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Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone Plays Not My Job

Biz Stone is the co-founder of Twitter. Follow him @biz. i i

Biz Stone is the co-founder of Twitter. Follow him @biz. Dustin Diaz/Twitter hide caption

itoggle caption Dustin Diaz/Twitter
Biz Stone is the co-founder of Twitter. Follow him @biz.

Biz Stone is the co-founder of Twitter. Follow him @biz.

Dustin Diaz/Twitter

Back in 2006, Biz Stone and his friends had an idea, spent about two weeks programming it, and launched the microblogging site Twitter ... and haven't gotten any work done since.

We've invited Stone to play a game called "I can hardly clear my throat in 140 characters." Three questions about very long-winded people.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

PETER SAGAL, Host:

Now, the game where we take people who have done great things and ask them to do a silly thing. Namely, a game called Not My Job. Back in 2006, Biz Stone and his friends had an idea. They spent about two weeks programming it, and launched the micro blogging site Twitter, which is why you haven't gotten any work done since.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Biz Stone, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

M: Thank you.

SAGAL: All right. So, take us back to the moment when Twitter was invented. You guys were sitting around some office, I assume, and you said to yourselves, wow, you know, we are having 30 to 120 seconds of uninterrupted attention, we need to break it up.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: No, it was more along the lines of we working on a project that nobody cared about, and we wanted to work on something that we thought was fun. So we switched to Twitter. And everyone told us it was the stupidest idea in the world. And weirdly enough, people were like, what's this thing that's so horrible? Could somebody tell me about this, I'd like to hear about it? And we grew because of it.

M: When my friend Michele Feldman showed it to me at my son's gymnastic meet and I thought it was the stupidest, most narcissistic waste of time I had ever seen in my life. And I have enjoyed the hell out of it.

SAGAL: Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

M: That's typically the trajectory.

SAGAL: Yeah.

M: But that doesn't mean it's not narcissistic.

M: It turns out it has a lot of different facets, because while there's many people doing stupid narcissistic things, that gets you to use it on a regular basis and it gets you familiar with it. But then when you see an accident, you're trained to tweet that you've just seen an accident, and suddenly that's a useful piece of information. Whereas, if we told you that this was a program only for reporting accidents, you'd never think of it.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Don't you think teenagers would get on it though? If it was like, hey, it's a cool new accident reporting program for your phone.

M: No.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Is there anything you wish people would stop using Twitter for, or wish they'd stop tweeting about?

M: I don't think you should do anything over Twitter that you shouldn't do in real life.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

M: So, for example, I would not like to show you my crotch right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Right. Let's talk about the fact that you are one of the more successful internet-type guys out there. Is there a club for you, like internet moguls? We imagine like this incredibly luxurious club, very exclusive, where like you and Zuckerberg and the guys from Google all get together and you sit in these, like, solid gold armchairs and you all just stare at your smart phones and never talk to each other.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Is that what it's like?

M: If there is, I haven't been invited.

SAGAL: Really?

M: I had a meeting once with Zuckerberg, and every joke I said landed like a dead fish on the ground.

SAGAL: Really?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: So I said...

SAGAL: He just stared at you like a Vulcan.

M: Yeah.

SAGAL: He was like, oh, I understand this is what you humans call humor.

M: Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: It was kind of like that.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

M: Evan and I walked into the room. He walked in first, sat in a chair. There was a loveseat left. It was a small room. I walked in next, sat on one side of the loveseat. Ev walked in third and Ev said, oh, do you want me to close the door or leave it open? And Zuckerberg said, "yes."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: So Ev said, oh, well I guess I'll just close it this much.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Wow. So I understand that Facebook at one point they offered to buy you guys for a lot of money.

M: Yeah, that was the meeting, actually.

SAGAL: Really?

M: Yeah. We drove down there. We were on the way down there. I got in Ev's car, and I said, where are we going? And he said, we're going to Facebook. I said, why are we going to Facebook? He said, because they would like to acquire us. I said, oh, well what do they want to acquire us for? He's like, I don't know, what do you think's a good number.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: I think we were valued at like $25,000 at the time. And I said, I don't know, $500 million.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You just said that?

M: Yeah. And he said, yeah, that sounds good. That sounds pretty good.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So how did you come up with that number?

M: I just made it up because it was ridiculous.

SAGAL: So you down, so you drive down, you go in and there's Zuckerberg.

M: Yes.

SAGAL: And?

M: And so what happens was, you know, we get to this awkward moment where he says, well, you know, I don't like to talk about numbers, it's not something I do.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Yeah.

M: And Evan said, well, you know, that's not something we do either.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Yeah. Number, pshaw, pshaw.

M: There's one number I do like, $500 million.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: So then Zuckerberg, said, but if you'd like to throw me out a number, I'll tell you yes or no right now. And Evan, said, okay, 500 million. And Zuckerberg said that is a big number.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

M: And I said you said you'd say yes or no.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: That wasn't even the worst moment. The worst moment was he was like hey, do you guys want to go have lunch at our cafeteria. So we had to wait on this huge line for lunch. Evan was like aren't you the boss? Can't you like kind of cut the line a little bit here?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: And he's like that's not how we do things here.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: And that's when I said, oh my gosh, Evan, we have that thing.

