Biz Stone Looks Back at 2009

TwitterBizStone.jpgSticking with the United Kingdom theme, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone looked back at 2009 for The Sunday Times in an article titled, “Why we can never rest: a year in the life of Twitter.”

Stone posted on the Twitter Blog:

The promise of technology is to help people help themselves. At Twitter, we are united in our belief that software has the ability to augment humanity in productive and meaningful ways. For us, it has been a year during which we realized that no matter how sophisticated the algorithms get, no matter how many machines we add to the network, our work is not about the triumph of technology, it is about the triumph of humanity. Thank you to The Sunday Times for publishing my look back at 2009, “Why we can never rest: a year in the life of Twitter.” We’re looking forward to another intense yet gratifying year reminding us why we find it meaningful to develop ways for people to express themselves and communicate openly.

Highlights from the article in The Sunday Times:

On June 15, our technicians told me to add a note to our Website. The note warned users of a planned maintenance session that meant our service would be inaccessible while we carried out an overdue system upgrade.

Immediately, we began to see a reaction in the form of tweets. Then came the emails. Then came the phone calls. Even the U.S. State Department contacted us. The message was loud and clear: Twitter cannot rest while there is unrest in Iran.

However, if this maintenance was not done quickly, our operations team feared that the service might go down for days.

With the whole team on edge, my colleague Jessica Verrilli and I called our head of operations to convince him to do what was deemed extremely difficult if not impossible—reschedule the maintenance.

The work was moved and the maintenance was eventually successful. In the days that followed, our service became inextricably linked to the Iranian election protests in hundreds of media reports on television, online, and in the newspapers.

While it is our job to keep the service running, it was not the appropriate time or circumstance to put ourselves into the same conversation with people who were risking their lives on the streets of Tehran. The experience remains a humbling one that would define the year for Twitter and also underscore the motivation behind a decade of effort leading up to this point.

Looking back, the year is a blur, but that one summer morning remains fixed in my memory because it is a powerful reminder of why we find it meaningful to develop technology.