How many ways can Twitter be stupid?

Yesterday (Saturday), Twitter users found themselves unable to see Tweets for extended periods of time.

There was no explanation for many hour until Twitter executive (and former CEO, and owner) Elon Musk tweeted that the social network was throttling users because, apparently, some organizations or users were “scraping” lots of tweets and causing excess traffic.

A long, incomplete list of what Twitter just did wrong

Twitter’s actions yesterday were polymorphously idiotic. I know Elon Musk is supposed to be brilliant, but it’s hard to imagine how one could screw up a strategic choice and rollout of policy more idiotically than this. For example, a professionally managed company with more than 200 million users shouldn’t:

  • Make a policy change that affects all of its users without preparing people in advance.
  • Cause that change to happen on a Saturday in the middle of a holiday weekend, when users and businesspeople who work with the social network are less likely to be paying close attention.
  • Have the first notice of that change be through vague error messages that make it appear that the site is down.
  • Solve a problem apparently created by a few abusive users, not by identifying and penalizing the abusive users, but by indiscriminately penalizing all users.
  • Post no notice whatsoever of the massive change in policy on the CEO’s feed. (Did Musk let new Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino know he was doing this? How does she feel about it? I doubt we’ll ever know . . . unless she quits as nearly every other significant Twitter executive has.)
  • Interrupt habitual Twitter users, cutting them off from their feeds so that I’m sure many of them will see this as the last straw, and switch to any of the many Twitter alternatives now springing up (including one from Meta/Facebook and one from Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey).
  • Throttle traffic on a site that generates most of its revenues from advertising. Is this the way to regain advertisers’ confidence?
  • Limit speech on a social network that bills itself as part of an extreme free-speech movement.
  • Implement the change in such a way that one part of Twitter kept asking for tweets and another kept denying the requests — effectively turning Twitter into the first site to execute a distributed denial of service attack on itself.
  • Demonstrate your own strategic confusion, after setting the Twitter viewing parameters so low that they affected vast numbers of users, by then arbitrarily shifting the limits upward twice more in the space of a single day with no further explanation.
  • Turn the whole fiasco into a joke by retweeting parody accounts making fun of it.

Why this matters

If you are a user, Twitter has now proven you can’t count on it to function in a predictable way, or to explain to you what’s happening.

If you are a news organization or other entity using Twitter to communicate to the world, you can no longer count on your tweets being readable by people.

If you are an advertiser, you can no longer count on your Twitter ads being shown to the maximum number of people.

If you are a partner using Twitter’s API, you can’t count on the rules of your partnership staying stable long enough to build anything on Twitter.

Elon Musk has now trashed his $44 billion acquisition in such a way that no one can trust it.

It’s the most egregious example of value destruction ever. What epic incompetence!

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