Upon learning that Nick Bilton’s book, “Hatching Twitter,” is an assigned reading for my Media & Content class at Kellogg next week, I thought I’d do some advanced reading and read the entire book over the weekend before the first week of class.
I thought it was going to be just another book written like a biography or a historical account of the company, similar to books like “The Lords of Strategy,” a take on McKinsey’s history as the venerable American consulting firm, or “Snowball,” the biography of Warren Buffet that recounted his life since up to his position today as one of the richest people of the world, if not the preeminent one.
Wrong I was. This book is not like the books I mentioned above; it is written like a creative nonfiction book, or a postmodern fiction. Nick Bilton writes in the first chapter the research he undertook to birth this book: hundreds of hours of recorded interviews among the people involved in establishing the company, government officials, current and past employees, friends, employees of competing companies, etc; thousands of documents that include emails, investment filings, boardroom communication, legal notices, and of course, tweets.
Nick Bilton is a master of collecting various sources of information and threading them together to form a historical account of the history of the company that is closer to objectivity.
Much more than a book about the history of the company, it ponders the philosophical questions that many of us may have asked in critical thinking classes in college: is there such a thing as an objective truth? Is this act of piecing together information enough to explain reality? Do we put more weight on empirical evidence versus personal interpretations of events, or abstract principles? Is “subjective truth” our own individual definitions of truth, all there is, and there is no such thing as a universal truth? Furthermore, to take a step outside the book itself, is Nick Bilton a good interpreter of reality? Is an outsider a better author of Twitter’s history?
For the postmodernist in me, this book is a joy to read!