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★ Two Weeks Later and Twitter Is Still Up


In the immediate aftermath of Twitter’s mass layoffs and subsequent resignations, there were widespread reports that the staffing situation and collective brain drain were so dire that the site would collapse. Two weeks later — with World Cup soccer drama fueling record usage — such concerns seem to have been overblown.

Davey Alba, Jack Gillum, and Margi Murphy, reporting for Bloomberg:

Twitter Inc.’s mass exodus of employees leaves the platform vulnerable to a broad range of malfunctions. The social network will succumb to a major glitch at some point, technologists predict. It’s just a matter of when. [...]

Multiple teams that were critical for keeping the service up and running are completely gone, or borrowing engineers from other groups, according to people familiar with the matter. That includes infrastructure teams to keep the main feed operational and maintain tweet databases. #RIPTwitter trended on the site, as users and departed employees predicted an imminent shutdown and said their goodbyes.

Joseph Menn and Cat Zakrzewski at The Washington Post, “Twitter Death Watch Captivates Millions”:

Several critical teams essential to keeping the site functioning were cut to a single engineer or none by the departures Thursday, leaving the company partially on autopilot and likely to crash sooner or later, engineers said.

And from a day prior:

“I know of six critical systems (like ‘serving tweets’ levels of critical) which no longer have any engineers,” a former employee said. “There is no longer even a skeleton crew manning the system. It will continue to coast until it runs into something, and then it will stop.”

Alex Heath and Mia Sato, reporting for The Verge:

Remaining and departing Twitter employees told The Verge that, given the scale of the resignations this week, they expect the platform to start breaking soon. One said that they’ve watched “legendary engineers” and others they look up to leave one by one. [...]

Multiple “critical” teams inside Twitter have now either completely or near-completely resigned, said other employees who requested anonymity to speak without Musk’s permission. That includes Twitter’s traffic and front end teams that route engineering requests to the correct backend services. The team that maintains Twitter’s core system libraries that every engineer at the company uses is also gone. “You cannot run Twitter without this team,” a departing employee said.

Two weeks later and it seems they can run Twitter without that team. Or, perhaps, it’s just been luck and collapse is imminent.

Chris Stokel-Walker for The Guardian, “Twitter Has ‘50% Chance’ of Major Crash During World Cup, Says Insider”:

Twitter stands a 50% chance of a major outage that could take the site offline during the World Cup, according to a recently departed employee with knowledge of how the company responds to large-scale events.

The former employee, who was granted anonymity because of the sensitivity of what was discussed, has knowledge of the workings of Twitter Command Centre, the platform’s team of troubleshooters who monitor the site for issues such as traffic spikes and data centre outages. “Between the lack of preparations and the lack of staffing, I think it’s going to be a rough World Cup for Twitter,” said the former employee.

He suggested that an incident of some kind — such as a service responding slowly or incorrectly — is almost a certainty during the 29-day competition in Qatar, estimating a 90% possibility of something going wrong that users would see. The likelihood of Twitter staying online during the competition, which kicks off on Sunday, is no better than even, according to the former employee.

The World Cup is only half over. Let’s check back in another two weeks.

But while fears of technical collapse seem to have been overblown, Twitter’s advertising collapse is seemingly continuing unabated.

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6 hours ago
If they laid off enough people that nobody is _changing_ anything then there's a pretty good chance it will just keep on trucking for at least a while.
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‘Everyone’ AirDrop Is Now Limited to Just 10 Minutes for iPhone Users in China

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Filipe Espósito, reporting for 9to5Mac two weeks ago:

As noted by 9to5Mac readers, today’s update adds a time limit when the user chooses to enable AirDrop for everyone, not just contacts. With this change, people in China can no longer keep AirDrop turned on for everyone, including unknown users, for an unlimited time.

The change in how AirDrop works has been included in both iOS 16.1.1 and iOS 16.2 beta 2, both released today for users and developers. Also noted by our readers, this restriction is based on hardware rather than software. This means that only iPhone models purchased in Mainland China are affected by the update.

This is not the first time Apple has implemented an iOS restriction based on hardware model. For instance, the Taiwanese flag emoji is not available on iPhones sold in China. Apple also uses the same method to limit the volume level of its devices in European Union countries, as required by law.

However, when it comes to AirDrop, it’s unclear why Apple decided to limit the “Everyone” option to 10 minutes. Some people speculate that the Chinese regulator required Apple to update iOS as an attempt to prevent anonymous people from spreading harmful content and anti-government material.

