It's a question for the ages. Who's more smug: Biz Stone, the vegan, vodka-shilling Twitter co-founder, or Malcolm Gladwell, the New Yorker's wild-haired maker of memes? Stone today made the case against "smug... wrong... absurd" Gladwell, a known Twitter hater.
In an article for The Atlantic, Stone attempted to rebut a piece Gladwell published in the New Yorker attacking "grandiose" claims about Twitter's ability to help affect real social change. Gladwell argued that real change comes from tight social bonds like those formed by close real-world friends, and from hierarchies of real-world organizations rather than from loosely structured virtual networks like Twitter. Stone, meanwhile, writes that "big change can come in small packages," and touts the power of "micro politics," in which small actions and pieces of information help undermine the status quo in major ways. Twitter, for example, helped spread the news within China about the Nobel prize awarded this month to imprisoned Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo. Stone even cites "esteemed" Gladwell's Tipping Point to build his case, but otherwise doesn't seem much of a fan, writing,
Gladwell is wrong.... To suggest that emerging tools like Twitter have no part to play in the future of meaningful change is absurd... Mr. Gladwell ends his piece by highlighting a story about a lost mobile phone suggesting Twitter is only good for helping "Wall Streeters get phones back from teen-age girls," and closes smugly with, "Viva la revolución." ... The fact that former national-security adviser Mark Pfeifle called for Twitter to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize seems only to have ruffled his feathers
Guys: Chill, it's OK. You're both Important People who are Changing the World. Taunting magazine articles probably aren't the best way for you two to communicate. Might we suggest a face to face meeting, say, over some Fair Trade coffee and organic, animal-product-free artisan scones? Just get your iCals in sync and figure out whose Prius you'll be carpooling in and who will be buying the carbon offsets, and you're good to go.
[Photo of Gladwell, right, via Getty Images; photo of Stone via Joi Ito/Flickr]