What Twitter Should Have Done Differently From the Very Beginning, Slate, May 2020

Blaine got interviewed by Slate on his early work at Twitter:

Blaine Cook: Yeah, I mean, there were different communities within the company, even though it was obviously quite small. Evan [Williams], and to a lesser extent Jack [Dorsey], came from the tech blogger world and had that sort of background. I had done a bunch of activist work and had worked on tools like TxtMob in the years before. We really looked at Twitter and the tools that we were building as new media platforms that enabled voices of people that wouldn’t have had representation up until that point. So the idea was that there was the established corporate media and that the internet presented the opportunity to have different venues that weren’t controlled by the establishment, as it were.

What about the idea of the platform being “the free speech wing of the free speech party,” as Twitter executives called it in the early 2010s? Was that a part of Twitter’s identity in the mid-2000s?

From my perspective, that framing isn’t far off from what we were trying to do in terms of opening up communication spaces and whatnot. But I personally have always felt like moderation, community management, and having responsibility over culture is actually really important, and I think that’s one of the reasons that I ended up leaving Twitter so early—it was just a fundamental difference about the approach to those things. I think so much emphasis was placed on scaling and going after the celebrity crew and all that kind of stuff in the early days that they kind of lost sight of what it meant to run and have a community. In the really early days, there weren’t too many social networks around, and we definitely looked to communities like Flickr, which had a strong position on moderation and on community guidelines. For me, that was always really important.