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This is going to end up as a lovely little test

Could anyone really be this incompetent? Musk’s leadership has been so bizarre that it has even given rise to theories that the billionaire is intentionally trying to sabotage Twitter. These theories remind me of the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency when some people assumed that the president of the US couldn’t possibly be so inept; there must be some kind of method behind Trump’s madness. Turns out, no. Trump wasn’t playing “four-dimensional chess”; there was no method just madness.

Is Musk going to turn into the same sort of laughing stock that Trump has become? It’s starting to look that way. Which would be quite the character arc. Musk’s biggest life achievement, after all, isn’t building spaceships or electric cars, it’s building his brand. He’s managed to position himself as a brilliant visionary who has devoted his life to saving human civilization. There is very little evidence to support this image when you look deeper but that hasn’t stopped an enormous number of people (mainly men) from buying into Musk’s bullshit. Even Bill Gates once gushed that “we need a lot of Elon Musks” in order to save the world. It seems he may have changed his mind on that lately; Gates recently described Musk’s management style at Twitter as “seat-of-the-pants type activity.”

Well, maybe. And here’s an old and prescient post from John Hempton:

Twitter has become a parody of bad Silicon Valley management – the sort of management that existed in the dot-com boom where quite literally burning shareholder funds was considered a mark of innovation.

The main difference between this and (say) Pets.Com is that underneath is a business that should be salvageable – and should make pot-loads of money. After all if they raised costs by $1.5 billion per annum without achieving jack-shit then costs should be able to be controlled. And if that is possible then Twitter as an LBO works on the back of an envelope at these prices.
But Twitter is past that. Somewhere near half a billion dollars of costs need to be taken out almost immediately. And that involves firing people and being a general tough-bastard. It’s inevitable anyway – because Jack Dorsey burning half a billion dollar per year isn’t a sustainable business. The cash eventually runs out.

The problem is if you mix this with a or similar company it will be really hard to take costs out in a disciplined fashion without upsetting the culture of the home company. Instead this should be fixed (with extreme prejudice by a disinterested outsider) before it is sold again to a strategic buyer.

Or – in summary: the best bastards are from Wall Street. And this needs a Wall Street bastard.

Or, the only thing wrong with Twitter is that no one has taken a flamethrower to the internal bureaucracy. Which Musk has just done.

Now, of course, that jury is still out on whether this is going to work or not. After all, this is the first business Musk has had since PayPal that wasn’t a subsidy junkie. So, you know, might work, might not.

But we’ll know soon enough. 12 months will be enough time for us to know. Either the financial numbers turn around in that period of they don’t. And here’s the thing – if they do then there’s going to be an awful lot of woke and progressive business commentary proven to be wrong. That is, sometimes the flamethrower is necessary and sometimes the only way to get it is by being the ruthless capitalist bastard.

If – if, obviously – Musk turns Twitter around it’s going to be the biggest ad possible for flamethrowing bureaucracies. We can hope, eh?

22 thoughts on “This is going to end up as a lovely little test”

  1. Bloke in the Fourth Reich

    Twitter’s value to the establishment/deep state is as a two-way window on everyone’s soul (at least, everyone on Twitter), I think with propaganda currently beating out surveillance. Fire the establishment-loyal internal bureaucracy and the establishment has to find new people to peer into peoples’ souls (and new jobs for their loyal Ministry of Truth workers).

    It will get harder when the various three letter agency levers get cut off.

    Which is why they are so jerked off about it.

  2. Or – in summary: the best bastards are from Wall Street. And this needs a Wall Street bastard.

    Obvious problem: Musk isn’t Wall Street.

  3. Musk is.. a classic Mad Genius.

    Take for example his “resignation poll”..

    I was seriously “what the fvck do you think you’re doing here?!!!”-ing when he popped that one at the very height of the Wokefensive against him.
    You could predict the hacktivists would game the result so that the answer would be “Leave”. Those echochamber crosstweeting bots haven’t been dealt with, and the Skittles have never had a problem using them to push whatever is their Outrage-du-Jour into the limelight.
    It’s one of the most defining characteristics of pre-Musk Twitter..

    Then you start to think…

    He will eventually have to dial back on the direct management of Twitter. He’s got his other businesses, and he’s already doing an über-worcaholic routine. Something’s got to give eventually.
    And if he simply finds a replacement for the daily routine, the Usual-Suspects in Media will immediately start screaming he’s “Giving Up On Twitter”.

