Williams had to retype it for her.
  • Snoop Dogg visited Twitter’s offices and, while there, commandeered the DJ booth and smoked marijuana.
  • The name Twitter was created by largely forgotten cofounder Noah Glass, who brainstormed by looking in a thesaurus.
  • Al Gore tried to buy Twitter and make it a part of Current TV. He courted the founders by drinking heavily with them.

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Hatching Twitter is the type of book where your preexisting interest dictates your enjoyment. If you have a passing awareness of Twitter, you’ll appreciate this well-researched book for its juicy scoops and behind-the-scenes action. If you think Twitter is facile or don’t know anything about it, it’s a harder sell.

Author Nick Bilton focuses on the drama between the site’s four cofounders (and one later CEO), and his novelistic style lends itself to the gossipy tone of the book (currently, Bilton is adapting Hatching Twitter for TV). While users were always aware of the service’s spotty uptime and many CEO changes, Hatching Twitter shows that the conflict behind closed doors was even more intense, from the ouster of CEOs Jack Dorsey and Ev Williams to the canning of cofounder Noah Glass.

At times, it’s hard to tell how fair Bilton’s book is to all parties involved: Glass is clearly a favored source while Jack Dorsey is not. Still, if you read Hatching Twitter with a skeptical eye, it’s possible to find some incredible subtext beneath all those tweets.

What the book is

Hatching Twitter is a general interest read pitched at people who want to learn how the world-changing business of Twitter began and matured. It focuses on interpersonal dynamics and bold faced names.

What the book isn’t

The book doesn’t spend much time on technical issues (Bilton calls the simplest commands “programmer speak”) or more detailed aspects of the business. It’s a business book written with the speed—and prose—of an airport thriller, not a Harvard MBA primer, a cultural history, or a geek’s guide to the service.

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