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Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind Hardcover – Apr 1 2014
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"Things A Little Bird Told Me is a moving, funny and illuminating life story, and Biz pours himself into the telling, bringing a unique gift of perspective to anyone dreaming of taking risks, changing their lives and changing the world." --Arianna Huffington
"In THINGS A LITTLE BIRD TOLD ME, Biz gives away all his secrets to success. I advised him against it. If you're not inspired and informed by this book, then you haven't read it." --Stephen Colbert
"Biz Stone's anything-but-ordinary journey both surprises and inspires. Things A Little Bird Told Me is a peek into a unique mind that, I'm happy to add, entertains us as well." --Ron Howard
"As someone who has personally experienced Biz's generosity and genius, I'm thrilled that readers of Things a Little Bird Told Me can now draw inspiration from his values and vision. A must-read for anyone who wants to tap their creative potential." --Charles Best, Founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org
"Most tales of startup success revolve around a lone genius out-maneuvering the competition. But the story Biz Stone tells is a riveting-and often hilarious-break from that tradition: a story of collaboration, sharing, and the power of networks."--Steven Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of Where Good Ideas Come From
About the Author
Biz Stone became an Internet entrepreneur in 1999. He went on to work for Google, helped to create both blogging and podcasting, and then co-invented Twitter.
Before he was a tech star, Biz wrote books and articles about the social aspects of technology in the nascent days of the web. He regularly addresses large audiences as a visiting scholar at colleges or keynote speaker for companies and conferences
Most recently, Biz is founder and CEO of his newest venture, Jelly.
He lives near San Francisco, California with his wife and son.
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"Things a Little Bird Told Me" is not your average business book. I see it more as a creative memoir of Biz's life and times. He was one of the four original co-founders of Twitter (Evan, Jack, and Noah were the others). Biz starts by taking us through his somewhat surreal initial hiring at Google (helped by Evan, who became a close friend), then his jumping ship to Evan's new startup Odeo, and then the birth of Twitter, which began as a two-week hackathon project by Jack and Biz, believe it or not!
There are so many great stories in the book. Biz seems like an unusual character, a self-deprecating "chancer" who bounces quickly from failure to success and is not ashamed to open up about his missteps. He comes off as sunny and warm and willing to look like a fool at times. The story of Ev and Biz driving down to Palo Alto to see Mark Zuckerberg is an awkward classic. (What must Zuckerberg have heard about these guys to have treated them like such morons? One wonders.)
Biz, to me, seems like he has ADHD. He proudly tells the tale of his "No Homework Policy" in high school, for example, where he simply gave up doing it because it took him too long. (The mind boggles. Who could get away with that? Well, someone who doesn't play by the rules and doesn't see the point of structure.) Biz's openness is very nice, but there is a shadow behind this book and that shadow is Nick Bilton's very much darker account of the founding of Twitter, with its quasi-Shakesperean theme of friendships betrayed.
I will admit that I haven't read Bilton's book yet, but I really want to after reading Biz's side of the story. What bothered me most in Biz's account was how he gave Noah Glass short shrift. Noah actually came up with the name "Twitter," but Biz presents it as an almost random incident in the book. Biz's friendship with Jack Dorsey raises some questions as well. Biz spins everything positively but can't quite cover the ouster of Evan Williams as CEO by the Twitter board without giving away what a painful and disillusioning episode this was.
The book shone for me when Biz was talking about how he envisaged Twitter as a collaborative force for good and strove to keep Twitter neutral and nonpartisan, letting the users determine new features. I love using Twitter and, because it has brought so much to my own life, I appreciate where he's coming from. I only hope that Twitter can stay relatively noncommercial as the company continues under a new administration.
So, I give it four stars because I feel that the account of the dynamics between the founders was somewhat self-serving. On the other hand, I didn't have a dull moment reading it. It was an interesting look into the mind of a creative force who is a genius at creating opportunities for himself!
Throughout the book Stone drops small gems of personal wisdom such as the idea that constraint inspires creativity (Twitter is limited to 140 words), be willing to take risks to succeed, be optimistic and trust your instincts, know what you want and believe in your ability to get it. Also he advises that you do not follow rules and conventions blindly as he clearly did not. Stone comes across as egotistical and self-serving, referring to himself as a “genius” and always coming off as the good guy who tries to make everyone happy. At the end he talks about how good people are and that he wants to help people. Twitter he says put people first and technology second, whereas Google does the reverse.
Some of his stories about himself are poignant such as how as a small boy he overcame his fear of the dark by intentionally going into a room with the lights off to see if any monsters would attack him. When none did he says he lost his fear of the dark. The message is “to seek knowledge even in the face of fear.”
This book will be of interest to people who are interested in Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and technology. It is relatively short and can be easily read in a few hours. It is clearly not on the level of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. Readers may also want to read Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilto, which covers the creation of the company from another perspective.
This book goes through the life of Biz Stone from the time he was living in his mom’s basement with his girlfriend, tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and on to the time where Twitter is valued at fifteen billion dollars. Much of what Stone writes is vastly quotable as he relates his optimistic vision of himself and those around him. For instance, Stone says that “failures become our assets” and relates to how Twitter’s down time and the display of the “Fail Whale” actually helped Twitter grow stronger.
Stone endeavors to show how he is relatable to the Everyday Joe. He describes how his family lives modestly; how he programmed the company of Twitter to have a moral compass; and, how he can relate almost any life occurrence to an episode of Star Trek. From what we read here, he is inspiring and funny.
This book is filled with interesting stories, such as: the joke offer to sell Twitter to Mark Zuckerberg for five-hundred million dollars; the major event SXSW 2007 turned out to be; the Moldova unrest; and the plane landing in the Hudson River. Of particular interest is how Twitter got involved in the Presidential Elections with Obama and how Stone was steadfast in his resolve to remain unbiased, especially when NSA’s PRISM was seeking user data.
Some of Stone’s advice may seem excessively daring or foolhardy. He shows that high risk does have the potential of high reward, but the reader doesn’t get a glimpse into other peoples’ lives that weren’t so lucky. Malcom Gladwell relates this same type of hard-work and success in his book OUTLIERS with the examples of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Being at the right place at the right time has its benefits, too. (As an aside, Stone mentions Gladwell directly in this book as a point of contention.) Still, Stone gives some concession in his closing remarks, encouraging readers to perhaps alter their course versus jumping into the chasm blindly.
The bottom line: this is an exciting book. Stone is readable, quotable, and fun. He has his quirks, but that’s what gives this book its life.
Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for providing me with an electronic copy of this book for review.
In this book, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone not only shares how Twitter came about, but he touches on creativity and, most importantly, how he finds ways to turn his limitations into advantages.
This slim volume is simply jam packed with inspiration and, though much of what Stone shares can be deemed common sense, it certainly helps having these thoughts offered within a context.
Far from presenting the public with a cold, corporate face, Stone recognises the power of connecting with other people through his social media platform – in essence what lies at the heart of social media.
Not only does Stone propose looking beyond the obvious for solutions, but he is an advocate for empathy, and the power that small acts of kindness can have for creating change in the world around you.
Stone writes: “Technology is the connective tissue of humanity. Designed right it can bring out the good in people. It can connect us into one giant, emergent, superintelligent life form. That is what I saw happening with Twitter.”
What I take away from Stone’s book is to be a little less passive from here on in, to find ways to create my own opportunities, and to embrace whatever constraint I experience, because great ideas are born out of limitations.
This little book serves as suitable encouragement for anyone who might feel a little worn down by effort, and it also serves as a reminder to encourage and cherish the value in feeling empathy for your fellow humans. Together we can do so much more if we just reach out.
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