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Winging it at Twitter

I’ve been hanging out at Twitter occasionally since Elon took over. It hasn’t been pretty. I’m not just referring to platform instability. That was more noticeable on Friday but seems to have stabilized, at least temporarily. (I’ll touch on what I think is going on with that in a sec)

It’s not reinstating Trump that’s so awful, though I wouldn’t have done it, for obvious reasons. You can always block his account but you can’t always block the retweets of his feces flinging that show up in your timeline by people you follow. The endless retweets aren’t happening yet, maybe because people are leaving or because people got smart. The more obnoxious tweets are from Elon himself now.

No, the worst thing about being on Twitter right now is finding out how many guys think what Elon has done to Twitter is genius and we are watching it unfold. These guys (and they are always men) think they are witnessing some new Musk Magic that is going to turn Twitter into some unforeseen new invention and part of how Musk is going go do that is by removing the deadweight that is comprised of the vast majority of employees that work at Twitter. They really are obnoxious about it. Twitter is the new Tesla and as soon as Elon “ranks and yanks”all the slackers, that $44 Billion is going to look like the best investment ever.

Let me clear the smoke and mirrors and show you what complete nonsense this is.

Let’s imagine you have just bought a house that has been pretty well maintained. The owner spent some money on the upkeep but didn’t do any major renovations. It’s a bit dated, needs some new landscaping and could use a bigger kitchen. You’ve gotten a big mortgage because it’s in a great location.

Now, imagine that your neighbors are outside watching you when you rent some piece of heavy machinery and start tearing up the foundation. Your neighbors don’t know what you’re planning to build but there are always guys who are fascinated by heavy machinery. But within the first 15 minutes, you hit some crucial bit of plumbing inside the house and you spring a leak. But you don’t call a plumber because you don’t like paying plumbers. Plumbers look like lazy dudes with Dunlap disease and they show their coin slots every time they get under the sink and that’s not classy. It’s working class. And they cost too damn much. Why do working class dudes think they have any business charging $300 just to come out and look at your pipes? It’s outrageous.

Meanwhile, the basement is filling with water and the damage to the pipes is pretty significant. The damage to the foundation is getting worse by the minute. Only the guys who like heavy machinery are still outside waiting for the hat trick.

This is essentially what Elon did last week. Elon fired his plumbers.

I get paid for dabbling in the IT world (never mind where. I don’t speak for my employer). But what I’ve witnessed applies to any enterprise level IT system. There are many parts to the system that most people aren’t aware of. The average person who isn’t an IT geek may think that programmers, who we call developers these days, are the most important part of the operation. They’re probably thinking of the developers who work on the user experience part of the application. That is, the people who write code for the website or the features that make the app functional.

But an IT system is more like an iceberg. What you see on the surface is supported by a big thing underneath consisting of servers, databases and something called DevOps. DevOps is the part of the system that keeps track of changes to the rest of the system. There are also testers that check every change to the code to make sure there aren’t any serious defects that would cause the system to break or expose all the customers’ personal information. And there are security groups that make sure no one gets in without permission. There are other groups that check the system for vulnerabilities. That is, flaws in the 3rd party operating systems that would leave your application open to malware or defects.

If you are on one of the teams that keeps that part of the iceberg stable, your job might not seem very glamorous or useful. But the institutional knowledge and technical expertise needed to keep the system going is critical. Unfortunately, you don’t usually know how valuable these people are until there is a failure. There could be an earthquake that causes a fire in your server facility that automatically triggers a failover event. That’s a set of instructions and changes that transfers the operations of the iceberg to another set of servers. It’s then when you’ll know whether those engineers have set up your system correctly, maintained it and can follow a sequence of events to stabilize the system so that the user is barely aware of the problem.

