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This is how the bird site dies.
On November 4, just hours after Elon Musk fired half of the 7,500 employees previously working at Twitter, some people began to see small signs that something was wrong with everyone’s favorite hellsite. And they saw it through retweets.
Twitter introduced retweets in 2009, turning an organic thing people were already doing—pasting someone else’s username and tweet, preceded by the letters RT—into a software function. In the years since, the retweet and its distant cousin the quote tweet (which launched in April 2015) have become two of the most common mechanics on Twitter.
But on Friday, a few users who pressed the retweet button saw the years roll back to 2009. Manual retweets, as they were called, were back.
The return of the manual retweet wasn’t Elon Musk’s latest attempt to appease users. Instead, it was the first public crack in the edifice of Twitter’s code base—a blip on the seismometer that warns of a bigger earthquake to come.
The Review grabbed some good sources among the sacked engineers and a couple who survived, including a System Reliability Engineer. A firefighter running from one potential failsplosion to the next, stamping on the first sparks of any digital conflagration.
…this team has been decimated in the aftermath of Musk’s takeover. “It’s small things, at the moment, but they do really add up as far as the perception of stability,” says the engineer.
The small suggestions of something wrong will amplify and multiply as time goes on, he predicts—in part because the skeleton staff remaining to handle these issues will quickly burn out. “Round-the-clock is detrimental to quality, and we’re already kind of seeing this,” he says.
I’m guessing that these guys and maybe a handful of people who used to manage the relationships with the big ad buyers are being asked back. They could name their price, I imagine.
The engineers felt that the site probably wouldn’t explode in some spectacular shitshow like a giant, beached failwhale crammed full of dynamite.
We’ll start to see a greater number of tweets not loading, and accounts coming into and out of existence seemingly at a whim… The juddering manual retweets and faltering follower counts are indications that this is already happening… But alongside the minor malfunctions, the Twitter engineer believes that there’ll be significant outages on the horizon, thanks in part to Musk’s drive to reduce Twitter’s cloud computing server load in an attempt to claw back up to $3 million a day in infrastructure costs.
He presents a dystopian future where issues pile up as the backlog of maintenance tasks and fixes grows longer and longer. “Things will be broken. Things will be broken more often. Things will be broken for longer periods of time. Things will be broken in more severe ways,” he says. “Everything will compound until, eventually, it’s not usable.”
Twitter’s collapse into an unusable wreck is some time off, the engineer says, but the telltale signs of process rot are already there.
Still, nine-dimensional chess, right, Ewok?