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Biz and Ev Unpack the Twitter Revolution

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, September 16 2010

I stumbled across this video on Twitter, fittingly, though I don't recall via whom. Thanks for it, though. At the 2010 Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Ev Williams sat down on stage to discuss all things Twitter with Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson. The video isn't all that fresh. It's from July. But it's one of the first times I've heard the guiding forces behind Twitter speak about the role of the service, and of them as young entrepreneurs, in the drama that ensued in Iran after last summer's disputed election.

Isaacson: "When Iran happened, Jared Cohen and Alec Ross and others at State actually called you to say, don't do your weekend server maintenance now, or something, right?" Cohen has been a member of State's Policy Planning Staff who recently announced a move to Google, and Ross is Secretary Clinton's lead advisor on innovation. Biz and Ev's reactions suggests that -- again, fittingly -- it was the emergent behavior of the crowd that had much to do with triggering their response to that time. (The relevant exchange begins at about the 18 minute mark.)

Asked about State's vocalization about the ill-timed server shut-down, Biz says, "By the way, them," and here, a dramatic pause for humor's sake, "and everybody else." Ev chuckles, and Biz continues. "What we did was we put a note in the UI that said, tomorrow at this time, there will be a maintenance window, Twitter will be down. We were flooded with tweets," as Biz waves his hands towards him, mimicking the onslaught, "with emails, with phone calls...among them, the State Department...[saying,] you can't shut this deal down." The Twitter team agreed with the general sentiment, and worked with their hosting company to keep things up and running.

If you're interested in Twitter, as company and/or as an idea, the full discussion is worth watching sometime.

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