Approximately twenty employees, including top senior engineers, were fired today apparently for expressing critical opinions in a private Slack channel.
Some of the critical opinions may have been in reaction to a tweet by Elon Musk that blamed slow performance on something that was subsequently debunked.
A senior engineer at Twitter named Sam Pullara debunked a tweet about Twitter posted by Musk.
“Btw, I’d like to apologize for Twitter being super slow in many countries. App is doing >1000 poorly batched RPCs just to render a home timeline!”
“The real issue imho is they undid server side rendering and you have to download tons of code just to see a single tweet. Other countries are slow because of the round trips and initial download and not so much from the backend since everyone shares that.”
Top Employees Fired
Among the notable people fired from Twitter is Yao Yue, formerly the Principal Software Engineer at Twitter.
Her LinkedIn profile shares this about her:
“My technical interest centers around understanding the behavior of large-scale distributed systems, and creating composable, predictable, and elegant software solutions.
I currently lead a small team of senior researchers/developers working on Twitter’s infra. We trace, profile in production, optimize systems performance, and practice software-hardware co-design.
…My most notable OSS project is Pelikan (http://pelikan.io), a modular caching framework with the best performance and operator ergonomics in the domain of distributed caching. Pelikan is ideal for large scale deployment as well as cutting-edge research.”
That highly talented and experienced employee was fired because of an opinion shared on a private Slack channel.
Yao Yue tweeted:
After 12 amazing years and 3 weeks of chaos, I’m officially fired by Twitter.
Never expected I would have stayed this long, and never expected I would be this relieved to be gone.
I have a lot of stories to tell. But to my fellow (ex-)tweeps-#LoveWhereYouWorked pic.twitter.com/lVWbqpcSXO
— Yao Yue 岳峣 (@thinkingfish) November 15, 2022
Zoë Schiffer (@ZoeSchiffer) Managing Editor of Platformer (@platformer) tweeted details about Mike Cvet, a tech lead for Twitter infrastructure who was fired.
Infrastructure is basically the underlying structure that Twitter runs on to make it work, which makes Cvet an important employee, especially because of the knowledge and experience he brings to the job from having worked at Twitter for many years.
“Until recently, Mike Cvet was the tech lead for all of Twitter infrastructure (and a distinguished engineer — highest level Twitter has).”
Mike Cvet himself tweeted about the firing of Nick Morgan (@skilldrick), a Twitter Backend Engineer.
Mike tweeted about how self-defeating it is to fire key employees because of privately shared truthful opinions.
“It’s hard for people on the outside to appreciate how nonsensical this selective “policy” enforcement is.
The team responsible for the serving of 10MM+ tweets / second for internal and user-facing use cases is down to like 2 people.
Good luck shipping basically… anything?
…it demonstrates a dramatic underappreciation of individual expertise, domain knowledge, and the complexity of the platform”
Nick Morgan, the Twitter Backend Engineer tweeted that he was fired for violating company policy.
My twitter account was protected at the time, so I can only assume this was for not showing 100% loyalty in slack. I’ve heard the same thing has happened to many others now.
— Nick Morgan (parody) (@skilldrick) November 15, 2022
The notification of being fired read:
We regret to inform you that your employment is terminated effective immediately. your recent behavior has violated company policy.”
(Tweet with screenshot)
— Nick Morgan (parody) (@skilldrick) November 15, 2022
The strange thing about these firings, which may point to the capricious nature of the actions, is that Twitter company culture encouraged employees to speak out.
Thus it came as a shocking surprise that expressing an opinion in a private Slack channel resulted in getting fired.
Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) of Platformer tweeted a reminder of one of Twitter’s Core Values, “Communicate fearlessly to build trust” to underline how it has always been a part of Twitter’s company culture to allow truthful speech in the workplace.
It’s important to note that Twitter has long cultivated a culture of internal dissent: “Communicate fearlessly to build trust.”
No internal codes of conduct have changed since Elon took over. So this is all out of the blue.
— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) November 15, 2022
There were many other employees fired, some of which expressed confusion over what unnamed company policy they violated.
Lana Nelson (LinkedIn), staff software engineer on Twitter Embeds Team posted she was fired for violating company policy.
“Welp that’s it for me folks! “Your recent behavior has violated company policy.” If you ask me why exactly I really don’t know”
Institutional Knowledge Lost
The most immediate concern stemming from the firings can be said to be the loss of the people who keep Twitter running every day and innovate to keep it running in the future.
That has caused many people to forecast that a Twitter outage may be coming sooner rather than later.
A hidden factor that should be top of mind is the loss of institutional knowledge.
Institutional knowledge is all of the experience, history, non-documented ways of fixing things that go into running a company.
Employees can be replaced. But the high level of knowledge and experience directly related to Twitter that those who were recently fired cannot be replaced.
Many on Twitter shared concern because of the loss of these talented people.
Elon Musk responded with mockery.
I would like to apologize for firing these geniuses. Their immense talent will no doubt be of great use elsewhere.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 15, 2022
Featured Image by Shutterstock/ViDI Studio