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple didn’t comment on why the change was introduced in China, but said that it plans to roll out the new AirDrop setting globally in the coming year. The idea is to mitigate unwanted file sharing, the company said.

You don’t have to be Kreskin to surmise that Apple made this change at the behest of the CCP. There’s no explanation for it being China-only for now. Apple never explained why they dropped the Taiwanese flag from the emoji keyboard in China, either. (Also, the shameful aspect of the Taiwanese flag emoji issue is that Apple removed it from the keyboard for iOS users in ostensibly-free Hong Kong, too.

People are rightfully angered by this change — AirDrop is clearly very useful for exchanging information during protests in China — but as with Apple complying with China’s laws requiring iCloud data centers in mainland China, Apple’s only choices are compliance or pulling out of the Chinese market. Defiance is not an option. Well, not a long-term one.

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3 days ago
All I've heard about AirDrop in the last few months is people AirDropping porn to everyone around them. (Including an email from one of my kid's schools just today.) Who knows why they released this to China first, but I bet this rolls out to everyone soon.
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You Do Not Need to Make a Pumpkin Pie From Scratch. Ever.


I need to tell you something. Something very important.

Are you sitting down? It’s not strictly necessary. You can stand if you want. Do you need a pen? I guess you don’t need one of those, either. This isn’t a particularly long message. Are you ready? Okay.

You don’t need to make a pumpkin pie from scratch this Thanksgiving.

Actually, you don’t need to make a pumpkin pie, ever.

*waits for a moment while the weight of this information sinks deeply in*

Do you understand what I’m saying? Every year, the Pumpkin Lobby (note to self: maybe see if this is actually a thing) gets together and convinces the world that every single novelty food item made between September 21st and November 30th must contain pumpkin. And that’s … fine? I sort of like pumpkin! It’s sweet and spicy and tastes like you’re eating the candle section of TJ Maxx, which I am problematically okay with. But the Pumpkin Lobby got greedy. It wasn’t enough that everything you ate had to contain pumpkin, you also had to buy pumpkins and lug them into your home as whimsical fall decoration. So everyone who comes in will think that they’ve entered an autumnal fairyland and ignore the fact that a lot of the gourds look exactly like goblin genitalia. (Are pumpkins and gourds the same thing? I DON’T CARE. THEY FALL UNDER THE PUMPKIN LOBBY’S DOMINION, PROBABLY.)

Photo of the author holding two tiny gourds up close to her face and smiling at the camera.



Photo of the author sitting in front of a giant pumpkin that is as big as she is (it has a ribbon it, from a fair).

Archival photo of me, circa 2012 or so, trying not to look terrified in front of a giant pumpkin. (Pumpkin fact: they can sense fear!)

And then, because they were not done with you yet, the Pumpkin Lobby (a thing that definitely exists!) decided you HAD TO MAKE YOUR OWN PUMPKIN PIE or the holidays would be ruined. So you bought can after can of pureed pumpkin, which only serves one purpose (to those of you saying “No, it doesn’t” – stop lying to yourselves) and put it in some godforsaken shelf at the back of your kitchen, where it will remain until you move or die.

Some of you endeavored to make pumpkin pie yourselves. It took approximately fourteen hours and inexplicably dirtied every pan in your kitchen. It came out of your oven with a fissure like the San Andreas across the top of it. I say this as someone who bakes a lot: pumpkin pies are notoriously labor intensive and hard to get right. Any custard-based pie is. If you overcook it, it turns grainy and somehow watery? If you undercook it, it feels like you’re eating baby food and will make everyone just a little bit violently ill. Plus, you have to cool it for approximately 4 days because there’s nothing worse than warm pumpkin pie. You have to know precisely when to take it out of the oven, which is slightly before you think you need to take it out, and anyway, that information isn’t important because YOU DO NOT NEED TO MAKE A PUMPKIN PIE. (Don’t get me started on the crust.)

It is takes forever, and the result, I have found, is more or less just as good as when you buy it from the store.

“Oh no,” you say. “That cannot be.” You go on to tell me a beautiful story about your family pumpkin pie recipe. I nod. It is very lovely.

You also don’t need to make it. Will it be better than the store bought version of the pie? Maybe. But only slightly. Will it be worth the effort? Absolutely not. The delta between the best and worst pumpkin pie in the world is not that big, friends. I guarantee you no one, no single person on the planet, has ever said, “Oh, my favorite dessert is pumpkin pie.” That is an entirely new sentence, never uttered.

