Musk Twitter Employees
FILE - A receptionist works in the lobby of the building that houses the Twitter office in New York, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022. On Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, Twitter continued to bleed engineers and other workers after new owner Elon Musk gave them a choice to pledge to “hardcore” work or resign with severance pay. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
tech

Twitter risks fraying as engineers exit over Musk upheaval

27 Comments
By FRANK BAJAK

Elon Musk’s managerial bomb-throwing at Twitter has so thinned the ranks of software engineers who keep the world’s de-facto public square up and running that industry insiders and programmers who were fired or resigned this week agree: Twitter may soon fray so badly it could actually crash.

Musk ended a very public argument with nearly two dozen coders over his retooling of the microblogging platform earlier this week by ordering them fired. Hundreds of engineers and other workers then quit after he demanded they pledge to “extremely hardcore” work by Thursday evening or resign with severance pay.

The newest departures mean the platform is losing workers just at it gears up for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which opens Sunday. It's one of Twitter's busiest events, when tweet surges heavily stress its systems.

“It does look like he’s going to blow up Twitter,” said Robert Graham, a veteran cybersecurity entrepreneur. “I can’t see how the lights won’t go out at any moment” — although many recently departed Twitter employees predicted a more gradual demise.

Hundreds of employees signaled they were leaving ahead of Thursday's deadline, posting farewell messages, a salute emoji or other familiar symbols on the company’s internal Slack messaging board, according to employees who still have access. Dozens also took publicly to Twitter to announce their departure.

Earlier in the week, some got so angry at Musk's perceived recklessness that they took to Twitter to insult the Tesla and Space X CEO. “Kiss my ass, Elon,” one engineer said, adding lipstick marks. She had been fired.

Twitter leadership sent an unsigned email after Thursday's deadline saying its offices would be closed and employee badge access disabled until Monday. No reason was given, according to two employees who got the email— one who took the severance, one still on payroll. They spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retribution.

A trusted phalanx of Tesla coders at his side as he ransacked a formerly convivial workspace, Musk didn't appear bothered.

“The best people are staying, so I'm not super worried,” he tweeted Thursday night. But it soon became clear some crucial programming teams had been thoroughly gutted.

Indicating how strapped he is for programmers, Musk sent all-hands emails Friday summoning “anyone who actually writes software” to his command perch on Twitter’s 10th floor at 2 p.m. — asking that they fly into San Francisco if not local, said the employee who quit Thursday but was still receiving company emails.

After taking over Twitter less than three weeks ago, Musk booted half of the company’s full-time staff of 7,500 and an untold number of contractors responsible for content moderation and other crucial efforts. Then came this week's ultimatum.

Three engineers who left this week described for The Associated Press why they expect considerable unpleasantness for Twitter’s more than 230 million users now that well over two-thirds of Twitter's pre-Musk core services engineers are apparently gone. While they don’t anticipate near-term collapse, Twitter could get very rough at the edges — especially if Musk makes major changes without much off-platform testing.

Signs of fraying were evident before Thursday’s mass exit. People reported seeing more spam and scams on their feeds and in their direct messages. Engineers reported dropped tweets. People got strange error messages.

Still, nothing critical has broken. Yet.

“There’s a betting pool for when that happens,” said one of the engineers, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from Musk that could impact their careers and finances.

Another said that if Twitter has been shutting servers and “high volume suddenly comes in, it might start crashing.”

“World Cup is the biggest event for Twitter. That’s the first thing you learn when you onboard at Twitter,” he said.

With the earlier layoffs of curation employees, Twitter’s trending pages were already suffering. The engineering fireworks began Tuesday when Musk announced on Twitter that he had begun shutting down “microservices” he considered unnecessary “bloatware.”

“Less than 20% are actually needed for Twitter to work!” he tweeted.

That drew objections from engineers who told Musk he had no idea what he was talking about.

“Microservices are how most modern large web services organize their code to allow software engineers to work quickly and efficiently,” said Gergely Orosz, author of the Pragmatic Engineer blog and a former Uber programmer. There are scores of such services and each manages a different feature. Instead of testing the removal of microservices in a simulated real-world environment, Musk’s team has apparently been updating Twitter live on everyone’s computers.

