Sunday, June 15, 2008


Is Twitter the new way to go about blogging? Can you get thru life day-in, day-out, by letting the world enjoy the awareness of what's happening to you? The Zappos CEO thinks so; and he incidentally tries to help novices with a made for dummies guide about how to be addicted to Twitter. Here's an excerpt:

"Beginner's Quick Start Guide and Tutorial to Using Twitter

A note from Tony Hsieh, CEO of

Remember back when sending SMS text messages on your cell phone was a new thing, and it seemed kind of strange to use your cell phone to do that? And today, you probably wonder how you ever lived without text messaging.

Well, Twitter is the same way. It's going to seem a little weird at first, but I promise you if you can talk your friends into joining it and you all use it for 2 weeks, it will change your life. You will wonder how you ever lived without it.

The problem with Twitter is that it's a bit confusing to set up, and it takes a while to convince people to even try it out. And when they try it out, if they don't have friends that are already using it, then it's really hard to understand the value of it.

I know that I've been spending about half an hour every time I try to convince my friends to sign up for Twitter. At first, they think it sounds interesting but aren't really motivated to sign up. Sometimes it's been a multi-week long process. But finally they relent and sign up, probably just so they can shut me up. I walk them through the signup process, step by step, and then slowly but surely, they become addicted and their lives are never the same again..."

If you are new to Twitter, I reckon this guide is a must-have. Twitting or twittering (whatever) is a phenomenon of the most absurd nature. However, I've grown gradually to respect the concept only when I saw John C. Dvorak become an adamant supporter of Twitter after taking the piss on it for so long. Apparently, there are now companies like Zappos (online sales of shoes... why not?) that use and drive the Twitter gig as one way to build their company's culture. This ain't so crazy as it sounds though. I strongly believe so...

When blogging was hot, I thought about it quite a bit. I used to sit at the COO chair of a 600 people company a few years back and, having worked for more than 20 years in the High Tech Industry, I came to realize that one of the things that seriously inhibited the building of employee loyalty, motivation and positive thinking about the company is the alienation of its top management from the guy or gal in the front lines. And that is often the case, going hand in hand with a lack of empowerment of those in the front lines, and continuously treating them like the lazy nitwits who are out to harm the company... So what most companies do to keep those harmful elements in check? Alienate their top managers and BOD members even more, surrounding them with impenetrable halos and protect them and 'their shareholders' value' by building bureaucracies that allocate power only to the worthless among all humans: accountants and lawyers.

I strongly believed then (and still do) that most of the top couple of layers in a company's management should make themselves visible. They should appear human and tell people how they... live their lives and work and what are their daily concerns as they move forward. As humans and not as corporate androids. Blogging was an obvious way to achieve this. Many CEOs started doing this way back. For the reasons I describe above. I almost started the 'experiment' myself but, soon after, I had to quit that job and my replacement endorsed an entirely different approach. Good for him...

In general, my experience is that mostly insecure managers, afraid that others may eventually use the intimate knowledge about their weaknesses against them, tend to protect themselves with a halo of uncertainty and corporate symbolism and choose to communicate the least possible to the commoners on the front lines. Many top managers work like this. I remember the top dude of BP-Oil in Belgium, 30 years back, who used to take a dedicated elevator to his office at the top floor, an elevator only used for his Excellency. Wow!

Apparently, that Zeppos CEO is made of another material. He wants to build a strong culture in his company and he believes one way to do this is to reveal himself to all those who are interested as a human with real needs and wants and who's maybe doing what anybody else is doing on the planet; playing cards with friends, having some drinks, going to supermarkets for groceries, watching the game on TV with some pop-corn, sharing his joys and sorrows with anyone who cared to know. And he uses and promotes Twitter to this end.

Not a bad idea at all. Writing a blog takes some extra effort and often you write more than anybody cared to read. Boring!

With Twitter, you are confined into writing about simple facts, opinions, events and all this has got to get wrapped within a space of 140 characters long.

PS. Dvorak joined Twitter and within days he got more than 20 thousand people following him! Wow! That did it to him; he's there to stay. I do follow Dvorak too because I love his style. I often spoke about him in this blog and I respect his opinions however controversial they might be at times.

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