Elon goes hardcore

After demanding the remaining Twitter employees pledge their loyalty, Musk's product priorities are coming into focus

Elon goes hardcore
“blue bird holding a pair of scissors cutting a piece of paper in half, digital art” / DALL-E

I. Extremely hardcore

On midnight Wednesday, Twitter employees received the latest email from their new owner and CEO. “Going forward, to build a breakthrough Twitter 2.0 and succeed in an increasingly competitive world, we will need to be extremely hardcore,” Elon Musk wrote. “This will mean working long hours at high intensity. Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade.”

Musk went on to say that “Twitter will be much more engineering-driven,” and that while design and product “will still be very important,” engineers “will have the greatest sway.” And then Musk presented employees with an ultimatum: click “yes” on a Google form affirming your desire to “be part of the new Twitter,” or leave in exchange for three months’ pay.

Employees were told to decide by 5PM ET today.

The deadline has sparked an agonizing debate among Twitter’s remaining employees, who are already reeling from losing half their full-time colleagues and 80 percent of their contractors.

To stay is to be a good steward to Twitter, a service that most employees I’ve spoken with still feel deeply protective of. But it is also to risk being seen as condoning the behavior of Musk, who has consistently denigrated employees’ work, and even to be seen as a “goon” — their word for the team of venture capitalists, lawyers and outside engineers he brought in when he took over the company.

To leave, on the other hand, is to enter an uncertain job market that has seen widespread cuts across the tech industry, as well as to introduce personal complications for employees who may be here on visas, pregnant, or experiencing other health issues. Some employees worry that three months might not be long enough to find a new job.

In Blind, an app where employees can discuss their workplaces anonymously, one employee who is choosing to leave urged others not to criticize those who are staying. They wrote:

I personally know a Tweep whose spouse is undergoing cancer treatments. There is no way this person can leave now. Folks have kids with medical issues, elderly parents to take care of, or haven't interviewed in years, or are purchasing a house, or are on an H1B & other restrictive visas, or are tight on money because they are helping overseas relatives, or are just plain scared of the way the market looks at the moment.

Everyone's appetite for change, and risk tolerance, are different. Lets keep this about the people, and not turn it into us-vs-them Squid game type of s**t.

In Slack, some managers are declaring that they’re staying and urging employees to join them. (“Cringe af,” an employee noted in another Blind post.) Meanwhile, employees’ paranoia appears to be at an all-time high, as some workers doubt whether Musk will actually pay out the severance he has promised. Here’s another employee in Blind:

Will they be tracking how long it takes people to click? Like is it a mark against anyone who clicks tomorrow instead of today? (“if you’re truly hardcore, this is a no-brainer! Just click as soon as you read your email”) I’m out of here, so not personally worried. I just hate that he is the kind of person that makes me feel like everything is a trap :(

The Pragmatic Engineer newsletter reported that internal polls show only 25 percent of software engineers at the company intend to stay.

II. The roadmap

So what will remaining Twitter employees be working on?

A seating chart obtained by Platformer for the 10th floor of Twitter headquarters in San Francisco offers some clues.