November 28, 2022 at 2:10 p.m.
- Billionaire Elon Musk privately purchased Twitter for $44 billion on October 27, 2022.
- Since the takeover, Musk eliminated over half of Twitter’s staff, including FTEs and contractors.
- In a recent email, Musk asked his employees for “hardcore” dedication.
- Musk contends if employees are not willing to work hard, they should leave.
- Corporate media sources claim that Twitter is on the verge of collapse.
- Despite massive layoffs, Twitter continues to operate without interruption.
I’ve Had Worse Managers Than Elon Musk
Elon Musk is a lot of things — billionaire, narcissist, sociopath — but he’s not the worst manager in the world. He’s not the best, either. At this stage in my life, I wouldn’t work for someone like him. In my younger days, I had no choice. I had to co-exist with people with personality disorders.
The best leaders follow Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Especially when dealing with talented people, you can only make them do things if they want to do them. The more you criticize and harass employees, the less they want to work. It’s a simple rule, followed by leaders like Charles M. Schwab, but it’s completely absent in the Bay Area (even at Charles Schwab).
Unfortunately, you won’t find a lot of sound leaders in the Silicon Valley these days. This is where the money is, so it’s where the sociopaths show up to con their way into the billionaire’s club. I’ve known abrasive managers who get fed up with the Bay Area and its “lazy” engineers, move back East, but return because this is where the easy money is.
In SF, you can BS your way into billions. If you look a certain way, act a certain way and have a specific pedigree, you can excel with little technical talent or effort. Get someone else to do the hard work, then take credit for it. It’s the American way!
That’s exactly how Twitter got off the ground. If some Indian immigrant pitched Twitter, investors would see it for what it is — bulls**t. But when Obi-Wan Kenobi, the great white yogi, pitches it? It’s a miracle! (It’s still a pile of BS. Twitter is valuable only because people believe in it.)
Many in the media are grinding away about Musk’s email, asking for hardcore dedication. I’ve experienced much more abrasive management than this:
Going forward, to build a breakthrough Twitter 2.0 and succeed in an increasingly competitive world, we will need to be extremely hardcore. This will mean working long hours at high intensity. Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade.
Twitter will also be much more engineering-driven. Design and product management will still be very important and report to me, but those writing great code will constitute the majority of our team and have the greatest sway.
At its heart, Twitter is a software and servers company, so l think this makes sense.
If you are sure that you want to be part of the new Twitter, please click yes on the link below:
Anyone who has not done so by 5pm ET tomorrow (Thursday) will receive three months of severance.
Whatever decision you make, thank you for your efforts to make Twitter successful.
What’s next? The comfy chair? It’s like Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition sketch. I don’t see the hostility here. He’s asking people to work hard. If they don’t want to do that, they can contact a fellow Stanford alum and find another sinecure. These days, they’re not easy to find, but the chosen ones always land on their feet.
If you think this is harsh treatment, don’t consider working in the Silicon Valley. Perhaps you think it’s all playgrounds with hipsters riding electric scooters across sprawling tech campuses. Yes, Hollywood reduced Silicon Valley to a ridiculously incorrect concept. It’s not all fun and games. In fact, it’s not fun at all.
I’ve had managers far worse than Musk but a lot of better ones. The good ones don’t micromanage. They respect employees and enable them to get their jobs done. One of the best managers I ever had, an MIT grad, gave me his extra large monitor the day I started work because he said I could put it to better use. Unfortunately, he was chewed up and spit out by the corporate machine but found another great position.
You don’t have to be an a**hole to succeed in the Valley. In fact, you’ll go much further if you’re not. Most of the difficult people who don’t have a Stanford pedigree end up washing out of the Valley, gaining employment in county and state government.
I once had a manager who was 15 years younger than me and of short stature. He was, by far, the worst manager ever. Completely ignorant of technology, he underestimated the complexity of our platform and assumed we were all sandbagging. His only tool was a hammer. Because he had absolutely no technical skills, he terrorized employees so no one would even question why he worked there in the first place.
His constant criticism backfired. Instead of working harder, people worked less. Employees started using massive amounts of accrued vacation time to escape this psycho.
The meetings with this turd were ridiculous. He would go on for three hours talking about irrelevant subjects. His only way to manage a software engineering team was with a clumsy ensemble of sports and management platitudes plied with blatant hostility. After the exhausting meetings, we would work late to finish our tasks.
It all came to a head when he tried to fire me. His manager ended up firing him instead. Checkmate! A**holes always lose in the long run. It may take some time, but they always do. They may win a few battles. It may seem unfair. Eventually, the universe gets them.
Twitter is an Extremely Simple Platform
Twitter is an organization born and sustained on hype. At its core, it’s a simple microblogging platform. Although it scales well, it should, based on its utter simplicity and limited data schema. Twitter is among the least popular social media platforms, which few people understand or accept. Its popularity persists in the media but not in statistical reality.
Facebook has almost three billion active users per month. Contrast that with Twitter, which only has 436 million monthly active users. Kuaishou, Sina Weibo, QQ, and Douyin all have more users than Twitter, but most have never heard of these platforms. All of these social media platforms are more complex than Twitter. They must persist, manage, and scale far more complex architectures.
Technologically, Twitter is an amoeba. Some try to justify Twitter engineering, claiming it’s difficult to scale and support many users. But they don’t have that many users. Twitter is almost at the bottom of the list of social media traffic.