What Elon did last week is he came into Twitter with the attitude that the employees who worked there weren’t really working. Or they weren’t productive. Or they were working remotely and that meant that management couldn’t make sure they were doing their jobs. Plus, they’re getting paid too damn much. And sure, there are always a few people who think they can get away with gaming all day and wait until the very last minute to do their assignments. I have s pretty good sense of who these people are. They’re in every department. They may be getting away with it because they are not mature in their work habits yet, or they have some physical or emotional issue or maybe they really are gaming all day and going fishing.

But my sense is they’re not as many as Elon and his bro community of investors think. What is really happening is most people who are working remotely have adjusted to a new work style where they get other life stuff done because they don’t have to commute and stress over moving their kids around during the day, etc. They’re still doing work. But they may schedule themselves a little differently because they are available when it’s most convenient to them. They can take a couple of hours off during the day to watch their kid’s track meet because they know that they don’t have to drive to the office later. Their offices are in spare bedrooms and they can pop in and knock off some code outside of core hours. Or they may be in one of those departments where there’s a lot of plugging the leaks and nothing exciting happens on a day to day basis. It only looks unnecessary because the system is stable.

But when you come in with the attitude that the peasants aren’t pulling their weight because you’ve borrowed too much money and you’ve got to make cuts and those coders are not sleeping in their offices at the corporate headquarters, it may actually be just an excuse to get rid of as much drag on the bottom line as possible. So, remote slacking as an excuse has a certain appeal to the investors and geewizz crowd that love to think they work harder than the rank and file because somehow people with gobs of money are just more virtuous people full of good ideas and the people in the iceberg are just pairs of hands who do what the king is ideating. Seriously. Twitter is full of these Musketeers who think Elon has all the ideas and these entities that require calories and shelter and do things in exchange for money are not very bright and are too many.

It’s the method of most narcissistic people. You must first destroy your targets’ reputations before you can get what you want from them.

Surely they aren’t worth the salaries Twitter pays them.

In the wake of Elon’s first round of layoffs, there were sometimes only 3 engineers left out of a group of 85. Each one of those laid off engineers knew what the system’s quirks were and knew who to contact when things started to go pear shaped. But Elon needed to make these people into overpaid villains so he got rid of them to the point where there were only 2 or 3 people in some of these groups spending all the hours of the day trying to keep the lights on with duct tape and no sleep. So when Elon gave them an ultimatum late last week to agree to come in and start living at their benches (very few IT people actually have dedicated offices or cubicles at the office buildings they used to commute to) or take a three month severance package, many took the package.

They took it because it became clear to them that Elon was going to expect the remaining staff to do the heavy lifting for hundreds of missing colleagues and to learn what some of those laid off colleagues did in record time and without mistakes. Not only that but the implication was that NOW they were going to do real work. They were just a bunch of lazy bums before but if they stayed at Twitter and signed their lives away to Elon, he would turn Twitter into a lean, mean, tweeting machine.

And what was his plan for making Twitter transcend its already vital role as a public forum? Elon never said. But there were hints and allegations that adult content would become a feature and that World Cup games would be offered live, as if there aren’t many other ways to get all the football you can eat. Oh, and free speech, baby! Everyone can say anything as long as Elon approved. So, all those pesky journalists and subject matter experts and first hand accounts and foreign news sources could just f{}% off as far as he was concerned if they said anything “negative”.

What Elon didn’t expect is that Twitter the system would start to unravel without all the maintenance people who took care of the servers and databases and DevOps. Those drags on the bottom line turned out to be useful after all. They weren’t overpaid automatons. They were actually smart, experienced people who could either find work elsewhere or could get a job with Kara Swisher’s friends building nextgen Twitter. In other words, they don’t need Elon nearly as much as he needs them.

So last Friday, he was already begging some of them to come back. He realized he needed the plumbers to fix the leak he created with the backhoe he had never used before.

I have no actual knowledge of what happened at that Friday meeting but Twitter seems to have stabilized a bit over the weekend. So I’m assuming that he got just enough plumbers and electricians to come back to work (maybe even remotely) to save his bacon.

And if I were one of those engineers, I would have only come back as a consultant at double my original salary in order to handle Elon’s self inflicted emergency.