    Through that insane question, he now has the perfect excuse to place a suitable, sociable puppet to do the daily grind and pollyticks, while he can concentrate on the technical bits ( where the real magic™ happens..) while not wearing himself out.
    All the while maintaining it’s the Will of the People…

    The choice for the term “CEO” is interesting here as well.. It gives the appearance of a normal corporate structure, whereas in fact Twitter isn’t a corporate structure anymore.
    No. Shareholders. Musk is Boss. He has 100% of the “shares”.
    But you see people react as if Twitter suddenly will revert to the situation pre-Musk.

    So that insane thing… It’s actually a pretty ballsy move that allows him to do what was needed anyway, and at the same time avoid 90% of the flak he would have gotten without it.

    Mad. Genius.

  4. An awful lot of armchair generals seem to have sprung up now that Musk is doing to Twitter what needed to be done a long, long time ago. ‘Cos Twitter was just raking in the cash before he took over, right? To anyone who calls two of the world’s most successful businessmen “inept”, I can only repeat the words of Louis Jordan: “If you’re so smart, how come you ain’t rich?”

  5. Musk’s leadership has been so bizarre that it has even given rise to theories that the billionaire is intentionally trying to sabotage Twitter

    Is it?

    Apart from some Twitter bantz (and let’s remember Twitter is supposed to be a fun website that lets you send people short text messages and pictures of their dinner, it should never have been a Serious Business) he seems to be making normal business decisions.

    Cut the fat, get rid of the hordes of federal agents who were somehow on the Twitter payroll, stop alienating half your potential customer base, find new revenue streams.

    None of this is particularly wacky, but journos are bleeding so badly through their anuses at their favourite private treehouse allowing those people back on, there’s no lie they won’t tell to harm Musk and his businesses.

  6. Trump wasn’t playing “four-dimensional chess”; there was no method just madness

    Trump was fighting for his life from before his inauguration and is still fighting. Couldn’t find a single person to fill a key role in his government, who didn’t immediately plot against him. Couldn’t do normal presidential stuff such as issue Executive Orders instructing the federal government to obey its own laws without a pussyhat judge ruling that Orange Man Bad.

    Despite that, he managed to massively reduce immigration, cut taxes, renegotiate NAFTA, leave the Paris Agreement, and was the first US president in decades not to start any wars. Madness, I tell thee: it couldn’t last.

  7. The comments about Trump’s madness & ineptitude are hilarious – as with any R president the first 3 months all the press could talk about was how this cabinet member didn’t like that one or he had to drop a nominee here & there (as all presidents have to). They were oblivious to cutting regulations, reviving the U.S. energy industry, reforming the tax code, etc. Just about every index of freedom & prosperity was climbing fast, but he annoys Pelosi & Schumer – madness!

  8. Whoever writes Musk’s tweets is seriously funny.

    If he’s actually composing them himself my admiration for the man on top of his other achievements is nearly off the scale.

  9. ‘… when some people assumed that the president of the US couldn’t possibly be so inept; ‘

    Do they mean Biden?

    And Trump’s ‘madness’ didn’t wreck the US economy and society.

  10. I wonder how the history books will view Trump. I suspect as a good president hounded into, in & out of office & after. The whole episode being a blot on the national conscience.
    Point being most of the controversy will have faded to meaninglessness by the time the history’s written.

  11. Bloke in the Fourth Reich

    If Trump gracefully, in the interests of his country and what remains of freedom in the free world, gives De Santis a clear run, my opinion of him will increase measurably.

    What are the chances?

  12. I think timing is going to be the biggest factor. Musk is doing what needed to be done, even if I disagree with one or two of his most recent decisions. He needed to fire the dead weight and turn Twitter back into a Free Speech platform. He also regained trust by releasing the Twitter Files (only corporate journalists thought that was a bad idea).

    The issue is whether this all happened too late. Twitter has already been known for years as the epitome of excessive moderation policies and government intrusion. There has also been hemorrhaging of money into pet causes and useless departments, possibly to a point of no return.

    The one thing Twitter still had when Elon took over was name recognition and its user base. Even people who “leave” for Mastodon always find their way back, and Twitter engagement has been increasing as people become more relaxed with the new policies. He’s mostly making the right decisions, and my only other recommendation would be to decrease dependence on advertising agencies. They’ve proven themselves way too volatile, and a much better example of seat-of-the-pants activity.

  13. There’s no doubt Twitter needed a dramatic reorganisation and redirection. It’s never managed to make money, and like any service that does not find a way to evolve, it will go the way of every other Social Media outlet and join the MySpace servers in the sky.


