Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Around the World in 140 Characters – Notes from Ev’s speech to Churchill Club

Evan Williams of TwitterImage by Adam Tinworth via Flickr

We all know that Twitter excels at events, enabling us to connect with others, take notes, and report on what’s happening. But what happens to the notes after the event? But are they really helpful? Coherent? We never really look back at the notes and reassemble them into a full report. Hopefully, after you read this, you will believe that Tweeting at events is invaluable.

Last night at San Francisco’s Churchill Club, Evan Williams was interviewed by Kevin Maney, Contributing Editor, Condé Nast Portfolio in a talk entitled, “Around the World in 140 Characters: Sound Bites on Twitter, the Web, and Surviving the Economic Meltdown”. Tweeters Shel Israel, Matt Perez, Marissa Coughlin, Cindy Waters, and the Churchill Club took notes and I’ve attempted to reconstruct the notes into an article based only on what was tweeted. You can find Shel’s insights as well as reports from Kevin Maney and the NY Times.


The old biz model question. @ev of course won't say how, but vows they will. Advertising possible but not likely.

We don't make money...yet! There's a lot of potential for revenue in the future."it seems clear to me that we can make money." We raised more money than we originally planned & they are hiring less. Is more cautious than he was before.

But the company does not want to have to look for more financing in 2009. It's a bad year for that We're trying to get Twitter into a position where we don't have to raise $ in mid-2009. Revenue more of a priority now. If need be we can bootstrap. Confident but cautious. Since the financial crisis, Twitter has changed course. We will focus on revenue sooner. He had planned to wait until 2010. May be looking for revenue in Q1 2009.

@ev doesn't see a big future inside enterprise. It's just not designed for internal use. Focus on global network. More likely they will offer corporate services. Also retail transactions. Marcom services such as Starbucks is using. @ev is excited about little things--the coffee shop down the street who post about a special, once daily.

In Japan partnering with @joi ito & they use ads. They split rev. "It's OK but not a slam dunk. Japan model is not replicable in the US. Necessarily. Not focused on internationalizing yet. Undecided on partnering elsewhere. Consumer Internet companies need to be international by day 1, and will have clones by day 7.

Our threat is people seeing the concept and thinking they can kick our butt. We're still tiny compared to the big guys.


Twitter started out with the geeks but it's never been just a geek-centric interface. It has a broader appeal.No generational split on Twitter, essentially said there is no age skew. But the userbase skews older than people think. College age goes for Facebook.

Election night was the peak usage for Twitter. But it was a plateau. Now that number is daily. twitter peaks for events. When CNN called Obama the winner was their biggest moment prior to that might have been the iPhone announce "we've evolved." @ev says @barackobama has the most followers, but he hasn't tweeted since elected. There are at least 200 newspapers on Twitter, pushing out feeds or providing original content. @LATimes lets you get specific topics.

Disasters have been good for Twitter. People turn to us in crises like fire and earthquakes--but we are vulnerable to misinformation. @ev says Indian government asked them to shut down Twitter during the crisis last week when people were tweeting about it.


The company had a lot of tech problems. Had scaling problems since Mar 07 until Jul 08. Last 4 mos its running OK. @ev says we have completed firefighting mode and now we can start improving and growing. Amazing we are doing so well considering these problems.

User Experience

@ev says no one understands Twitter, old and young. Big problem is people signup & don't know where to start. Focus on fixing. Helping people find FB friends on Twitter. @ev says that twitter will make it easier to let people "silo activities" so that they can have different conversations for family & business. we've removed more features from Twitter than we've added, We want to give people better tools but Summize integration IS coming. Search tool helped in #mumbai.

Twitters new tag line: Twitter let's you find people, events, organizations you care about in real time wherever you are.


@ev says that he learned from Google that focus is the most important thing. @ev has ideas for future. He's not good at seeing the future. @biz & @jack are more visionary. But we feel it through osmosis. @ev worked on Blogger for 6 yrs and Twitter will dwarf it.

Ev said the company has found its groove & he sees no end in sight to growth. It comes down to execution. We sense it when we go to dinner with friends and Twitter is what their friends are talking about it. We are not driving the train. Trying to see where the tracks are going.


Twitted first launched as @ev says he hardly ever blogs now that he's on Twitter because he usually tweets. Blogs and Twitter are complementary, Twitter just part of new ecosystem. BTW sold Blogger to Google very early on.If he had held... who knows.

Great interview by Kevin Maney, excellent reporting by Shel Israel, Matt Perez, Marissa Coughlin, Cindy Waters, and now I feel like I was there.

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Kathy said...

Nice summary, Warren. Thanks!

I'm putting together a page of the tweets from election night from my digital democracy class --

I may try to rearrange them chronologically...

Anonymous said...

I saw Shel's notes earlier, didn't know of the others. Nice summary, Warren. Almost makes me think you were there. Or me.

Warren said...

@kegill, @ariherzog I've always taken lots of Tweets at events, but never did anything with them afterwards. This post has given me a new perspective on following up afterwards and compiling a summary. Thanks for the encouragement.