A friend of mine once took a pumpkin – the whole, round, adorable … vegetable? (Note to self: look up what pumpkins are.) He scooped out the insides, cooked it up, pureed it, mixed it with spices and eggs and cream and poured it into a homemade crust and baked it lovingly. And after it was over, after the days he spent working on it, he looked at me and said, “None of that was worth it.”

Overhead image of a beautiful golden-crust pie.

A perfectly lovely, non-pumpkin pie I made.

Listen to me. Listen carefully. I am reaching through the internet and I am taking your head in my hands. I am trying to help you and ease your burden during this hellscape holiday season. Or maybe I am just trying to help myself. Either way, this is important. The best bakers I know will make fruit pies for the holidays, and then they will go out and buy a pumpkin pie. After all, it feels traditional to have one at the table (or maybe it just feels like someone from the Pumpkin Lobby will hurl a decorative gourd at your knees if you don’t). And I suppose if you want to make one from scratch, you can. But you don’t have to. You really don’t.

You never, ever need to make a pumpkin pie

P.S. – (whisper-shouting) You don’t need to make cranberry sauce, either.

The post You Do Not Need to Make a Pumpkin Pie From Scratch. Ever. appeared first on The Everywhereist.

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10 days ago
I dread making pie crust, but pumpkin pie filling? That takes like 30 seconds, you toss it in the oven and you're done. Somebody just doesn't like pumpkin pie. :)
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9 days ago
I'm not going to say pumpkin pie is my favorite desert but it is certainly in the top 2 or 3 favorite pies.
Denver, CO

Report: Amazon Alexa Is a ‘Colossal Failure’ on Pace to Lose $10 Billion This Year


Ron Amadeo, writing for Ars Technica:

Amazon is going through the biggest layoffs in the company’s history right now, with a plan to eliminate some 10,000 jobs. One of the areas hit hardest is the Amazon Alexa voice assistant unit, which is apparently falling out of favor at the e-commerce giant. That’s according to a report from Business Insider, which details “the swift downfall of the voice assistant and Amazon’s larger hardware division.”

Alexa has been around for 10 years and has been a trailblazing voice assistant that was copied quite a bit by Google and Apple. Alexa never managed to create an ongoing revenue stream, though, so Alexa doesn’t really make any money. The Alexa division is part of the “Worldwide Digital” group along with Amazon Prime video, and Business Insider says that division lost $3 billion in just the first quarter of 2022, with “the vast majority” of the losses blamed on Alexa. That is apparently double the losses of any other division, and the report says the hardware team is on pace to lose $10 billion this year. It sounds like Amazon is tired of burning through all that cash.

The BI report spoke with “a dozen current and former employees on the company’s hardware team,” who described “a division in crisis.” Just about every plan to monetize Alexa has failed, with one former employee calling Alexa “a colossal failure of imagination,” and “a wasted opportunity.” This month’s layoffs are the end result of years of trying to turn things around. Alexa was given a huge runway at the company, back when it was reportedly the “pet project” of former CEO Jeff Bezos.

It’s enough to make you think that HomePods aren’t expensive; it’s just that Alexa devices have been sold at a loss over the years. Also interesting that Siri (with some justification) has always been considered the worst of the big three voice assistants, and that it was held back technically (compared to Alexa and Google Assistant) by Apple’s commitment to privacy and on-device processing. The thing about Siri is that it was always at heart about making Apple’s platforms more accessible. Siri is there to make iPhones, iPads, Macs, Apple TVs, Apple Watches, and even AirPods better. And Apple isn’t losing money on any of those. Siri will serve the same purpose on future platforms from Apple, too. Apple’s investments in Siri are part and parcel investments in their OS strategy for everything they make.

What is (was?) Alexa about, strategically? I’ve often heard that the vague idea was that people would buy Alexa devices for obvious stuff (playing music, setting timers) but that eventually they’d starting using Alexa to buy stuff from Amazon — and thus wind up buying more stuff from Amazon than they would if they didn’t have an Alexa device in their house. That never made sense to me. Buying stuff via voice commands seems inherently uncertain — like buying a lottery ticket where you need some luck to actually get the product you think you told Alexa to buy. Even if it works, how is it any better than just shopping at Amazon on your phone, iPad, or computer? It seems worse to me, and no more convenient. How do you comparison shop via voice?