I don’t know who gave Elon the money to buy Twitter. Maybe they hated Twitter and were sick of useful information escaping their control. Could be. Or maybe it was the financier/investment class bro boys who think Elon’s some kind of genius who is going to build a killer app, as if it wasn’t already a killer app.

Or maybe it was just someone who couldn’t stand Elon and knew how his mind worked and lent him the money for him to get in over his head.

Whoever it was probably didn’t expect that the plumbers would end up making more money than they started with. And that makes me wonder how many other enterprises they’re f{#%ing up.

It feels very 2008.


What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Most likely, it brings back memories of childhood, observing and celebrating the day with family, or visiting various relatives for a big dinner. I have always lived in Southern California, so there were no “over the river and through the woods, through the ice and drifted snow” memories. But Thanksgiving was a pleasant time, and of course it meant a four day weekend!

My mother would make a dinner, with of course a turkey, although occasionally game hens. (As I write this, I feel sorry for all the turkeys and game hens, but I don’t know what the alternative is to eating such things, unless one is a devoted vegan). Anyway, she also would make yorkshire pudding, which was delicious. Scooped out potatoes, some call them double scooped potatoes. Biscuits, not homemade, of course, who makes those? That was what I ate, while my mother, father. and brother also ate traditional things which I did not like, such as cranberry sauce, yams, and dressing. Then I would have picked up a pie for dessert.

Food is one of the nicest things about Thanksgiving. Everyone is scrambling to make or buy Thanksgiving dinner. There is a restaurant in Burbank which is somewhat famed for cooking turkey dinners and sandwiches. They actually sell hundreds of these a day, many more for Thanksgiving. A few years ago, I think it was during Covid, they apparently ran out of turkeys, and their entire pre-ordered turkey dinner special, including the trimmings. I heard about it afterwards, and read their rather incredible bulletins. First they said that they were running out of dinners (people had ordered and paid for them in advance); then that they only had white meat; then that they had no turkeys left, but you could still get some mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and dressing; then they sent out a message that all they had left was some celery. I don’t know why they were not besieged by infuriated customers, but apparently they got away with it. There is a moral in this story somewhere.

So I think of dinners with my family. A few times we went to my uncle’s and aunt’s house, with various cousins there.This seemed to be a lot of effort and driving, but it was nice enough to see them. There was never much to talk about with them, though. I mostly would watch a football game with one of my two uncles. Thanksgiving of course features football games. It seems to me that it was always the Lions and the Packers, but in the last few decades, it has turned into one game at Detroit, one at Dallas, and then another one. I am not much of a pro football fan, I much prefer college football, particularly when UCLA used to have a good program, but that is another story altogether.

Thanksgiving is also a time where where one is encouraged to give general thanks for things, which is certainly a touching concept, It is a secular holiday, at least as observed in America, so no one should feel left out. However, one does think about the people who do not have a nice Thanksgiving dinner, and I am glad that there are kind and thoughtful people who try to provide for them. Holidays are apt to bring loneliness to some people, which is the flip side of things.

I do remember something in a novel, maybe it was “Starting Over,” by Dan Wakefield, or “The Creep,” by Jeffrey Frank, where there was a depiction of people eating Thanksgiving dinner by themselves in a restaurant which advertised the meal. It is something that I have never forgotten, the melancholy came from the protagonist’s view of it, not necessarily the people eating the dinners.

But mostly, Thanksgiving is a nice holiday observance. Of course it anticipates the Christmas holidays, which I do find somewhat oppressive, for someone who is secular or just not Christian. I am not a fan of Christmas movies, but I do like “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol,” which if you have never seen, you really should try to find; it is an animated telling of the Dickens story, with great songs, and Jim Backus playing Mr. Magoo playing Scrooge. At the curtain call, the ghosts take a bow as well!

That is another holiday, though, albeit they sort of run together at this time of year. I hope that everyone here has at least a nice Thanksgiving ,if not even better than that. And there are some general things to be thankful for, more than there might have been expected to be.