I think it’s a good thing Biz Stone is returning to Twitter, but not because he’s some kind of design or business or creative genius. If he is there’s no clear evidence of that.
Instead, he was the zaniest of Twitter’s three co-founders. Jack Dorsey had a vision for Twitter’s design. Evan Williams had the best shot at making it a business. Stone’s job seems to have been to riff off what his pals thought and help them realize their vision.
The last time I saw Stone he was still pushing a startup he had founded called Jelly. We lunched at a vegan restaurant in San Francisco, and he spent an entire meal explaining to me what Jelly did. I came away from the lunch having almost no idea what Jelly did. Pinterest ended up “buying” Jelly—terms undisclosed—but Stone’s services apparently weren’t required there any longer.
So why am I bullish on the quirky Stone’s return to the quirky company he helped birth? I’ve long been confounded by Twitter’s inability to make something of itself. It’s an important part of the global dialogue, and it has a robust advertising business. I like using it even though the president of the United States does too. But it can’t make money, and the people who know about this sort of thing tell me Twitter’s fundamental problem has been a lack of intelligent product development.
Twitter likely isn’t looking to Stone to improve its products, the goal being to get more users to embrace it. He says he wants to help people understand Twitter’s culture. Dorsey admires Stone’s “energy and heart.” I think these statements, strung together, mean that Stone has permission to help translate Twitter people’s ideas into something users might want to use and advertisers might want to buy.
After all, it worked once before.
In case you missed it (I did), Jeffrey Ubben, one of the most important technology investors you might never have heard of, has stepped down as chief investment officer of the activist investing firm he founded, Value Act Capital. His longtime deputy, Mason Morfit replaces him, though Ubben remains CEO.
A lot going on. Google kicks off its annual I/O developer conference today, where news is expected on enhancements to the Android phone operating system, the company's eponymous digital assistant, and its virtual reality ecosystem Daydream, among many other projects. (Better Android apps on Chrome OS, anyone?)
Appealing to the faithful. Apple's WWDC developer conference isn't until next month, but rumors are emerging that the company will have some happy hardware news for MacBook fans. Several models, including the aging MacBook Air, could get a bump in specs.
The need for speed. Advanced Micro Devices has a new chip for extreme gamers, video editors or anyone else who craves the "absolute ultra high-end of performance in desktop," in the words of SVP Jim Anderson. AMD unveiled the "Ryzen Threadripper" at its analyst day on Tuesday, ahead of the Computex conference at the end of the month, where Intel is rumored to be announcing its own super chip, the Core i9.
Hacker-proof unicorn. CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity firm that burst onto the national scene during the U.S. election season last year when it became the first to pin a data breach at the Democratic National Committee on Russia, said on Wednesday that it has closed a $100 million funding round at a valuation exceeding $1 billion.
Accidental clicks. Facebook said it uncovered a mistake in the way it was measuring interactions with ads running on video carousels on its mobile site and gave some advertisers small refunds. The mistake affected a tiny percentage of ads over the past year, Facebook said.
A stock grows in Brooklyn. Shares of Etsy, one of Adam's struggling companies to watch yesterday, jumped 22% on Tuesday after two activist investor funds disclosed they had bought stakes. Despite the action, the stock remains 14% below its 2015 IPO price.
CVS in sight. Amazon is getting more serious about entering the online pharmacy market. Among other moves, the e-commerce giant hired an insurance industry executive to build a pharmacy benefits manager internally for employees that could be expanded to serve customers later.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
What makes a great job great? Netflix performance engineer Brendan Gregg explained on his blog what he loves about working at the Internet video king, and it doesn't have much to do with the movies.
I know people in tech who are burned out but stay in lousy jobs, assuming every workplace is just as terrible. Jobs where there is little to no freedom, no responsibility or accountability, and where dumb office politics is the norm. I wish everyone could have a chance to work at a company like Netflix. Little to no bureaucracy. You can focus on engineering and getting stuff done, with awesome staff who will help you.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Facebook’s Fact Checking Can Make Fake News Spread Even Faster by Mathew Ingram
Amazon’s Alexa Will Now Tell You What You’ve Missed by Jonathan Vanian
Google and Amazon Spar Over Big SAP Customers by Barb Darrow
This Startup Wants to Modernize Public Finance by Leena Rao
Apple Plans Major iCloud Data and App Security Change by Don Reisinger
BEFORE YOU GO
People post pictures of all kinds of stupid things online, but it's usually at their own behest. Usually, but not always. Mastercard in Serbia started a promotion offering prizes to customers who would post pictures of the contents of their purse on Facebook. Oh, and to ensure that participants were Mastercard customers, the company added that the posts should include the credit card in the picture. Doh.