Farewell to Jack Dorsey, Silicon Valley’s wackiest CEO. Twitter is a reflection of his nature

Silicon Valley is a little less weird. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s bearded, hooked-nosed sports executive, announced his retirement from the social network he co-founded 15 years ago. More than a major turnaround for his company, it marks the end of his tenure as the rather eccentric person to run any major US tech company.

Silicon Valley is an odd place, but nowhere among its top players will you find any CEO that can be fairly described as a cosmic practitioner. Not the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, and certainly not his replacement as chief executive Andy Jassy; not Google’s Sundar Pichai, nor Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and Brad Smith. Not even Netflix boss Reed Hastings made it there – though Weird online Maoist management style built around transparency and radical self-criticism.

Sure, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has an eccentric personality, too: the year he challenged himself to kill every single animal he ate (at a time, chopping down a goat and serving it to Dorsey for dinner), for example, or his perennial fixation of Augustus Caesar, the first Roman Emperor. But with classic rich man interests like windsurfing and snowboarding, he’s not the right man for Dorsey.

The only serious rival is Elon Musk, who blew up a Tesla into space in memory of the late sci-fi author Iain M Banks and Naming your baby with pop star Grimes X A-12 (prior to public correction her about its meaning). However, Musk’s strange actions are often influenced and tried, done with a predictable wink to fans and seemingly calculated to stir controversy and gain likes and dislikes. retweets on the social network that Dorsey built.

By contrast, Dorsey never seemed to care about his Twitter following — or sometimes, about Twitter itself. What other Big Tech CEO has been fired from his own company for doing too much yoga? Dorsey was kicked out of Twitter in 2008 for leaving the office at around 6 p.m. to relieve stress and take night courses in fashion and drawing. “You can be a tailor or the CEO of Twitter, but you can’t be both,” says his co-founder Evan Williams. tell him.

He’s never given up on those interests, telling another co-founder shortly before Twitter’s launch in 2006 that he would “give up technology and become a fashion designer.” Before Twitter, he pursued botanical illustration and massage therapy, only leaving the job after returning to San Francisco and noticing that “everyone is a massage therapist.” He eventually regained the CEO seat in 2015.

Later, rapper Azealia Banks claimed that Dorsey once sent her a lock of his beard hair so she could create an amulet to protect him from Isis, allegedly in exchange for promoting her album (you don’t). “A lot of articles say I put a stop to him but I don’t.” Banks said in 2018. “We made a spiritual pact… and he let me hang. He’ll pay for it.” Although Dorsey has flatly denied this, the fact that it makes sense says a lot about his image.

There was also Dorsey’s mocking, mocking, sometimes outspoken performance during his remote testimony before the US Congress in March of this year, in which he often clearly checked his phone. When lawmakers questioned witnesses with yes-or-no questions on stage, he created a blank Twitter poll that asked users “yes” or “no,” then answered the question. cheeky of a congresswoman about it by saying “yes”.

He then retweeted a tweet by the Big Tech lobbyist criticizing the quality of the questions. In his kitchen background, a special “clock” can be seen displaying the real-time exchange rate of Bitcoin to US dollars.

All of this would only be a puzzle if Dorsey’s quirks weren’t filtered down to his company. However, during some of Twitter’s most important years, he seemed to dream of being at the helm, telling journalists about his daily routine – taking an ice bath in the morning, fasting until dark, over an hour’s walk to work through rainy and foggy San Francisco – while new features and innovations are not being developed.

After all, he’s running two companies: not just Twitter, but Square, the payments provider he founded after being laid off in 2008, will now be his focus. Again.

These were the years when countries used armies of Twitter bots to manipulate foreign elections; when online extremists bet Twitter’s algorithms to push their messages into the headlines; when organized harassment becomes an everyday reality for many users; when Donald Trump used his knack for controversy to win the presidency and turn Twitter into a megaphone that would later help incite revolt in the Capitol. Dorsey’s replies rarely seem to rise above the placid blue sky about freedom of expression and “sane conversations”.

All of that started to change around 2019. Someone seemed to have ignited him and the company, leading to a rapid influx of new features and an unusual level of transparency for the company. Twitter begins releasing massive public data dump of disinformation campaigns it has discovered, and explains more than other companies, both to journalists and the public, about its rules. and how they are implemented.

When Twitter, Facebook and YouTube all banned Donald Trump after the Capitol riots, Dorsey gave the most straightforward and detailed explanation. “I don’t celebrate or feel proud that we have to ban [Trump]”, he said.” The ban is a failure on our part to foster healthy conversation… [It] sets a precedent that I feel is dangerous… [and] In the long run it will destroy the purpose and high ideals of the open internet. ”

And while Facebook’s internal research into its own issues must be disclosed to journalists as “Facebook files,” Twitter has released the full details of the studies. shows that its content ranking algorithms are biased towards right-wing news sources and that its cropping algorithms favor dark skin.

Even Twitter’s fantasies are more dreamy than most. Many contemporary tech CEOs claim to believe in “openness” and “decentralization” because they grew up in the anarchic and arrogant hacker culture of the nineties. Most now only respond to lip service comments in their statements and actively oppose them with their actions.

But Dorsey, by far the biggest crypto advocate among all Big Tech CEOs, goes on to talk about creating an open marketplace for Twitter users to build and sell their own ranking algorithms, or move Twitter to a new open technology protocol that will free it from centralized control . These things may never happen, and may just be hot air, though Parag Agrawal replaces Dorsey also a believer.

For many, all of this will be too little, too late, and Dorsey’s main legacy will be the extremism, polarization, and anxiety-ridden cultural neuroticism that Twitter has helped rekindle. Even so, its flaws and virtues directly reflect the distinctive traits of a tech baron who almost became a tailor and never stopped talking — and talking, and talking — about the hacker ideal. mine.

Io Dodds is a technology reporter based in California Farewell to Jack Dorsey, Silicon Valley’s wackiest CEO. Twitter is a reflection of his nature


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