Edward de Bono once said that “memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.”I was reminded of that when I wrapped up packing my bag for a short but much needed trip to India.
It is time to visit my parents. It is time to sleep in the bed I slept as a child and dream the dreams I dreamed when I was a boy. I want to roam the streets, reliving the past a little, just to recalibrate myself on the road of life. I want to know where I was, where I am and where I might go. Memories are good for that. Memories are the time machine, that turn an almost 50 man into a boy of 5 or a man child of 15. I want to go back and be a child again; to ask my mother about things I need to make decisions about, and get strength from my father. It is a step back to rediscover my minimum viable unit of happiness. Of course, it is a chance to make new memories and some photos. It is my first trip to India with a camera. I am excited to take my Fuji xPro2 with me.
Today, on the tenth birthday of Twitter, there is another memory I can’t forget. That July night, standing outside the offices of Adaptive Path/Ruby Red Labs, cigarette in my hand ( I don’t smoke any more, thank god) and talking to eager early twitter team members, who showed me Twttr. I played with it on my Nokia E71, and was fascinated with it and by the time I went to sleep, I had written a blog post about it. I don’t think I quite got the whole concept. I couldn’t define what it was and why it had so quickly seared itself in my memory, that I had to go home and write about it.
Even today 300 million people, an IPO and a year of Wall Street abuse later, like many I continue to struggle to pin a label on Twitter. I shouldn’t, because Twitter is what we think of it. It is about a product. It is not a company. It just is. If anything, my random, off the cuff and stream of consciousness blog post tried to capture the animal spirit of Twitter. It was a half formed, and unfinished opinion, but it was the start of a life long obsession for me.
I tend to fall hard for things I love – people, possessions, art, ideas and startup. I don’t care how wrong I am. Twitter was one of those things I love. Everything about it – it’s weirdness, it’s coolness, it’s impact on the world around us and it’s crazy Mexican soap like story. I love it’s people. I love that it has allowed a reality TV star to reinvent himself as the next likely president of America. I love that Kanye loses his shit on Twitter. And I love the founders of the company.
The only problem is that when I was a reporter, I didn’t have the luxury of expressing myself with such passion. For the number one job of a reporter is to be objective and keep looking for things that keep reality in focus. It is important to figure out the fine line that divides a subject and a friend. It is hard to ask the hard questions, but you must. And Twitter didn’t make it easy.
The hardest part of any reporter’s job is to maintain that invisible wall between friend and a subject, be honest and critical about the company or the product you love. Even if it means losing your access to the company and its official sources. Twitter has been pretty open to well reasoned criticisms, but these days technology companies and executives have a very thin skin. Even a modicum of questioning is met with “access denied.”
Sorry to digress – I am sitting and writing this, mostly because I know that Twitter’s road ahead is hard. It has to find new horizons. It has to excite new audiences. A lot of people think that ten years is long enough for an Internet company to be around. I don’t know the answer of what the future holds. I do know that under Jack, Twitter is in good hands. I also know that if there was no Twitter, my world would be a little emptier. I would miss the noise, the chaos and then chatter. I would miss the randomness.
Twitter, for me is a memory of a happier time, both in my own life and of the web which was full of possibilities, a web that had not been sliced and diced up. A web which hadn’t become a weapon of mass surveillance. A web that held so much promise.
Much like my life!
March 21, 2016, San Francisco