The New Yorker published a feature on Twitter/Square co-founder Jack Dorsey last week, and in comparison to recent tech takedowns, this profile was downright fawning. D.T. Max — best known for his biography of suicidal novelist David Foster Wallace — granted a grudging respect to Dorsey’s endless aphorisms (“Twitter is about moving words. Square is about moving money.”) and peripatetic life story.
Here’s what we learned:
1. Jack Dorsey was always a minimalist. Despite being the oldest of three boys while growing up, Dorsey insisted on keeping the smallest room in the St. Louis family home. He also once turned his skin orange from his intense ‘Palo’ diet (just like his idol Steve Jobs), didn’t drink alcohol until he was 22, and is obsessed with Japanese design and customs.
2. Dorsey eats at a fancy restaurant almost every night of the week. He keeps to a strict schedule: Aziza on Monday, Zuni on Tuesday, 54 Mint on Wednesday, and Tiburon on Thursday. The idea, for Dorsey, is to go “really deep” into each of these restaurants and learn their most intimate details.
3. He’s trying really hard to differentiate Square from Apple: At one point, he whispers to an engineer: “Apple is moving in this direction. . . . We can’t be a version of what they’re doing, and right now we are.” He added, “Get away from white as much as you can.”
4. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone is really funny: Or at least he is with this quote: “[Dorsey] still has this way about him that is, like, ‘The ginkgo leaf is the perfect leaf. That’s why it’s the only leaf I draw.’ And now he’s able to say, like, ‘The BMW is the only car I drive, because it’s the best automotive engineering on the planet,’ or whatever. It was a ginkgo leaf before, and now it’s a Prada suit.”
5. He’s tatted up: Dorsey has an elongated ‘S’ tattoo on his left forearm, which represents three things he finds beautiful: an f-hole of a violin, a collarbone, and the integral symbol from calculus. Around the same time he got the tattoo, he also had his nose pierced, which he now calls a mistake.
6. He was really, really serious about fashion design: He took classes at Apparel Arts in San Francisco, and designed two pencil skirts, which he has since thrown out.
7. Original Twitter employee Noah Glass may have been lying to the New York Times: Nick Bilton of the Times recently reported that the most influential early discussion of Twitter came between Noah Glass and Dorsey after a long night of drinking. Glass accused Dorsey and Twitter co-founder Ev Williams of forcing him out and washing over his contributions. However, Dorsey affirms to The New Yorker that he originally voiced his plan for Twitter while sitting on a slide in a San Francisco playground with two other Odeo employees. Glass was a key contributor in the early weeks, but eventually became impossible to work with and was fired; Twitter investor George Zachary says that, “What Twitter is now — I never heard Noah talk about that.”
8. Dorsey still might quit everything, if the muse moves him: In the last quote of the article, Dorsey claims that, “I’m at a point in my life when I want to go deeper. I could just move down to Marfa and become an artist.”