The accidental innovator: Evan Williams, the founder of Blogger and Twitter, epitomises Silicon Valley’s right brain

At some point in the decade after he moved from the farm in Nebraska where he grew up to the innovation hub that is the San Francisco Bay Area, Evan Williams accidentally stumbled upon three insights. First, that genuinely new ideas are, well, accidentally stumbled upon rather than sought out; second, that new ideas are by definition hard to explain to others, because words can express only what is already known; and third, that good ideas seem obvious in retrospect. So, having already had two accidental successes — one called Blogger, the other Twitter — Mr Williams is now trying to make accidents a regular occurrence for his company, called Obvious.Of his previous successes, Blogger is today the best-known. It came about in the late 1990s when Mr Williams and his team struggled to build a complex software tool to let people collaborate. To keep each other abreast of the project, they kept a simple internal diary. Since that seemed to be the only thing working well, they joked that it, not the original project, should become their product. Thus was born Blogger, a web service that lets anybody create a blog with a few clicks. At the time, almost nobody understood what a blog was, or why anybody would want one. But in 2003 Google bought the company, and both blogs and Blogger are today part of the internet’s mainstream.

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