The Twitter CEO admitted the platform incentivizes the wrong kind of behavior, consequences he had not imagined when building the platform thirteen years ago. “In the past, it’s incentivized outrage. It’s incentivized a lot of mob behavior. It’s incentivized a lot of group harassment,” he acknowledged. “If I designed the service again, I wouldn’t emphasize the follow count as much. I wouldn’t emphasize the like count as much. I don’t think I would even create likes.”
Today, his team is focused on healthy conversations, he said, and making sure that having a quality experience on Twitter requires a lot less work from users, whether that’s in the time it takes to build a rich community or to constantly report abuse and harassment.
“I don’t want to maximize time on Twitter, I want to maximize what (users) take away from it and what they learn from it,” Dorsey said. “More relevance means less time on the service and that’s perfectly fine.” The main metric is still daily active users, but the platform is balancing it with a measure of conversation quality, being built in partnership with Cortico at MIT. The business can still serve an ad against that quality conversation, he added.
TED curator and interviewer Chris Anderson expressed the frustration in the room when he compared Dorsey to the captain of the Titanic. As the ship heads for the iceberg and worried passengers demand action, he listens, empathizes and offers an unflinching analysis of the ship’s flaws. But what passengers really want is for him to “turn the f***ing wheel,” as Anderson put it. “You’re doing a terrific job at listening but dial up the urgency!” he added.
“We could do a bunch of superficial things to address what you’re talking about,” Dorsey retorted. “We are working as quickly as we can. But quickness will not get the job done. Focus will.”