    The recent obsessional reporting of every brain fart coming out of Twitter has only served to preserve the myth that the site matters. Watching the Left and Right fight over the right to send each other text messages is quietly hilarious. Once again people delude themselves that the site can swing elections, change opinions and control the news cycle. It can certainly cause a lot of journalists to write a hell of a lot of opinion pieces, but let’s be honest, that’s not quite the same thing…

    The bottom line is Twitter has no more importance than Instagram – great if you want to stalk a D-list celebrity, but otherwise irrelevant. It does have some social use, as a convenient meeting place for niche communities, marginalised people and social groups with shared interests. But that’s no more world changing than the small ads in the back of your local paper. Useful, yes. World changing? Be realistic.

    Musk has done a great job of convincing people they’re fighting a culture war, and he has done *some* of the things needed to turn round a terminally immobile organisation. However, he’s also committed the basic business mistake of destroying the value proposition of the company he’s trying to fix. It’s truly a Gerald Ratner moment to explicitly politicise a site that (though political) carefully avoided announcing a hard political stance.

    If anyone doubts what a ***k up this is, take a look at Tesla stock, and for those who actually use Twitter (rather than just talking about it) go visit the site and see how dramatically posting rates have dropped (and along with them, Advertisers). It’s hard to tell if Musk actually expected the poll result he got (conspiracy theories abound), but it will be very convenient for him to walk away from the car crash before the wreckage actually bursts into flames.

    It is very amusing watching the top trolling from Musk, and the knee jerk reaction from horrified journalists, but that is nothing at all to do with paying the bills at Twitter, and so far has only achieved the opposite. It’s not 5D chess if you don’t actually have a realistic business plan beyond “slash and burn” and some nonsense about being a payment platform (which just reinforces how much of a chip Musk has over PayPal, the company he didn’t actually create).

  14. If there’s one thing that should go down as Trump’s Triumph it was his warning to Germany at the UN about Russia.

    They laughed at him and they are fucked.


    (There’s only one language the Jerries understand and it falls in metal canisters from the sky )

  15. There are really two questions about this.

    Where is the value in Twitter?

    Can Musk extract it?

    Thing about Musk, apart from his over sensitive nature, is that he is something of an egg-head. He thinks strange thoughts and tries to make them real. Or to put it another way, he doesn’t follow the crowd. Twitter has a lot of “members” and like any internet business the value is in exploiting this.

    Of course it is also quite fun to watch that small vocal minority being pulled from pillar to post!

  16. It’s a bit of a myth that Musk has “visions” that other people don’t see – most of his stuff is really basic teenage geek fantasy “what if we could live on Mars!”… and most of his businesses are repackaging other people’s ideas. There really isn’t anything original in what he’s proposed, so much as him “going big” on ideas when other people are more cautious. That’s very much the Silicon Valley rule book, to scale as fast as you can and hope like hell the business will follow.

  17. Flatcap Army has it exactly right. That thread left me absolutely slack-jawed at the technical (and security, and privacy) mess that Twitter was in before Musk took over. Can he turn it around? I dunno, but firing most of the clowns who were responsible for getting it into this state – and, more importantly, not trying to get it out again – was clearly a necessary step 0.

    Now (in the next 12 months, per TW) we find out if he’s kept the right engineers and leaders, and if they can hire the right specialists to fix the problems. You don’t need many, but they’ve got to be good – and ruthless. Think, the kind of engineers that Marcellus Wallace would have on call.

  18. Yup, technically, Twitter was/(is?) a basket case. Having literally thousands of people with unrestricted access to the live servers and not even having anything logged is insane. But it suited the powers that be to have Twitter run that way. It was far more useful as a progressive propaganda arm to the Government than as a functioning business, cost be damned.

    Now that Elon has taken over the reins he is doing the neccesary to turn it into a functional and profitable company. There are a ton of things he can do to improve the functionality of Twitter – but whether thats sufficient to offset the massive premium he paid for it is another question.

    I also agree with Grikath – despite his aswesome work ethic, there is only one of him to go around.
    Tesla shares have been tanking recently and he has to be seen to be doing something about that – and also there are the rest of his business interests to deal with. SpaceX alone would be more than enough for one person to deal with, never mind wading into the whole freedom of speech/cancel culture wars that are going on around the online Twitterverse. Very smart move for the guy to give himself an out should he need it.

    As an aside, it depresses me to think how many mid-wits keep banging on about how stupid Elon is (and I’m no fanboy). The guy’s a billionaire and has created at least three significant world changing companies – and this from a Guardian ‘journalist’ who’s so smart she pepper sprayed herself in the face.

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