For any task X on a new platform, if doing X is not far easier than just doing X on your phone, X is never going to be a reason to use that new platform.

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10 days ago
I have close to 20 Alexa devices that get used primarily for home automation and music. They're extremely handy, and Amazon is getting $15 a month for a music subscription that would probably otherwise go to a competitor. But yeah, the business case for them always seemed kinda vague.
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10 days ago
Choosing what to buy on Amazon isn’t easy, and I’m not surprised people do not trust a voice assistant to do it. If you want more cereal, will you end up with six boxes, or with a single battered box drop-shipped from Walmart a week later? If you need batteries will they come at a ridiculous cost or will you get knockoff duracells? If you ask for an iPhone charger, will it be one from a no-name brand that catches on fire?
San Francisco

★ Twitter Tumult


If you had told me three weeks ago that Twitter, as a company, would today be embroiled in turmoil — perhaps outright existential crisis — over a company-wide email from Elon Musk centered around the phrase “extremely hardcore”, v-1 is not the scenario I’d have imagined.

It appears that Musk has taken Facebook’s “Move fast and break things” motto and reduced it to “Break everything fast.” Last night, reports of mass resignations inside Twitter seemed so dire that Twitter itself seemed to be documenting its own demise, like HAL 9000 singing “Daisy”, ever more degenerately slurred, near the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I lost count of how many of the people I follow were seemingly posting what they expected, last night, to be their last-ever tweets.

The New York Times:

Hours before a Thursday deadline that Elon Musk gave Twitter employees to decide whether to stay or leave their jobs, the social media company appeared to be in disarray.

Mr. Musk and his advisers held meetings with some Twitter workers whom they deemed “critical” to stop them from leaving, four people with knowledge of the conversations said. He sent confusing messages about the company’s remote work policy, appearing to soften his stance on not allowing people to work from home before warning their managers, according to those people and internal emails viewed by The New York Times.

All the while, two people said, resignations started to roll in. By the deadline, 5 p.m. Eastern time, hundreds of Twitter employees appeared to have decided to depart with three months of severance pay, the people said. Twitter later announced via email that it would close “our office buildings” and disable employee badge access until Monday.

Zoë Schiffer, today:

Email from Elon to the engineering team: “Anyone who can actually write software, please report to the 10th floor at 2pm today. Before doing so, please email me a bullet point summary of what your code commits have achieved in the past 6 months.”

Elon Musk is also asking for up 10 screenshots of the “most salient lines of code” from Twitter engineers.

This latest edict is bananas in several ways, not the least of which is that the company claimed just 12 hours earlier that its offices would be closed today. As I quipped (on Twitter, which, as I publish this, is still seemingly fully operational), either (a) the offices aren’t closed until next week; or (b) getting to the 10th floor is an interview puzzle to keep your job?

But at a deeper level, the idea that counting lines of code or looking at “up to 10 screenshots” of code can give any effective measure of a programmer is absurdly wrong. Some of the most elite programmers I’ve ever known have an uncanny knack for reducing lines of code. Programmers working on security issues necessarily code with painstaking care. And, of course, there are dozens of essential roles at Twitter — some highly technical — that don’t involve “code commits” at all.

Alex Heath and Mia Sato, reporting for The Verge:

Twitter had roughly 2,900 remaining employees before the deadline Thursday, thanks to Musk unceremoniously laying off about half of the 7,500-person workforce when he took over and the resignations that followed. Remaining and departing Twitter employees told The Verge that, given the scale of the resignations this week, they expect the platform to start breaking soon. One said that they’ve watched “legendary engineers” and others they look up to leave one by one.

“It feels like all the people who made this place incredible are leaving,” the Twitter staffer said. “It will be extremely hard for Twitter to recover from here, no matter how hardcore the people who remain try to be.”

Multiple “critical” teams inside Twitter have now either completely or near-completely resigned, said other employees who requested anonymity to speak without Musk’s permission. That includes Twitter’s traffic and front end teams that route engineering requests to the correct backend services. The team that maintains Twitter’s core system libraries that every engineer at the company uses is also gone. “You cannot run Twitter without this team,” a departing employee said.

It’s a fact that there have been mass resignations — on top of last week’s mass layoff — in the face of Musk’s fealty demand. Whether these resignations spell doom for the company remains to be seen.