Part of the confusion is that false experts put forth idiotic opinions. I found some bonafide malarky on Quora, which seems to be home to the most idiotic ideas on the Internet:
“One of the main challenges for Twitter is that some celebrities have millions of followers. Every time they tweet something, there are millions of feeds that need to be updated in a timely manner.”
I hope that’s not how Twitter works. If it is, Elon should fire all of his engineers immediately. When any Twitter user Tweets, a tiny amount of data is stored in a database or some newfangled no-SQL data store. When someone opens Twitter and reads their feed, they’re reading one database row for that celebrity’s Tweet, not millions.
It’s not like the digital Twitter bird drops the Tweet into a million feeds. Only a non-technical person would think Twitter works that way — like a bird regurgitating worms into many baby birds’ mouths. It’s more like the celebrity posts something on a bulletin board where a million people can read it.
It’s probable that Twitter pre-loads and caches Tweets for users. There are a million ways to engineer something like Twitter, but if they’re inserting one Tweet into a database a million times, they’re doing something very, very wrong.
The person who wrote that is supposedly a CTO and Machine Learning Engineer. Wow! He should get a refund on his college tuition! More likely, it’s a teenager pretending to be a grownup on Quora. It happens all the time! (Quora is such a poor source of information!)
Twitter is a straightforward app, and Tweets should pose no challenge to scalability. There’s so much technology to cluster servers and manage vast data sets with 99.999% uptime and high performance. Twitter engineers have no excuse to upsell scalability as peerless expertise. Millions of software engineers have the skill set to work at Twitter. Only the well-connected and lucky earn these sinecures.
Have you seen Twitter go down after more than half of the employees were axed? Have you seen Twitter go down after the engineers walked out? It’s still running because there’s nothing remarkable about Twitter other than how many employees were on staff. Before Musk, Twitter was mostly an inbred Stanford clique of mediocre engineers and computer scientists.
Twitter Was Remarkably Overstaffed
I’m pulling rank on all of the tech journalists who live on the East Coast and have never written a line of code in their lives. They have a very high opinion of Twitter because they use it so often. After all, any idiot can send out a Tweet, making it ideal for journalists and Presidents alike. Because Twitter is easy to use, they assume it’s an engineering marvel. It’s s**t.
Popularity doesn’t mean Twitter is a technological phenomenon. It’s digital toilet paper. It’s what people read when they’re sitting on the John.
I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1996. I was here before the .com boom. I know plenty of people who have worked at Twitter. It was one of the most coveted employers because you earned money and fame with little effort.
Most of the Twitter employees I know graduated from Stanford and have mediocre technical skills. Another Stanford grad hired them. They spend maybe ten hours a week on actual work, the rest devoted to recreation.
Twitter employees worked so little, I believe they single-handedly created the hiking craze with all that free time. One of my friends told me he would often take two-hour lunches, boozing it up for another slow day at the office. Some Twitter employees globetrotted across the world, posting selfies on the platform as they phoned in a tiny bit of work here and there.
I mean, take a look at Twitter. There’s not much to it. Users sign up. They follow people. They read Tweets. The company claims to have this fantastic artificial intelligence that finds all the people you should follow and all the Tweets you should view. From what I understand, Twitter’s AI is more PR than CS. It’s a bunch of BS. It’s primarily procedural, conditional logic, not artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The fact that Musk had to ask Twitter employees to work hard is the ultimate proof that they played too much Ultimate Frisbee. Playtime is over. Now it’s time to work for that paycheck and stock options.
I know! They went to Stanford! They’re supposed to have an easy life of saying a few clever words at a meeting. Sorry, but the gravy train derailed!
Kudos to Musk, Put Them to Work
I’m going to be blunt. I don’t like Elon Musk. I don’t like Twitter or its employees. I find them smug and arrogant. They had the easiest jobs in the world, and they all acted like genius computer scientists. I’m delighted that Musk gave them an ultimatum.
Musk’s email to employees was brief but not rude or dismissive. He explained the challenges ahead and gave them the option to click the link or get a severance package.
The media’s reaction to this is remarkable but understandable. Most journalists and presenters have the easiest jobs on the planet. These careers are only available to a select few, and it has little to do with merit.
Who wouldn’t want to make millions reading off a teleprompter for a few hours a day? It takes some skill, but a lot of people can do it. Yet there are few openings for the best media jobs.
Twitter and the corporate news media used to have a lot in common. Both entities were bastions of privilege. Musk finally asked Twitter employees to pull their weight. He correctly diagnosed Twitter’s organizational obesity and put the company on a strict diet.
Twitter is not dead. It’s not dying. Not even close. The company could lose 90% of its staff and still function in maintenance mode. It’s a microblogging platform, not a nuclear reactor control system. If Musk can handle SpaceX (with a lot of delegation), he can surely keep Twitter running.
The proof is all around us. Musk has axed over half the company, and many walked off the job. Yet Twitter is still up and running as if nothing happened. If you didn’t hear all the press coverage, you wouldn’t suspect anything was happening because there’s no difference in service and operations.
Musk did Twitter a huge favor. It was an obese and unprofitable organization. Musk has done many s**tty things in his career, but that email was one of his more admirable moments.
You couldn’t pay me enough to work at Twitter. I’d be embarrassed to have that on my resume. It’s more embarrassing than skid marks in underwear. But I have a modicum of respect for Musk because he’s better than half of the managers I’ve endured. If you think his email was brutal, your job is a cakewalk.