Welcome to New Twitter

For $69 a month, timeline goes sideways.

It’s Halloween, one of the year’s top five weens, and in the newly vacant cobwebbed halls of Twitter, there lurks an eerie musk. I mean of course the musk of flop sweat pouring off bug-eyed degenerate Jason Calcanis, an investor so dimwitted and shameless even Elon noticed, who spent the weekend posting his distinctive brand of obsequious humblebrag in an effort to LARP his way into a job helping to ruin Twitter.

I took a week off and things spectacularly failed to improve so let’s wallow in the Takes, shall we?

As the dark clouds gathered and the deal looked set to close, Dave Karpf speculated that “this is the beginning of the end for the site,” and laid out a very plausible timeline which is already proving accurate. Musk will “roll out an endless stream of harebrained monetization ploys, each of which make Twitter worse for the user base,” he predicted, foreshadowing the weekend’s events so well it was practically fiveshadowing. Liz Lopatto pointed out that “if the student who comes in first on every math test publicly flunks, that’s notable,” and warned Musk that “dealing with Twitter’s problems is not so much a headache as a traumatic brain injury, and it’s happening at a terrible time” for Tesla as well. But of course Liz’s warning was far too late, lmao. The deal closed on Thursday night.

The first thing Musk did on arriving at Twitter HQ was cringe-post a 2014 era Tumblr joke. The second thing he did was fire the c-suite which, in a generous new donation to his “charity for corporate litigators,” he will try to claim was “for cause” so Twitter doesn’t have to pay out millions in golden parachutes, a move the plausibility of which Matt Levine has already demolished. And the third thing he did was even dumber than all that, as Casey Newton reported:

Just after noon, an executive assistant asked engineers to begin preparing code to show to Musk. “Please print out 50 pages of code you’ve done in the last 30 days (if you haven’t submitted code in the past 30 days, then you can go back up to 60 days),” the assistant wrote in a Slack message obtained by Platformer. “Please be ready to show on your computer as well.”

…In mid-afternoon, the instruction changed again. A notice went out to employees ordering them to cease printing out their code, for reasons that were not immediately clear.

Jealous? Get your own Elon Code Review. In The Verge, Nilay Patel wrote maybe the most honest and direct column I’ve ever seen in any major publication: “Welcome to hell, Elon.” Here are the first five paragraphs and believe me when I say it goes this hard all the way through.

You fucked up real good, kiddo.

Twitter is a disaster clown car company that is successful despite itself, and there is no possible way to grow users and revenue without making a series of enormous compromises that will ultimately destroy your reputation and possibly cause grievous damage to your other companies.

I say this with utter confidence because the problems with Twitter are not engineering problems. They are political problems. Twitter, the company, makes very little interesting technology; the tech stack is not the valuable asset. The asset is the user base: hopelessly addicted politicians, reporters, celebrities, and other people who should know better but keep posting anyway. You! You, Elon Musk, are addicted to Twitter. You’re the asset. You just bought yourself for $44 billion dollars.

The problem when the asset is people is that people are intensely complicated, and trying to regulate how people behave is historically a miserable experience, especially when that authority is vested in a single powerful individual.

What I mean is that you are now the King of Twitter, and people think that you, personally, are responsible for everything that happens on Twitter now. It also turns out that absolute monarchs usually get murdered when shit goes sideways.

At the core of every successful social network is a glowing nugget of shame, a little radioactive power source mined from the depths of human weakness.

…Twitter is a pretty good tool for discovering people you’d like to keep up with. It’s an even better tool for discovering people you’ll despise, but otherwise wouldn’t know, and making sure you never forget about them. Twitter’s house rhetorical style is: Look at this fucking asshole. By the way, he thinks you’re a piece of shit. As much as this sounds like a reason Twitter should be destroyed, this little rod of behavioral plutonium probably helped keep it alive, or at least relevant.

It’s only vaguely pegged to the acquisition news, but almost any part of what I once called John’s “by-now permanently ongoing interior monologue on the future of media” is worth reading, and we ought to take a moment to appreciate having him back. In fact today he already has another new post about streaming media’s impending advertising era.

Finally yesterday Alex Heath reported that the plan Chief Twit Elon and his “war room” of Peter principals have settled on is:

…to change Twitter Blue, the company’s optional, $4.99 a month subscription that unlocks additional features, into a more expensive subscription that also verifies users, according to people familiar with the matter and internal correspondence seen by The Verge. Twitter is currently planning to charge $19.99 for the new Twitter Blue subscription. Under the current plan, verified users would have 90 days to subscribe or lose their blue checkmark. Employees working on the project were told on Sunday that they need to meet a deadline of November 7th to launch the feature or they will be fired.

I mean, sure. Whatever. People are outraged by this, but honestly Twitter has never had anything but stupid product ideas. “Likes are now florps” was way back in 2016. Making the blue check effectively a single NFT avatar that everyone dumb enough to pay for it has to share is undeniably hilarious. It wouldn’t make a rounding error’s worth of difference in Twitter’s revenue, and will probably never even launch, and yes, it is a bad idea, but still: rofl.

A Tiny Editorial:

It occurred to me this weekend that a lot of people have never worked in tech and may not completely understand that Elon Musk is not special in any way. He’s a very common type of tech business guy. I barely worked in “real” tech and even I ran into several of this guy in my career. There are thousands of him out there—guys1 who code poorly but think they’re technomancers, whose main skill is bullshitting their way out of one disaster after another, and whose main personality trait is a shameless willingness to abuse anyone else until they get what they want.

If you're thinking “well he must be the best bullshitter,” even that gives him too much credit. Do you have any trouble seeing through his bullshit? Of course not, it’s not very convincing. Each of those guys got a lottery ticket, and Elon’s just the one whose number came up for the grand prize. Imagine you start with a hundred people, and you flip a coin for each one. Heads they stay, tails they go. Keep doing this for a while, and you’ll eventually have one person left. What’s special about that person? Exactly the same thing that’s special about Elon Musk: he was present when you started flipping coins.

Does this matter? I don’t know. At this point he is special simply by virtue of occupying the role of “richest person.” People that rich are more like the nucleus of a little industry than like a human being, and the industry will fight to perpetuate itself. But I think it’s valuable to understand that underneath all the incessant noise and posting is… no one. Just the winner of a coin flip.

Thank god that’s done, now we never have to talk about Elon Musk again.

Tom Scocca: “James Bennet Was Wrong and It Was Good He Lost His Job,” because that apparently needs to be said again.

The first of two new Cormac McCarthy books is out, and I like it so far. It’s got a real Vineland-era Pynchon vibe. Constance Grady thought they were somewhat lacking in plot, which seems like an odd thing to expect from McCarthy at this point but ok. Anyway here’s Boris Karloff’s guac recipe:

Today’s Song: Kill Your Boyfriend, “Mr Mojo”

Was there really nothing else in the tabs but Musk and Twitter today? Regrettably, there was not. I have high hopes for tomorrow though!2 Let's just let Twitter die and see what comes after it.

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