Twitter Risks Fraying When Engineers Quit Over Musk Upheaval

Elon Musk’s management bombing of Twitter has so thinned the ranks of the software engineers who keep it running that programmers who were fired or terminated this week say Twitter could soon fray enough that it could actually crash. Musk ended a very public argument with nearly two dozen programmers over how to proceed by ordering their firing. Hundreds of engineers then quit after he gave anyone who wasn’t “extremely hardcore” until Thursday to leave the ship on severance pay. The latest round of departures means the platform is shedding staff as it prepares for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, one of the busiest events on Twitter, which begins Sunday.

Elon Musk’s management bombing on Twitter has so thinned the ranks of the software engineers who power the world’s de facto public sphere that industry insiders and programmers who have been fired or resigned this week agree: Twitter could soon fray as badly as it might actually crash.

Musk ended a very public row with nearly two dozen programmers over his microblogging platform revamp earlier this week by ordering their firing. Hundreds of engineers and other workers then quit after he demanded they commit to “extremely hard” work or quit with severance pay by Thursday night.

The latest departures mean the platform is shedding staff as it prepares for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which opens on Sunday. It’s one of Twitter’s busiest events when tweet surges tax its systems.

“It looks like he’s going to blow up Twitter,” said Robert Graham, a veteran cybersecurity entrepreneur. “I can’t imagine the lights not going out any moment” — although many recently retired Twitter employees predicted a more gradual demise.

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

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

Twitter leadership sent an unsigned email after Thursday’s deadline, saying offices were closed through Monday and access to employee badges was disabled. No reason was given, according to two employees who received the email – one who took the severance pay, one who is still on the payroll. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

Having a trusted phalanx of Tesla programmers by his side as he browsed a formerly sociable workspace didn’t seem to bother Musk.

“The best people stay so I’m not too worried,” he tweeted Thursday night. But it soon became clear that some key programming teams had been thoroughly gutted.

To show how close he is to programmers, Musk sent all-hands emails on Friday saying “anyone who actually writes software” at 2 p.m. to his command post at 10 a.m. on Thursday, but still received Company Emails.

After acquiring Twitter less than three weeks ago, Musk laid off half of the company’s 7,500 full-time employees and a untold number of contractors responsible for moderating content and other key duties. Then came this week’s ultimatum.

Three techs who left this week have described to The Associated Press why they expect significant inconvenience to Twitter’s more than 230 million users now that well over two-thirds of Twitter’s core service techs are gone before Musk. While they don’t anticipate a near-term collapse, Twitter could get very rough around the edges — particularly if Musk makes major changes without much off-platform testing.

Signs of fraying could be seen ahead of Thursday’s mass exit. People reported seeing more spam and scams on their feeds and in their direct messages. Engineers reported dropped tweets. People were getting strange error messages.

Nevertheless, nothing important was broken. Still.

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

Another said if Twitter has closed servers and “high volume suddenly hits, it might crash”.

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

Twitter’s trending pages have already suffered from previous curation staff layoffs. The tech fireworks began Tuesday when Musk announced on Twitter that he had begun shutting down “microservices” that he believed were unnecessary “bloatware.”

“Less than 20% is actually needed to make Twitter work!” he tweeted.

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

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