The Morning Brief from Yahoo Finance is written today by Andy Serwer, who asks the question:
Question: How many people does it take to run a tech company?
His focus is on what it takes to keep the lights on and servers running. In the case of Twitter, it's noticeable that the answer is much less than Twitter had when Elon Musk bought it.
But the proof isn't to Andy's liking. There's a hint that he's not a fan of Musk:
I’m not a huge fan of Elon’s management style — which seems in part to be about getting in touch with his inner 13-year-old boy
To give Andy credit, he questions the value of the employment bloat in general and even the vaunted engineers that create the features found in the big Internet organizations.
Many of these layoffs have likely been in marketing and staff functions, but I would argue that in some cases redundancy lies in line operations as well. It's an open secret that a fair amount of core technology work adds little or no value to customers, companies, or the economy....
I understand engineers and product managers need to experiment. It’s just that the process — an overly empowered tech culture where engineers are encouraged to “disrupt,” “pivot,” “move fast and break things,” and “fail fast” — has been taken too far.
Maybe this modus operandi makes sense for the smartest 1% of technical workers, but not for tens of thousands who have been given the keys.
But here's the problem, Andy's looking at these companies as if they were factories producing the necessary goods. He refers to firing half the workers at a dairy, leading to customer shortages. But that is an apple-to-oranges comparison. Twitter is not a dairy.
And then it gets personal.
To me Musk and his radical job cutting smacks of twice baked-over Randism. Every generation produces business leaders like Musk, those with incredible ideas who also cloak power plays in the guise of economic revolution.
But the problem with Twitter was never about the number of employees. It was about the product they delivered.
The problem with Twitter (and Facebook and Google) is that they don't deliver milk. They provide opinions, shape the culture and affect elections. Those thousands of employees hand megaphones to their partisan allies and send mobs to silence people who disagree. They inject partisan poison into the cultural bloodstream.
If those workers at Andy's dairy deliberately soured the milk, the number who work there is not the issue. They should all be fired and replaced with those who deliver good milk.
The problem with Twitter, Facebook, and Google is not the number of people who work there. It's the people themselves who are in charge of the Public Square. They have abused their power by stifling speech. They have deliberately censored the truth as well as dissent. They created a public forum and then turned it into a partisan meeting.
The question is not about the number of people it takes to run a tech company. The more important question is, what should be done when people in a company deliberately produce a toxic product?
It's telling that before Musk, Twitter censored President Trump but provided links to child porn. Twitter produced toxic waste. A lot of work is required to restore trust in Twitter. But with Musk and fewer employees, it's making the right changes.