Recently I found myself sitting in the Quest office (Quoffice, if you will), contemplating an increasingly sparse slate of news content, when I thought to myself, “Man, I wonder what Elon’s up to?”
An odd thought, perhaps, but it’s true — I’ve been so busy with my studies lately that I haven’t even had time to keep up to date with the hijinks of the Technoking of Twitter. Last I heard he was in hell, has he gotten out of there yet?
No. No, he has not.
A quick news search for “Elon” told quite a story. The first three headlines to present themselves to me, in chronological order, were:
- Elon Musk’s reach on Twitter is dropping — he just fired a top engineer over it
- Twitter is just showing everyone all of Elon Musk’s tweets now
- Yes, Elon Musk created a special system for showing you all his tweets first
At this point, I think you already get the picture, but I’m bored and avoiding doing the HUM 110 reading, so let’s dig into the story. According to The Verge, on Tuesday, February 7, Musk called a meeting with a group of Twitter engineers to ask why engagement statistics for his Tweets were consistently dropping over time. When these engineers pointed out that the simplest explanation for this was that people were losing interest in Elon Musk, citing Google’s public data on the popularity of the search term “elon musk,” which shows a consistent decline over the last few months, Musk reportedly responded, “you’re fired, you’re fired,” and started searching for some new engineers willing to give him more comforting answers.
One week later on Monday, February 13, Musk apparently found those engineers. That morning, the same Verge columnists reported that, “for many of us, Twitter’s “For You” is full of tweets and replies to tweets from Elon Musk.” A day later, on Tuesday morning, Musk tweeted, “Please stay tuned while we make adjustments to the uh .… ‘algorithm.’” And a day after that, documents obtained by The Verge showed that Twitter’s code had been modified to give Musk’s account a “power user multiplier,” a new feature that applies only to Elon Musk.
Those familiar with events said that the decision, which was made after “Musk threatened to fire his remaining engineers,” started with a 2:36 AM Slack ping from James Musk, cousin of Elon himself:
“We are debugging an issue with engagement across the platform,” James Musk wrote, “Any people who can make dashboards and write software please can you help solve this problem. This is high urgency. If you are willing to help out please thumbs up this post.”
The high urgency issue, it turned out, was a popularity contest: U.S. President Joe Biden’s Superbowl tweet got more engagement than Elon’s. Incensed by this, Musk demanded answers, and engineers guided by a strong desire to keep their jobs promptly invented the Power User Multiplier — an override to Twitter’s core software that automatically gives all of Musk’s tweets an algorithmic ranking score of 1000, regardless of their actual levels of engagement.
And this, dear reader, is why you’ve been exposed to so much Elon content lately.
Well, there you have it folks. Elon was annoyed at the thought that the President of the United States might be more popular than he is, so he bullied some engineers into putting his account in god mode. I guess you can do that when you’re technoking.
Given employee reports of life inside Elon’s Twitter, this makes a lot of sense. As one anonymous employee put it to The Verge, “Most of our time is dedicated to three main areas: putting out fires (mostly caused by firing the wrong people and trying to recover from that), performing impossible tasks, and ‘improving efficiency’ without clear guidelines of what the expected end results are. We mostly move from dumpster fire to dumpster fire, from my perspective.”
Good luck in hell, Elon. You’ll need it.