Friday, April 15, 2011

Twitter Trouble?

Twitter At Five: Not Spitting Out Well
Fortune: Trouble @Twitter: There's no shortage of drama at Twitter these days: Besides the CEO shuffles, there are secret board meetings, executive power struggles, a plethora of coaches and consultants, and disgruntled founders. (Like Williams. The day after Dorsey announced his return to the company -- via tweet, naturally -- Williams quit his day-to-day duties at the company, although he remains a board member and Twitter's largest shareholder, with an estimated 30% to 35% stake.) These theatrics, which go well beyond the usual angst at a new venture, have contributed to a growing perception that innovation has stalled and management is in turmoil at one of Silicon Valley's most promising startups, which some 20 million active users rely on each month for updates on everything from subway delays to election results -- and which a growing number of companies, big and small, seek to use to market themselves and track customers. ...... It has been months -- an eternity in Silicon Valley -- since the company rolled out a new product that excited consumers. ...... Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg used to watch developments at Twitter obsessively; now he pays much less attention to the rival service. ...... Twitter doesn't lack talented engineers, potential paying customers, or loyal users -- and it certainly has plenty of money in the bank ..... The problem is a board and top executive team that don't always appear to have control of its wide-ranging cast of characters, including founders who have attained near-celebrity status (another co-founder, Biz Stone, is a regular on NPR, and earlier this year Dorsey was profiled in Vanity Fair), headstrong and divisive managers, and investors used to getting their way. ....... in the first half of 2009, Twitter added more users more quickly than almost any web service in history ...... the company tells Fortune that in coming months Twitter will roll out new features and ad products ...... "Twitter could be 10 or even 100 times bigger. I'm hopeful for that," says Reid Hoffman ....... "But it's not a given. It's never a given." ...... Twitter hates being lumped in with Facebook as a social network, but comparing the two companies helps illustrate why Twitter finds itself stuck in neutral. ...... Zuckerberg .... although he still dabbles in writing code, he spends his time refining the product and strategy. He's been criticized for being ruthless, ambitious, and single-minded in his quest to build Facebook -- a common knock on the few founders who stay atop their companies. (Exhibit A: Bill Gates.) ...... Unsure of what they'd created, the founders basically turned Twitter over to its users -- initially a bunch of techie early adopters -- and watched what they did with it. The result was a bit of anarchy ...... By the end of 2008 the board decided that Dorsey, a taciturn engineer with no previous management experience, was no longer the right CEO. Williams, who succeeded him, has been accused of pushing Dorsey out, but in an exclusive interview for this story, he put the responsibility for making that decision on the broader board: "We thought about recruiting somebody from the outside," he says, "but the company at that stage was so fragile that bringing in someone from outside was risky. So the VCs asked me if I would do it." ....... By that time, communication among the Twitter founders, especially Dorsey and Williams, had started to fray. According to Greg Kidd, an early investor, Dorsey today is circumspect but firm on the subject of his relationship with Williams. "The most he's ever said about Ev is, 'We don't talk.'" ........ Williams, a reserved Nebraskan ...... Having dabbled in improvisational theater early in his adulthood, Costolo inspires confidence with his refined public speaking ability, quick wit, and fast decision-making skills. ...... Williams left in December for vacation, extended it to January, then through March. On March 29, the day after Dorsey returned as product chief, Williams announced he wouldn't return to the company in a management role. ...... growth of U.S. visitors to the site has leveled off more than a year after its massive spike upward in 2009 ...... international traffic to the site jumped 83% in the past year ...... the 20-month plateau has come so early in the company's trajectory ....... Many believe that Twitter's search results, which increasingly show up on other sites, are its real jewels. For anyone striving to see events as they unfold, there are few better places to turn. ...... the company lacks a coherent philosophy about what it wants to deliver to customers in the first place. ...... Three days after Dorsey's March 28 return to daily duty at Twitter, the company killed the Dickbar. ...... three people close to Square say Dorsey told them that he views his involvement with Twitter as short term. ...... "The act of getting from there to here was violent," he says. "We've had a revolving door of senior leaders who leave." ...... if Dorsey is right and managing a startup is indeed like managing a theatrical company, it probably is a good idea to give the performers and stagehands a little love. That way maybe they can #gettheiracttogether.
I did offer my services but Twitter would not listen.