And indeed, one microservice briefly broke — the one people use to verify their identity to Twitter via SMS message when they log in. It’s called two-factor authentication.

“You have hit the limit for SMS codes. Try again in 24 hours,” Twitter advised when a reporter tried to download their microblogging history archive. Luckily, the email verification alternative worked.

One of the newly separated Twitter engineers, who had worked in core services, told the AP that engineering team clusters were down from about 15 people pre-Musk — not including team leaders, who were all laid off — to three or four before Thursday’s resignations.

Then more institutional knowledge that can’t be replaced overnight walked out the door.

“Everything could break,” the programmer said.

It takes six months to train someone to work an on-call rotation for some services, the engineers said. Such rotations require programmers to be available at all hours. But if the person on call is unfamiliar with the code base, failures could cascade as they frantically plow through reference manuals.

“If I stayed I would have been on-call constantly with little support for an indeterminate amount of time on several additional complex systems I had no experience in,” tweeted Peter Clowes, an engineer who took the severance.

“Running even relatively boring systems takes people who know where to go when something breaks,” said Blaine Cook, Twitter’s founding engineer, who left in 2008. It’s dangerous to drastically reduce a programming workforce to a skeleton crew without first bulletproofing the code, he said.

“It’s like saying, ‘These firefighters aren’t doing anything. So, we’ll just fire them all.’”

The engineers also worry Musk will shut down tools involved in content moderation and removing illicit material that people upload to Twitter — or that there simply wouldn’t be enough people on staff to run them properly.

Another concern is hackers. When they’ve breached the system in the past, diminishing damage depends on detecting them quickly and kicking them out.

It’s not clear how Musk’s housecleaning at Twitter has affected its cybersecurity team, which suffered a major PR black eye in August when the highly respected security chief fired by the company earlier this year, Peiter Zatko, filed a whistleblower complaint claiming the platform was a cybersecurity shambles.

“So much of the security infrastructure of a large organization like Twitter is in people’s heads,” said Graham, the cybersecurity veteran. “And when they’re gone, you know, it all goes with them.”

AP Technology Writer Matt O’Brien contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.


27 Comments

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Sometimes a forest fire is necessary to clear out the old deadwood and make way for newer, greener trees.

Musk knows how to run a business.

It's time for fresh blood without the baggage from the past.

-14 ( +7 / -21 )

“The best people are staying, so I'm not super worried,” he tweeted Thursday night. But it soon became clear some crucial programming teams had been thoroughly gutted.

Doubtful but Musk seems to have strong faith in his perceptiveness. Believing there is a correlation between wealth and intelligence and this is genetic. Despite having a head start with an apartheid emerald mine, buying Tesla and not being an inventor.

https://www.businessinsider.com/pronatalism-elon-musk-population-tech-2022-11

The fate of Twitter could put this belief to the test.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

The chaos is so widespread and unjustified that it almost seem as if it was done on purpose to bring Twitter down. Musk is already facing investigations about his way it gutted the company, he may have to deal with many more if the consequences of his decisions end up affecting the security of the user's data (among other things).

The world cup is not going to make things easier, but it may force people to replace Twitter faster, if another service prepares and can take the sudden influx of users (which is not an easy task) it can get enough of them to separate itself from the competition and become the next big thing in social media.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

Doubtful but Musk seems to have strong faith in his perceptiveness. Believing there is a correlation between wealth and intelligence and this is genetic.

I think Musk is relying more on his business intellect to ride him through this much needed storm.

Despite having a head start with an apartheid emerald mine, buying Tesla and not being an inventor.

Steve Jobs didn’t invent the computer, he just made it better, that’s what innovation is, inventing something new from something old.

The fate of Twitter could put this belief to the test.

It’ll take a bit to get all the roaches out, but after the fumigation, and cleanup, it should be ok down the long run.

-9 ( +6 / -15 )

Forest fires, fresh blood, roaches, riding storms.

All really great ideas on how to run an intricate global technology business.

11 ( +15 / -4 )

“Kiss my ass, Elon,” one engineer said, adding lipstick marks. She had been fired.

Checked her out and it seems Sasha Solomon was a GraphQL engineer.

GraphQL is a query language for querying APIs which allows a client to define the structure of the data they need and to pull data from multiple sources in a single API call.

