It’s hard to find anyone anywhere who has anything less-than-glowing to say about Jack Dorsey, the entrepreneur who invented Twitter and another red-hot company called Square and is now Twitter’s product guru.
Jack Dorsey, everyone agrees these days, is “the next Steve Jobs.“
And it is Jack’s obvious brilliance, work ethic, and product-design chops that are always cited whenever anyone asks why a company like Twitter, with nearly 1,000 employees, a ~$10 billion valuation, and all the cash in the world has to settle for having a part-time product guy.
Because that, of course, is what Jack is at Twitter–a part-time product guy.
Jack’s other job, CEO of Square, commands at least half of his work attention. Jack, legendarily, lives right between Twitter and Square, and he spends one shift at Twitter and the next shift at Square.
And of course Jack works 80 hours a week minimum, this story goes, so it’s not really like Twitter is having to settle for having a part-time product guy. It’s more like Twitter and Square both have absolutely amazing full-time product guys.
Well, it’s time we at least put that last bit of spin to bed.
If Jack didn’t have two jobs, he’d still have his legendary design and product chops and work ethic… and he’d be giving those 80 hours a week to one company, not 40 each to two.
And it seems safe to say that either Twitter or Square would be getting twice as much out of their product chief if Jack were only working one job–if not more.
Well, because if there’s one thing that just about everyone who has ever accomplished anything amazing in life agrees upon, it’s that obsessive focus is key to success.
Splitting your time between two completely different companies is the opposite of focus, no matter how talented you are. And pretending that you can do each of these jobs as well as you would if you only had one of them is not just dreamy–it’s delusional.
Now, it’s possible that Jack is such an amazing product genius that his half-time effort is better than anyone else’s full-time effort, but this seems unlikely. There are a lot of smart, talented product people out there.
And it is very much worth noting that, even if Jack IS the next Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs did not split his time between two companies, at least not for long. When Steve got canned from Apple, he went off and founded NEXT. Then, later, for a brief period, he bought Pixar and ran that while also running NEXT. But soon after he rejoined Apple, he focused on one thing… Apple.
And if Steve hadn’t done that–if, instead, Steve had spent half his week at Pixar and half at Apple–I’d bet good money that Apple wouldn’t be anywhere near where it is today.
In any event, the proof is in the pudding. Jack has now been doing his two part-time jobs for more than a year. So we can look at Twitter’s product and success and see how he’s doing.
So, how’s Jack doing?
Well, officially, everyone raves about the amazing leadership and influence Jack has had at Twitter, and everyone gushed all over some of the recent product innovations Twitter announced under Jack’s leadership.
But I have to say this.
As a massively heavy Twitter user, the recent changes that Twitter has made to my Twitter-app–TweetDeck–have been all for the worse.
My old TweetDeck for iPhone stopped working, so I had to upgrade to the new one. Yes, it’s buggy and crash-prone, but the old version had that problem, too. But it’s the “improvements” to the new version of the TweetDeck app that bug me the most. I won’t chronicle them here, but suffice it to say that I don’t like them. The new version of TweetDeck is now less-intuitive and harder to use than the old one. And I’m holding Jack responsible for that.
And then there’s the steady stream of Twitter complaints I see on Twitter about the new Twitter.com. I don’t use Twitter.com myself much, so I’m no authority there, but aside from the usual hosannahs from the techo-chamber, I don’t see a lot of folks who are thrilled with it.
And, lastly, there’s Twitter’s new vision.
I saw Jack speak in Germany recently. He was as articulate and charming and suave as always, and, thankfully, he doesn’t appear to have let the whole “next Steve Jobs” thing go to his head. (It’s not Jack’s fault that people have beatified him.) But the new vision Jack laid out for Twitter just wasn’t very coherent.
Per Jack’s speech, Twitter seems to have given up on the idea that normal people are going to Tweet. And that’s fine. Normal people probably aren’t going to Tweet. So the new Twitter vision, Jack says, is that normal people are going to check in on Twitter all day to see “what’s going on.”
And I have no doubt that some normal people might do that. But, anecdotally at least, that does not, in fact, seem to be the way normal people are using Twitter.
The way normal people are using Twitter, it seems, is to follow celebrities and yak together about things that are being shown right then on TV (like the Super Bowl). And that’s very different than turning to Twitter as a news source, which seems to be part of the new Twitter vision.
In support of this, check out this chart from a recent Pew study on where folks get news about the Presidential campaign. Only 2% of people turn to Twitter for news. That’s not a whole lot of people for a company with 50 million daily users that is staking at least part of its future vision on news.
Photo: Pew Research centre
And check out this other chart below, which we pulled together for our Social Commerce Summit last week.
This chart shows the average time the average social network user spends using the service each month.
Facebook, obviously, is rocking the house. People live on Facebook.
And Tumblr’s doing pretty well, too. Tumblr’s success really is astounding.
And Pinterest’s explosion on the the scene is startling. People already spend a lot of time on Pinterest.
But people hardly spend any time on Twitter.
Photo: BI Intelligence, Comscore
Yes, I understand that lots of people use Twitter via apps, but not everyone. And Twitter has put a lot of effort into redesigning its Twitter.com page, which I doubt Twitter would have done if only a tiny fraction of its users ever used it.
So I still think this low monthly usage of Twitter is startling. And concerning.
And it leads me back to the point I was making at the beginning.
Twitter’s product direction is confusing to me. In many ways, it seems to be getting worse, not better.
And Twitter’s vision of itself is also confusing to me. It’s vague, and it doesn’t seem to line up with how normal people are actually using the service.
And I can’t help but wonder if part of the reason why Twitter’s product and vision seem confusing is that Twitter’s product guy is only working part-time.
So might it not finally be time for Twitter to consider hiring a full-time product guy?