Making Dick Costolo An Offer He Can't Refuse

GigaOm: The Vision Thing: What Twitter Needs to Learn From Apple: a company being pulled in different directions by its board, by its founders and by its senior executives .... and a single person who can stand for and champion that vision. ..... Steve Jobs is the icon that represents all of that, both for users and for investors. Mark Zuckerberg, for better or worse, has arguably done the same thing at Facebook. ...... Williams ... effectively gone for good ..... Costolo .... been blamed for all sorts of product mis-steps, including the ill-fated “Quick Bar,” as well as for the crackdowns on companies like UberMedia and the tightening of restrictions on the company’s API and its relationships with outside developers. ..... a mission statement like “we really want to make money” isn’t very compelling ....... (saying “Hey, we don’t go down as much as we used to!” isn’t really much of a sales pitch either). ....... What Twitter needs more than anything is compelling features it can add to the existing experience ..... the service hasn’t changed much at all in the past several years, apart from getting larger ...... There still isn’t anything approaching a useful Twitter search function

TechCrunch: Twitter: Consider This Your Intervention.: No one wants to say Twitter is in trouble. That’s like shooting your best friend’s dog. ..... Twitter is operationally in trouble ...... Everyone I’ve spoken with in the industry and at the company says CEO #3, Dick Costolo, has what the others lacked– he’s an amazing operator. But that’s a Sheryl Sandberg. Twitter needs a Mark Zuckerberg if it’s going to be more than acquisition bait. It needs a product visionary ...... At most great technology companies the product visionary is the CEO– think Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Steve Jobs, Zynga’s Mark Pincus, Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, Oracle’s Larry Ellison and of course Facebook’s Zuckerberg. ...... Square– while a potentially a more disruptive company than Twitter– has a long way to go on distribution, business model and execution. Time-sharing Square’s product visionary– long term– just hurts both companies. If Dorsey is going to do a great job at either, he has to pick. ...... Dorsey might pick Twitter, stepping into a chairman role at Square and leaving the day-to-day responsibility to Keith Rabois ....... Twitter has been a mess operationally. I’ve heard there’s a rift between older employees owning most the stock and working fewer hours than newer employees hired by the hard-charging Costolo. ...... Twitter absolutely can not afford to get complacent at product as it’s turning this corner. If it does, it risks looking uncomfortably like MySpace in its glory years– an innovative product people loved with loads of celebrity cache that had no innovation and was out-gunned and out-maneuvered by Facebook. ...... On a day-to-day basis I use Twitter more than any other Web 2.0 product, and it’s transformed the distribution of TechCrunch. It’s the realization of the early promise of Digg’s mission to up-end the media business. ...... now Williams is gone. Dorsey is half-there. I have an uncomfortable feeling that if the product void isn’t filled by someone dynamic, Twitter will start to sputter

CNet: Twitter: Too many cooks could spoil this bird: Some of it's so salacious that it seems like Twitter, seeing the success of "The Social Network," is trying to position itself as the subject of its own tense but acclaimed biopic by making the entire establishment seem packed to the walls with drama queens....... Remember when everyone thought Mark Zuckerberg was on the verge of stepping down as Facebook CEO--and that if he wasn't, he should be? There was some serious upheaval in 2008 and 2009 at Facebook, which was about the same age that Twitter is now, , as Chief Operating Officer Owen Van Natta resigned (according to many, because he realized he wasn't going to be getting Zuckerberg's job), Chief Financial Officer Gideon Yu was ousted, and Zuckerberg's original co-founders drifted away from the company to start new projects. ...... Zuckerberg, despite his youth and reports of personality clashes with other executives, remains at the helm of Facebook. He hired former Googler Sheryl Sandberg to head up company operations so that he can focus on leading an energetic army of hacker-engineers....... lacks a powerful and brash visionary at the helm. ..... Facebook seems to have been the most unstable, management- and culture-wise, when there were a lot of people trying to get a piece of the action. Early investor meetings, Kirkpatrick relates, left Zuckerberg in tears on the floor of a restaurant bathroom. Multi-executive clashes over whether the company should prioritize revenue led to some of Facebook's worst in-fighting...... a CEO with steely confidence like Zuckerberg, whose own alleged megalomania may have saved the company time and again ...... no one is quite willing to take the helm...... Twitter's investors have significantly more sway over the company than Facebook's do over Zuckerberg's team.
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