Evan Williams: What We’ve Learned Running Twitter

As most product managers will attest, the temptation is always great to add new features when building a product. Evan Williams, Twitter’s founder, did a short presentation yesterday afternoon at the Web 2.0 Summit to talk about how we can build better products by removing features instead.

Web2Summit Evan Williams Twitter

Knowing that Williams created Blogger at Pyra Labs, he defines Twitter as a blogging application with a maximum of 140 characters and no formatting. But he says that Twitter does not compete with current blogging applications as it offers a different experience. They originally built their technology to use with an already existing ubiquitous friend status network: the SMS, and SMS basically come with a command line.

They quickly realized that the majority of people went directly to the Twitter web site, many of them using 3rd party apps built on their API. They now have hundreds of applications today because “text integrates well with everything”.

He offered additional examples of sites or technologies that kept things simple (or that should keep things simple):

  • YouTube has a 10-minute limit for uploaded videos. This definitely had a beneficial impact on the service as it created addictive, ready-for-the-web content.
  • Podcasts would certainly benefit from a time limit to become a more successful phenomenon.
  • What about a social network that limits you to 10 friends?
  • What about a dating site with only a picture and a yes/no button? (Hot or Not)
  • What about an e-mail tool where you can only have 20 messages in your inbox?
  • What about a competitor of MySpace where only college students are admitted? (Facebook)
  • What about a competitor of Yahoo with only a search box on white page? (Google)

The Praized Blog: One Year Anniversary

Today, I celebrate my first year of blogging. When I started, I had an objective of writing at least one blog post per business day. Mission accomplished! I now have written close to 300 blog posts on a variety of local search and/or social media topics. I’ve met many new friends and blogging has become a very important part of my professional life. I currently have 416 RSS subscribers and I think I’ve found my blogging “voice”.

To celebrate, I take a look back at my top 5 blog posts that generated the most comments and trackbacks in the last year:

1) “Robert Scoble is Media“, July 14, 2007. By far my most popular blog post. I stumbled upon a major meme with “I am Media”. Lots of people have talked to me about that one and have told me they now understand Facebook because of it. If any book editors are reading, I think this could be a great business book… 🙂

2) “What Micro-Blogging is All About?“, September 13, 2007. Re-reading one of my favorite Douglas Coupland book, I found this excerpt which poetically describes what micro-blogging is potentially all about. Mashing-up Douglas Coupland with Web 2.0 earned me some great reactions.

3) “Google Opens an Office in Montreal“, January 25th, 2007. Major buzz in the Montreal blogosphere as I was the first blogger to discover that announcement in Montreal’s La Presse.

4) “Chronology of a Successful Facebook Group: The “Save Business 2.0″ Example“, July 19, 2007. Chronicling my efforts (with Colin Carmichael) to save Business 2.0 magazine using Facebook. That one was a lot of fun and offered some great learnings. We unfortunately did not save the magazine (I got my last issue today…)

5) “Web 2.0 Startup Praized Media Inc. Secures $1,000,000 in Seed Funding“, September 18, 2007. The announcement of our seed round of financing was welcomed by the local search blogosphere.

I’d like to start my second year of blogging by thanking all my Year 1 readers! Thanks and here’s to another 300 blog posts! 🙂

If you’re not a RSS subscriber, click here to add my feed to your favorite reader.

What Micro-Blogging is All About?

Many people wonder about the utility of micro-blogging using Twitter, Pownce or the Facebook Status Update. It’s difficult to explain but I’ve found a philosophical answer from Douglas Coupland, famous Canadian writer, in his book Life After God (published in 1994):

“And if we were to collect these small moments in a notebook and save them over a period of months we would see certain trends emerge from our collection– certain voices would emerge that have been trying to speak through us. We would realize that we have been having another life altogether, one we didn’t even know was going on inside us. And maybe this other life is more important than the one we think of as being real– this clunky day-to-day world of furniture and noise and metal. So just maybe it is these small moments which are the true story-making events of our lives.”