150 WORD BOOK REVIEW: Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton

HatchingTwitterPerhaps the most on-point quote about Twitter in this entire book comes from Mark Zuckerberg, who in 2010 remarked it’s “such a mess, it’s as if they drove a clown car into a gold mine and fell in.”

It’s hard to disagree with him after reading this. Bilton’s book brilliantly divulges the myriad power struggles, fights and personalities who somehow conspired to bring Twitter, against all odds, to a point where it’s about to list in one of the most eagerly anticipated IPOs in years.

With the exception of Biz Stone (who sounds like one of the nicest people in the world), few come out of this unscathed. Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Twitter’s investors and many others find themselves embroiled in Borgia-esque scenes of backstabbing, betrayal and buffoonery.

Bilton is a brilliant author, and this is him at the top of his game. Buy it. You won’t regret it.

150 WORD BOOK REVIEW: The year without pants by Scott Berkun – a book about WordPress

Year without pants coverOver 20% of the websites currently online are powered in one way or another by WordPress yet only 120 full time staffers work for its parent company, Automattic. There’s no central office. Staff work remotely – from pretty much every continent on Earth.

The year without pants is based on Scott Berkun’s experience of working with Automattic and their distributed workforce and centres around trying to figure out if and how it works. It does.

It makes for fascinating reading if, like me, you think that office working serves a purpose, but should not be the default setting for organisations. Berkun is an engaging author, and the book gives lots of examples of the processes that WordPress use to overcome any issues that arise from not having physical interactions on an ongoing basis. There are lots of lessons here – not just from Automattic/Wordpress, but also from Berkun’s time at Microsoft. Well worth a look.

150-WORD REVIEW: Contagious by Jonah Berger

This post is by new contributor Eamonn Carey, who tweets here and is Head of Digital for MHP Communications

contagious-300x459Why do certain things go viral and take over the world? The reality is that there’s no one answer – no one ring to rule them all. There are so many variables at play that it’s almost impossible to predict what will work and what won’t.

What Contagious tries to do is give people a primer on the constituent parts of ideas that have ended up going viral. Berger’s thesis is that ideas that have social currency, triggers, emotion, a public element, practical value and stories are the ones that become Gangnam Style successes.

Fast Company reckons Berger wants to be the next Gladwell. The book bears that out. Simply explained and illustrated with plenty of examples, this is a pop-science book for the masses rather than a exhaustive manual for specialists. Occasional repetition is irritating, but overall, it’s well worth a read.