Close encounters with Twitter

I’d been working as a web producer at O’Reilly for about a year when I got an IM sometime in April 2006 from ex-coworker Tony Stubblebine. He asked if I knew any good web developers who were looking for a job. I replied, “You mean other than me?”

Tony had left O’Reilly a few months earlier to start as director of engineering at Odeo. So in hush-hush fashion I went down to the city for an interview. Actually it was multiple interviews over the span of several hours. It was a little intimidating, but also exhilarating. I learned a lot. Most importantly I realized that this was exactly the kind of environment I wanted to be working in.

I also learned that they were hiring because two of the Odeo engineers were off working on a side-project called twttr. I don’t even think it was available in beta at the time, but Tony said he’d hook me up.

Apparently everyone gave me the thumbs up, so it was up to Evan Williams to actually approve the hire. This is where it gets interesting. Tony had recently moved into a new house, and was throwing a housewarming party that weekend. Ev was supposed to be there, as was I, so he figured why not just kill two birds with one stone? The only challenge, as I learned the moment I walked in the door, was that the party was attended by most of the people I worked with at O’Reilly, and most of the people I’d interviewed with at Odeo. I recall a few awkward how-do-you-know-so-and-so moments, but for the most part the two groups kept to themselves, and I was able to navigate between them.

Towards the end of the party, Ev and I sat down together, and had a perfectly nice chat. It seemed to go really well. It was funny to discover later that the event was captured on Ev’s girlfriend’s Flickr stream in the form of a ristebilder (or headshaker) photo:

Justin headshaker

Meanwhile, back at work, I started getting these, well, annoying text messages from Tony telling me what he was doing. I remember something about strawberries and a minivan. I was annoyed mostly because every text message I received cost me ten cents, but also because I didn’t want to be drawing attention to the fact that I had recently interviewed at Odeo. I also admit I didn’t really see the point. So I unsubscribed myself.

Later I found out from Tony that Ev had approved my hire, but that the Odeo board had instituted a hiring freeze. It was like learning I’d been hired and fired in the same email. Thankfully I didn’t dwell. It wasn’t long before I found Federated Media, and the rest is history.


great close encounter tale jwatt. as for the photo, looks like a classic jowlers shot.

Odeo went to hell right after you interviewed. Ev decided to buy the company back. It wasn’t just a hiring freeze, people were going to be laid off. And I’d decided to leave. So it didn’t seem right to make you an offer. Seems like FM was a great opportunity though?

Oh yeah, FM was totally the right move in so many ways. I often thought to myself when Odeo imploded after I didn’t get the job that I’d dodged a silver bullet (especially after you left). Plus, my heart was really not in podcasting.

It’s pretty cool though that you have status #25.


That is the ugliest picture. But when I searched for Ristebilder and found I got a great laugh from all the others who have been caught in the act.

Glad you’re on it now in addition to (of course, not instead of) justinsomnia.

My on-ness is debatable ;)


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