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Twitter founder speaks about innovation, uncertainty

October 2, 2009

Twitter founder/CEO Evan Williams (@ev) kicked off the 2009 Online News Association conference to the sound of hundreds of keyboards. Williams began Twitter as a side project more than three years ago. Since then, the 140-character microblogging service has become one of the most influential social networking tools.

He discussed Twitter’s explosion to the social networking scene and the interplay between journalists and Twitter’s millions of users across the world. He suggested that tweets are clues, not news in themselves. Journalists should then follow up with their own fact-finding and analysis, Williams said.

Williams also discussed how Twitter functions as a network, not a stand-alone site, that allows people to find information that is relevant to them. Today, Williams said, the site will introduce a geotagging function for developers. He didn’t specify when that feature would be rolled out for the public.

Perhaps more important than the specifics of Twitter, Williams addressed the role of innovation in the current media climate and some of his own experiences with failure.

“Create something you want to see in the world,” Williams told the audience near the end of the keynote. He went on to add that would-be entrepreneurs should focus on what they can give rather than conventional notions of “what sells.” He also encouraged innovators to take chances while, at the same time, learning to embrace the idea of failure.

If you’re in San Francisco for the conference, I’d love to meet up with you. Follow me on Twitter (@jmsummers) where I’ll be live-tweeting many of the sessions I attend. If not, many sessions are featured on Livestream where you can send in your questions for all the panelists.

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