SAGAL: Really?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: You bailed?

M: All because you waited in a line?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

M: We don't like to be queued up.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I know. Well, Biz Stone, we have asked you here to play a game that we're calling?

CARL KASELL, Host:

I can hardly clear my throat in 140 characters.

SAGAL: Twitter forces people, as you know, to express their thoughts very briefly. So we're going to ask you, sir, three questions about the very longwinded. Answer two out of three questions right and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. Carl, who is Biz Stone playing for?

KASELL: Biz is playing for Layla Galindo of Sunnyvale, California.

SAGAL: All right, ready to play?

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

M: All right.

SAGAL: First up, Marcel Proust.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Obviously.

SAGAL: The author of "Remembrance of Things Past," seven volume autobiographical novel that took years to write. Mr. Proust had but one job in his whole life. It didn't go very well, why? A: he called in sick the very first day, and never showed up. B: he was asked to write a two-sentence memo and took eight days to do it.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Or C: he asked to work from home and then left Paris for his hometown a hundred miles away.

M: Was he happy with this job he had?

SAGAL: You know, he didn't tweet what he thought of it, so I don't know.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: At Marcel Proust, love my job.

M: Madeline is delicious.

SAGAL: Yeah.

M: Did he have a nice house?

SAGAL: He lived with his parents.

M: He didn't go home.

M: Number four: he had to wait in line.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

M: He definitely didn't go home. He either took off or he did the other thing. I'm going to say he took the job and got the hell out of town.

SAGAL: He took the job, asked to work from home, left.

M: Boom.

SAGAL: No, he called in sick the first day.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: His parents were worried about him. They got him a job in a library. He called in sick. Said, oh, I'm too sick to come in. He never showed up. He kept the job for two years though before they finally got rid of him.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Wow.

SAGAL: Next up, Joseph Stalin, like a lot of communist dictators, he could talk as long as he wanted, because who is going to stop him? In fact, the Soviet government put out an eight record set of just one of his speeches. And one entire side, thirty minutes of audio, was devoted to what? A: telling a farmer's daughter joke that lasted that whole half hour. B: a standing ovation that lasted thirty minutes. Or C: a thirty minute drum solo.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: I'm going to go with B, the standing ovation.

SAGAL: You're right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

M: Wow.

M: Yeah.

SAGAL: Stalin had a record, thirty minutes of which, a standing ovation.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: One party functionary was once sent to the gulag because after a toast to Stalin, he dared to be the first man to stop clapping and sit down. True story. All right, this is great. This is great. You've got one more chance. Here we go. Bill Clinton is our last longwinded person.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

M: Bill Clinton.

SAGAL: Bill Clinton is famously longwinded. He keeps his aides, back when he was a president, and now, up all night with his monologues about all kinds of topics. According to David Remnick, who followed Clinton around for a New York profile, one of his lengthy monologues touched on what topic? A: his favorite kind of pizza. B: the sex lives of bonobo chimps. Or C: the many charms of Beyonce.

M: Wow.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Bonobos are a bunch of horny apes.

SAGAL: They are.

M: I could easily...

SAGAL: The question is what Clinton would be talking about.

M: That's why I can see that as a possibility.

SAGAL: All right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: So the other one besides the horny apes, it was also - what else was it? What have we got?

SAGAL: It was his favorite kind of pizza, the sex lives of bonobo chimps or the many charms of Beyonce.

M: And these were long discussions.

SAGAL: Yeah, well it's Clinton, there's no other kind.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Okay. The many charms of Beyonce.

SAGAL: I just want to be clear.

M: Apes, Beyonce and who?

SAGAL: You founded Twitter, that's 140 characters, boom, done, quick, simple, done, out there.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: You didn't found like novels or something. It was like boom, go, yes.

M: Did anyone found novels?

SAGAL: No, I don't know.

M: We should do that.

SAGAL: Yeah, I know. That's a startup.

M: I'm going to go with the bonobos.

SAGAL: You're going to go with the bonobos.

M: Yeah.

SAGAL: After all that, you're going to go with the bonobos?

M: Yeah.

SAGAL: You're right, sir, yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: Well done.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

M: All right.

SAGAL: Remnick quotes Clinton as saying "when one of the bonobos makes a kill, they share the food, unlike all the other apes. And then they fall down on the ground and have group sex. It's a way of relieving aggression."

M: See.

SAGAL: There you go. He says that nobody in the party had anything to say to Clinton about that topic.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Carl, how did Biz Stone do on our quiz?

KASELL: Two correct answers, Peter, that makes him a winner.

SAGAL: Well done.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

M: All right.

SAGAL: Biz Stone is the co-founder of Twitter. Biz, thank you so much for being with us. What a pleasure to have you. Biz Stone, ladies and gentlemen.

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