Tuesday, December 13, 2011

For the love of Twitter, what's happening with...

So, during my morning online business reading session, I came across a very interesting article (originally posted at Business Insider) about how Twitter, the company, has an exorbitantly high employee turnover, including execs that brought the "accidental success" to life.

I for one find it (not so) hard to believe. I mean, how else can you explain a tool, product, micro-blogging platform that would not know how it's supposed to work and reach the masses until one day people realize you can stalk celebrities and get your favorite news in 140 characters or less? I mean, come on, how silly can you be not to realize that Twitter is worth it's weight in gold from day 1.

Strangely enough, I didn't quite 'get it' until a couple of years ago when I decided to take the dive. About a month later, 'i got it' and told everyone what I thought it was all about. Since then things have evolved and I've grown to quite like it.

This is what happens to real-life companies - they evolve, learn and reinvent their business model as they learn more and more about themselves. It's the nature of start-ups and entrepreneurs, especially the ones aiming for some type of success, whether product related or personal.

I kept my profile open so my life remains an open book. Love it or leave it, my tweets ARE my own.

Find me on twitter: @JJBaybee 

Excerpts from original

Nicholas Carlson | Dec. 12, 2011, 3:02 PM

From the outside, Twitter seems like it's doing very well. It has 2,400 advertisers and 100 million active users, 50 million of whom send 250 million tweets every day. The company is worth $8 billion on secondary markets.

But on the inside, something is going wrong. Even as the company has added hundreds of new employees this year,  top engineers and executives keep quitting. 

Some of the bigger departures include VP of engineering Mike Abbott, who left after just a year, and VP of Consumer Marketing Pam Kramer, who quit after only three months. There have been maybe a dozen more high profile departures, including much of Twitter communications team. After he left, former Twitter engineer Adrien Gaarf wrote a detailed post explaining what's wrong with the company.

So…why are all these people leaving what appears to be a company that builds a product millions of people use every day, and several industries – including Business Insider's – depend on?

We've asked a former Twitter employee. Does this source have an ax to grind? This source says no. This source asked to remain anonymous in order to be as candid as possible.

This source told us Twitter's turnover problem has two main, related causes: Twitter, as a company full of workers, has cultural flaws and structural flaws.

Cultural flaws:
Our source says Twitter's workplace is a "self-congratulatory, complacent, environment."  

Unlike other maturing startups – like Facebook,  for example,  which are willing to reinvent themselves and their products – Twitter's mentality has been: "This is our product, just perfect it." 

Our source speculates that the root of this product problem may be that Twitter was, essentially, an accidental success, and the people in charge of the product now assume their job is to not screw that accidental success up.

Our source says succeeding as an employee at Twitter is something of a popularity contest. The best anecdote our source gave us to illustrate this problem was a story about how, in October 2010, top Twitter executives Jason Goldman, Ev Williams and Biz Stone hosted a "#Twitterati" party at a Las Vegas club called Blush. It was not a company event, and not everyone from the company was invited. That was fine. 

The problem was that it wasn't just top executives that were. Some of the people that went were assistants and other "random employees" who seemed to be mostly attractive young women. After the event went down, there was so much bad blood at Twitter over the party and who was and was not invited, that it became the main topic of the company's next all-employee meeting. Several disgruntled employees stood up to complain that the party tarnished Twitter's brand. One employee said that their family's well-being depended on the success of Twitter, and that this was an assault on it. 

Another Twitter employee tells us the Vegas ordeal wasn't such a biggie. He says he wasn't invited and felt 

OK about it. "I hate Vegas."

It should be noted that Goldman, Williams, and Stone are all no longer with Twitter. It's possible that many of these cultural issues have been remedied.

Twitter's structural flaws, or at least the ones our source believes the company has, are even more interesting:

Twitter started with mediocre engineering talent. That's common in Silicon Valley. But Twitter compounded the issue by not successfully "promoting" early engineers out of the way. Google and other tech companies retain and "promote" early engineers without actually giving them more responsibility by giving them empty titles and fellowships. Twitter did not do this. It promoted old-timers into positions of power.

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