A lot has happened at Twitter headquarters over the past 2 months, almost too much to keep up with. Musk fully embraced the Silicon Valley ethos of “move fast and break things,” except he’s got very little to show for it — and even less that could be considered in a positive light.
The failed launch of Twitter Blue was followed by Musk suggesting he would give users a voice in the governance of the site, and he conducted various polls to determine things such as “should [he] step down as CEO.” As with all things Musk, comedy immediately ensued as the poll ended with yes as the clear winner.
As is his style, Musk took the results in stride and began the search for a successor…
Oh, who am I kidding? Naturally, he blamed bots — a problem he was supposed to be solving, I believe — and re-posted the poll. When, once again, the ‘yes’ option won, he simply disregarded the result. None of which is a surprise to anyone remotely familiar with Musk and his childish mentality, but it’s incredibly amusing to see such a wealthy individual continually embarrass themselves in full view of the public.
Between spectacles like this, and making the questionable decision to unban literal neo-Nazis — who, in a shocking twist of fate, immediately began doing Nazi stuff and were banned again — Twitter’s CEO spent the early hours of the morning effectively acting as a customer service representative for right-wing reactionaries who go by names like Cat Turd, and posting objectively terrible memes that only a brain-damaged time traveler from 2007 would even consider chuckling at.
To give you an idea of the sort of echo-chamber Musk has ensconced himself in: at some point, last week, right-wing Twitter users decided to test a theory: that locking their account — and making it private — would somehow increase the reach of their tweets. Taken at face value, this is the sort of suggestion that might come from someone deprived of oxygen for extended periods of time, or included large helpings of lead in their diet. Elon Musk, the guy who owns the damn website, even tested this ridiculous theory!
The guy who spent 44 billion dollars to buy Twitter doesn’t know how it works, and he’s managed to find people who know even less than he does to take direction from. The results have been hilarious to watch, however Musk’s scatterbrained ineptitude has had noticeable effects on the operation of Twitter and the overall utility of the social media app.
After deciding to cut off free access to the Twitter API, and requiring users subscribe to Twitter Blue and purchase API access capacity at absurd rates, the roll-out of this ‘feature’ was reversed after it broke the entire website.
You see, when you fire almost all of your engineers, it becomes easy to overlook technical details such as the fact that users’ tweets also use the same API as developers. (One might even say that, definitionally, that is how an API works but I’m not Tony Stark’s real-life analogue….)
Throughout all of this tumult, the website’s performance has degraded. The timeline is slower to load, and the app feels more sluggish as features are hastily added, tweaked and removed in real-time. The most annoying thing I have personally experienced is the Android app failing to show new notifications, the icon is blank if there are new ones but when the badge has a count displayed, those are reflective of the notifications I have already seen… This is a minor annoyance, but seeing such a basic feature broken for almost a month only reinforces my most cynical assumptions of how the R&D team — or what remains of it — is functioning.
Elon Musk’s own fortunes are in similar disarray, as his ill-fated purchase has forced him to sell large chunks of his Tesla stock, further lowering the company’s valuation — which was already suffering prior to the Twitter purchase — as it battles shareholder lawsuits and revelations that the company’s self-driving demo was faked. Musk’s losses amount to the single largest destruction of wealth in world history, so at least he has that going for him…
At it stands currently, Musk’s reputation has taken a massive hit, equivalent to the damage to his finances — which tracks, given that the two have been strongly linked for well over a decade. To give an idea as to how out of favour Musk has fallen, even some of the strongest Silicon Valley booster types have turned on him, writing about his latest tantrum which resulted in the firing of an engineer over the waning popularity of his own Twitter account.
The following excerpt is but one example of the scathing contents of the article:
On Tuesday, Musk gathered a group of engineers and advisors into a room at Twitter’s headquarters looking for answers. Why are his engagement numbers tanking?
“This is ridiculous,” he said, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the meeting. “I have more than 100 million followers, and I’m only getting tens of thousands of impressions.”
One of the company’s two remaining principal engineers offered a possible explanation for Musk’s declining reach: just under a year after the Tesla CEO made his surprise offer to buy Twitter for $44 billion, public interest in his antics is waning.
Employees showed Musk internal data regarding engagement with his account, along with a Google Trends chart. Last April, they told him, Musk was at “peak” popularity in search rankings, indicated by a score of “100.” Today, he’s at a score of nine. Engineers had previously investigated whether Musk’s reach had somehow been artificially restricted, but found no evidence that the algorithm was biased against him.
Musk did not take the news well.
“You’re fired, you’re fired,” Musk told the engineer. (Platformer is withholding the engineer’s name in light of the harassment Musk has directed at former Twitter employees.)
I can’t imagine what it would be like, to have to explain to a multi-billionaire man child — with props — that the reason the view count on their tweets is declining is because people are tired of his antics. Provided the engineer wasn’t one of the remaining employees held hostage by an H1B work visa, he’ll be making some employment lawyer’s day — and collecting a hefty cheque when the dust settles.
All of this makes the likelihood of Twitter sliding into bankruptcy, before being sold off at a massive loss to a new owner much greater. Until that actually happens, no one can predict what absurd twists and turns this story will take.