A cynic might have expect Biz Stone, the charismatic co-founder of Twitter, to talk in brief sentences of no more than 140 characters during his insightful opening remarks Tuesday night as the first speaker in Bucknell University's new Forum series, "tech/no," which embraces the pros and cons and promises of technology.
But instead, Stone, a self-professed "geek," dressed in casual jeans and sneakers, took his time and enthralled an audience of more than 300 students and area residents with insights into creativity -- and how he came to co-found a social network that has about 140 million active users producing more than 340 million daily "tweets."
Drawing on his experiences as a nerd in high school, Stone said he came to an early insight that "opportunities can be created. I wanted to fit in, but I wasn't good enough to join the baseball or football team, so I created a lacrosse team. I think a lot about this when faced with a difficult challenge."
Later, he left college to join Little, Brown publishers and then Google before forming his own company. At Google, however, Stone learned that there is always another creative approach to a problem. "They have so many smart people there, and they believe they can solve any problem, meet any challenge."
He also realized at one point that "in order to make it big, you sometimes have to fail big."
The beginnings of Twitter, he said, were anything but successful.
"It began as a side project ... a way to follow people and see what they are doing at all times," he said. "The thing is, we were having a ton of fun with it, even if people didn't get it. They thought it was stupid. But I realized I had a lot of joy and I knew that this is what was missing in technology. That kept us going in 2007, 2008."
The core concept of Twitter is that it is a tool that allows humanity to behave as one.
"And I realized that Twitter was going to be a success, it would be a triumph of humanity," he said, "because I believe people are basically good and if you give them the proper tools, they will prove it every day."
But Twitter is also a business, and Stone said his company still is trying to figure out the fundamental metrics of success.
As the network continues to develop, one of the key questions users will have to answer is "What do we want to share about ourselves?" Stone said. "But users are in control of that."
In the end, it is not about technology, but what we do with it, Stone said.
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