I am currently learning GraphQL so hope Musk hires me if there is any open position.

My behind is not worth kissing though.

-6 ( +5 / -11 )

The clown keeps burning twitter..

4 ( +11 / -7 )

Musk is smart, he knows that AI has made 90% of the staff redundant.

The problem is getting rid of them without paying too much severance.

The only way to do that is to have them quit voluntarily.

His trick worked.

-13 ( +3 / -16 )

Content moderation isn't 'crucial', it is useful. Fixing software issues, update conflicts and keeping everything going is. Sack enough people and it will eventually fall over.

Code is complex, and Tesla coders are really not going to be much use if there is a real issue. There are no manuals for these outfits. You learn on the job, but only if there are people to teach you.

Extra layers of complexity such as 2FA have made systems today less resilient than it was in the past.

And the majority of hackers will now be circling around Twitter like hyenas around wounded prey. It is weak and too good an opportunity to miss.

Twitter may be on borrowed time. The best replacement to it is about to become the best investment some folk ever made.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Musk restores Trump's Twitter account after online poll

https://www.yahoo.com/news/musk-restore-trump-twitter-holding-010323955.html

Musk is desperate not lose anymore accounts or replace the accounts that have been deleted to get some money coming in through advertisements.

As with the implosion of Twitter itself, I look forward to the Trump movement imploding as well.

The synergy brought forth by both events happening in conjunction should create enough zero-point energy for a wormhole. Hopefully it’s created in Mar-a-Lago and not, say, my garage.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

‘Freedom of speech not freedom of reach’ isn’t that ‘shadow banning’? I kept hearing that was the problem, surprised it’s now apparently the solution.

Kathy Griffin, Kermit and 45 are back but not alex jones? Has his voice been ‘cancelled’?

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Now all the lefties who supposedly left will re-emerge. Cant resist to hate tweet at Trump.

musk is brilliant.

-13 ( +3 / -16 )

Cant resist to hate tweet at Trump.

Hate speech will be buried. Didn’t you read Musk’s new policy?

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Not towards trump it wont be.

thats (D)ifferent

-12 ( +0 / -12 )

Nothing in the article above seems to be pointing to Musk being brilliant.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Not towards trump it wont be. 

thats (D)ifferent

Oh. So twitter didn’t change then? You’ve told me several times it had. What a turn up.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Oh. So twitter didn’t change then? You’ve told me several times it had. What a turn up.

It definitely has changed. You can obviously see that. Everyone sees it. Except people trying to be obtuse.

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

It definitely has changed. You can obviously see that. 

Yeah, obviously. Just not in the way that you think it has.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Musk lets Trump back on Twitter....which will now be known as "Bitter"...

As Trump continually whines and moans about his last lost election...

Welcome to MAGA-Bitter...

7 ( +9 / -2 )

The World Cup begins today. Is Musk/Twitter ready for it?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Return of @realDonaldTrump

Jan 6

Save America March

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

As Trump continually whines and moans about his last lost election...

He’s not even using it.

it’s liberals whining and moaning just by seeing his user name again.

imagine the whining and crying if he actually does tweet something.

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

imagine the whining and crying if he actually does tweet something.

Yea, imagine.....

Trump continues to lie that Joe Biden’s victory over him for the White House in 2020 was due to widespread election fraud, a wholly discredited allegation.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/nov/11/trump-ron-desantis-glenn-youngkin-republicans-2024

And we'll get tp hear more about "Ron Desanctimonious" who is "fat. whiny, and a phony"....

Enjoy your "Bitter"......ROFL....

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Musk is an idiot. Trump is a criminal. Twitter is a goner.

On to important news.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Oh dear, so many millions of twitters about to become twitless. I am beside myself with grief and commiseration..........lol! And all I can add about Musk is 'You have miles to go before you reach mediocre', so keep going, and try not to let us down anymore.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

When (not if) this guy falls, it's going to be so far and so nice!

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Then more institutional knowledge that can’t be replaced overnight walked out the door.

“Everything could break,” the programmer said.

Exactly.

St Elon paid $44 billion for a couple billion worth of depreciating equipment and some real estate when his former employees gave home the finger said “You’re #1, Elon!” and walked out the door.

And it’s not “could break”. It’s WILL break

5 ( +7 / -2 )

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