My apparently wrongheaded optimism for Twitter under Musk’s leadership was rooted in the idea that while he might — and almost surely would — make mistakes with product decisions (including content moderation), product decisions can be reversed.

Losing essential talent and destroying employee morale, not so much.

This thoughtful, measured thread from departing Twitter engineer Peter Clowes sums it up:

I didn’t leave because I hate @elonmusk. I definitely didn’t agree with many of his decisions or how they were carried out but I also understood and respected others.

I don’t know him and if someone tells me to hate a stranger I say “no thanks”.

I didn’t leave because of the 50% company wide layoff that missed me. We all knew a layoff was coming. Prior management would likely have cut too shallow at first and then had to do multiple rounds. I think that would have sucked regardless.

I left because I no longer knew what I was staying for. Previously I was staying for the people, the vision, and of course the money (lets all be honest). All of those were radically changed or uncertain. [...]

If I stayed I would have been on-call constantly with little support for an indeterminate amount of time on several additional complex systems I had no experience in. Maybe for the right vision I could have dug deep and done mind numbing work for awhile. But that’s the thing…

There was no vision shared with us. No 5 year plan like at Tesla. Nothing more than what anyone can see on Twitter. It allegedly is coming for those who stayed but the ask was blind faith and required signing away the severance offer before seeing it. Pure loyalty test.

I’ve been struggling to express it succinctly but my shock has been, basically: Layoffs are inherently deeply traumatic, both personally and institutionally, and for a company still trying to do great things and compete in a tight marketplace — and Twitter’s marketplace is the most competitive in the world: attention — the highest post-layoff priority for any company’s leader should be to restore, maintain, and if possible, boost morale.

Yet all of Musk’s actions to date can only be seen as destroying morale. I do not think he’s secretly trying to destroy his own $44 billion acquisition, but if he were, as though in a real-life Brewster’s Millions scenario, this path seems like the surest way. He’s shooting holes into his own sinking ship.

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14 days ago
I worked for Yahoo some years ago and they laid off 5 of my 16 person team and told the rest of us to just buck up and work harder. They seemed shocked when 4 more of us quit within a few weeks. Even in downturns it is a competitive industry for good engineers. You have to give people a reason to stay. Fear of not having a paycheck exists, but it is not as scary as working hard for management you don't believe in.
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13 days ago
> My apparently wrongheaded optimism for Twitter under Musk’s leadership was rooted in the idea that while he might — and almost surely would — make mistakes with product decisions (including content moderation), product decisions can be reversed.

buried the lede my dude
Princeton, NJ

Elon Musk Posts Open Letter to Twitter Advertisers on the Cusp of Completing His Acquisition


Elon Musk:

And I do so with humility, recognizing that failure in pursuing this goal, despite our best efforts, is a very real possibility.

That said, Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences! In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all, where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences, just as you can choose, for example, to see movies or play video games ranging from all ages to mature.

I’m more optimistic about Twitter’s future than I have been in years. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a very real chance that under Musk’s leadership, Twitter might break apart and fade into irrelevance. But Musk himself notes the same thing! Keeping Twitter open to a wide range of content, but making it easy to control what content you see, as user, is a worthy ideal. Pulling it off, that’s the trick. But as a privately-held company Musk is free to make changes that move Twitter away from being optimized for engagement and towards being optimized for enjoyment.

The risk of fading into irrelevance is far greater, if not nearly certain, under Twitter’s current leadership. I think Twitter is worth saving. I think Twitter requires massive changes in order to be saved — both outward-facing as a service and platform, and internally as a company. I would not have picked Elon Musk as the person to lead the company through those changes. But you dance with the one who bought the company and took it private.

I also very much believe that advertising, when done right, can delight, entertain and inform you; it can show you a service or product or medical treatment that you never knew existed, but is right for you. For this to be true, it is essential to show Twitter users advertising that is as relevant as possible to their needs. Low relevancy ads are spam, but highly relevant ads are actually content! Fundamentally, Twitter aspires to be the most respected advertising platform in the world that strengthens your brand and grows your enterprise.

That’s a good North Star. Ads as desirable content has been my mantra at Daring Fireball ever since I turned on the revenue spigot.

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35 days ago
It finally hit me why John's comments here feel off. Why is his first (only?) thought optimism for the success of Twitter's business? Where's the concern for our country or humanity? He (rightly) bags on Facebook constantly because of those concerns. Why does Twitter get a pass?
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