The CEO Who Isn’t in Charge of the Company

Matt Levine, in his Money Stuff column:

Well, look, if I were the newly hired chief executive officer of a social media company, and if the directors and shareholders who brought me in as CEO had told me that my main mission was to turn around the company’s precarious financial situation by improving our position with advertisers, and if I spent my first few weeks reassuring advertisers and rebuilding relationships and talking up our site’s unique audience and powerful engagement, and then one day my head of software engineering came to me and said “hey boss, too many people were too engaged with too many posts, so I had to limit everyone’s ability to view posts on our site, just FYI,” I would ... probably ... fire ... him?

I mean I suppose I might ask questions like “Is this because of some technological limitation on our system? Is it because you were monkeying with the code without understanding it? Is it because you tried to stop people from reading the site without logging in, and messed up and stopped them from reading the site even when they logged in? Is it because you fired and demoralized too many engineers so no one was left to keep the systems running normally? Is it because you forgot to pay the cloud bills? Is it because deep down you don’t like it when people read posts on our site and you want to stop them, or you don’t like relying on ad revenue and want to sabotage my ability to sell ads?” Those are all interesting questions, and I suppose having the answers would help my new head of software engineering fix whatever this guy broke. But no matter what the answers are, this guy’s gotta go. If you are in charge of the software engineers at a social media site, and you make it so that people can’t read the site, that’s bad.

The only way you wouldn’t fire the head of software at Twitter would be, say, if he owned the company.

Monday, 3 July 2023