By John Gruber
Build web apps, iOS apps, and workflows with Retool.
James Clayton, reporting for BBC News:
In a tweet to the firm’s chief executive, Halli Thorleifsson said: “Your head of HR is not able to confirm if I am employed or not”.
Mr Musk responded by asking: “What work have you been doing?”
Mr Thorleifsson told the BBC that nine days after being frozen out of Twitter’s accounts he did not know whether he had been fired or not. After a series of follow up questions and answers with Mr Musk, that read like a live interview for his job, Mr Thorleifsson said he received an email confirming that he had been sacked.
If you’ve been staying away from Twitter, you’re smarter than me, but you might have missed this saga, and it is, I promise you, worth your attention. It started last night with Thorleifsson mentioning Musk in a tweet to ask whether he was still employed, and Musk then engaged in the most dismissive way possible. It was like reality TV on Twitter. As absurd and offensive as you might think their back-and-forth exchange was, I guarantee you’re low-balling it. At one point, after having been asked by Musk what he’s accomplished recently, Thorleifsson said he “led the effort to save about $500k on one SaaS contract”. Musk asked which SaaS contract. Thorleifsson replied “Figma”. Musk then replied “🤣🤣”. Best guess as to why Musk responded thus is that Musk doesn’t know what Figma is and thought Thorleifsson was making a “ligma” joke.
That’s the thread that prompted Clayton to file the above story with the BBC. But it gets worse/more absurd — but ultimately, better. Early this morning Musk tweeted:
The reality is that this guy (who is independently wealthy) did no actual work, claimed as his excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, yet was simultaneously tweeting up a storm.
Can’t say I have a lot of respect for that.
Thorleifsson graciously (good god where does his patience and serenity come from?) responded to Musk, explaining that he has muscular dystrophy, lost the use of his legs 20 years ago, and while he can and does type, his arms tire and his hands cramp after an hour or two:
And now finally to my fingers, which I know you have great concern for. Thank you for that btw. I’ll tell you what I told them. I’m not able to do manual work (which in this case means typing or using a mouse) for extended periods of time without my hands starting to cramp.
This wasn’t a problem in Twitter 1.0 since I was a senior director and my job was mostly to help teams move forward, give them strategic and tactical guidance. But as I told HR (I’m assuming that’s the confidential health information you are sharing) I can’t work as a hands on designer for the reasons outlined above.
I’m typing this on my phone btw. It’s easier for me because I only need to use one finger.
The notion that a design leader can only “work” while their hands are on a keyboard and trackpad/mouse is, of course, patently offensive. (Also: illegal?) Thorleifsson is an award-winning designer and his design agency, Ueno, which Twitter acquired, was highly regarded and accomplished. His personal website is a delightful, pitch-perfect homage to Hergé’s Tintin.
He’s so renowned that in January Thorleifsson was named Iceland’s Person of the Year:
Halli, a 45 year-old designer, gained nation-wide recognition this year when, after the sale of his tech company Ueno to Twitter, he chose to be paid the sale price as wages. Normally in such large sales, the payment comes in the form of stock or other financial instruments, which categorize the sale as capital gains, meaning it is taxed at a much lower rate. Halli, however, gladly paid the higher tax rate, having spoken publicly on many occasions about the benefits he has received from the Icelandic social system.
Halli was born with muscular dystrophy and came from a working class background. In statements about his decision to pay back into the Icelandic social system, he cited both healthcare and education in Iceland as keys to his success. Notably, he was one of the highest tax payers in the nation after the sale of Ueno. [...]
One of his best-known projects is Ramp Up Iceland, which is building ramps throughout the nation to increase accessibility for people in wheelchairs. He has also personally donated to the legal funds of victims of sexual abuse, and has garnered praise for charitable donations to families in need this holiday season.
Thorleifsson, to put it mildly, is a rather extraordinary and inspiring person.
He also seems to be remarkably clever. Thorleifsson wasn’t a regular at-will employee at Twitter; he had a contract as the founder of an acquired company, and the entire thread is best read as his having baited Musk, successfully, into breaching that contract in public. (According to Zoë Schiffer and Casey Newton at Platformer, Thorleifsson was on a “do not fire” list inside Twitter, because breaking his contract would be so expensive for the company.)
Lastly, Thorleifsson has a sharp sense of humor, having concluded his thread this morning thus:
Oh! I forgot to mention that I read you can’t go to the toilet on your own either @elonmusk.
I’m sorry to hear about that. I know the feeling.
The only difference is I can’t do it because of a physical disability and you’re afraid someone you hurt will attack you while you poop.
As Musk himself might say, “🤣🤣”. Drop the mic, Halli, your work is done.
Epilogue: Musk apologizes.