Something that we have seen the last few years are multi-class shares at startups. In simple terms, multi-class shares exist when investors and founders create a class of equity that affords them more votes per unit of stock than what is provided by other, lesser types of company stock. This does a few things, including concentrating power in fewer hands. In extreme cases, multi-class share setups can ensure that a founder has complete control of a company, forever.
Facebook is one such company. Twitter is not.
The difference between the two companies isn’t idle. Facebook is struggling to reinvent itself under the guidance of the same leader that brought it to early success while, in contrast, Twitter is now run by a non-founder, and just added a controversial power-user to its board. These are very different results for publicly traded social networks.
This brings us to what is making me laugh. By my understanding of today’s technology tribalism, the folks most enthralled with Elon Musk and his own brand of capitalism are also those most in favor of using multi-class shares to control companies. Or more simply, the folks who see little issue with Facebook’s CEO holding all the cards, are also the ones excited about what Musk can do at Twitter.
It’s an example, I think, of intellectual dissonance, and one that forces me to folks who share my view — that creating corporate governance that looks like monarchy is a poor choice over a long time horizon — to ask a question: Given that a very wealthy shitposter just arrogated himself onto Twitter’s board through creative use of their checkbook, does it change how we think about corporate governance, and the importance of shareholder voting rights being more than mirages?
Nope. Not really. Elon is doing activist shareholder things, which is fine, even if some folks find him distasteful as much as some consider him a hybrid of visionary and role model.
What will Musk bring to Twitter? Who knows. But at least it will be entertaining.
My friend and colleague Ron Miller wrote about a project at Salesforce this week that will let folks write code by having a conversation with a computer. I recommend that you read it. It reminded me heavily of what GitHub built recently, namely a method to suggest code to developers as they type. Tools are coming for boring development work, it appears.
Neat tech from Salesforce and Microsoft — GitHub’s parent company — will not supplant developers. The tricky work that they do will remain in demand. Instead, consider code-writing tools from the perspective of folks who don’t write code daily, but need to at times to do their job. For them, the market appears to be clearing obstacles from their path.
Between the rise of no-code and low-code services, and the above work regarding more automated code-generation, we are slowly moving toward a future where development work will be far more in the grasp of the beginner, and even more for the dabbler. This could unlock a lot of human potential. And perhaps even lessen the developer shortage on a modest basis.
All told I am excited by this part of tech work. Let’s give more people more power. It will be good for humanity as a whole.
(Reuters) -News of Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk taking a board seat at Twitter has some Twitter employees panicking over the future of the social media firm’s ability to moderate content, company insiders told Reuters.
Within hours of the surprise disclosure this week that Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist,” acquired enough shares to become the top Twitter shareholder, political conservatives began flooding social media with calls for the return of Donald Trump. The former U.S. president was banned from Facebook and Twitter after the Jan 6. Capitol riot over concerns around incitement of violence.
“Now that @ElonMusk is Twitter’s largest shareholder, it’s time to lift the political censorship. Oh… and BRING BACK TRUMP!,” tweeted Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert on Monday.
Despite Twitter’s reiteration this week that the board does not make policy decisions, four Twitter employees who spoke with Reuters said they were concerned about Musk’s ability to influence the company’s policies on abusive users and harmful content.
With Musk on the board, the employees said his views on moderation could weaken years-long efforts to make Twitter a place of healthy discourse, and might allow trolling and mob attacks to flourish.
In the wake of Trump’s ban from Facebook and Twitter, the billionaire tweeted that many people would be unhappy with U.S. tech companies acting “as the de facto arbiter of free speech.”
Musk has not articulated what he wants to do as a new board member but he has telegraphed his intentions with his Twitter activity. A week before Musk disclosed a 9.1% stake in Twitter, he polled his 80 million followers on whether the site adhered to the principle of free speech, and the majority voted ‘no.’
The employees, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, point to Musk’s history of using Twitter to attack critics. In 2018, Musk came under fire for accusing a British diver who had helped rescue children trapped in a cave in Thailand of being a pedophile.
Musk won a defamation case https://www.reuters.com/article/us-musk-lawsuit-idINKBN1YA13U brought by the diver in 2019.
When asked for comment, a Twitter spokesperson repeated a statement from Tuesday that the board “plays an important advisory and feedback role across the entirety of our service,” but daily operations and decisions are made by Twitter’s management and employees.
“Twitter is committed to impartiality in the development and enforcement of its policies and rules,” the spokesperson said.
Some employees that Reuters spoke to were not so sure about the company’s commitment to this.
“I find it hard to believe (the board) doesn’t have influence,” said one employee. “If that’s the case, why would Elon want a board seat?”
But other employees Reuters spoke to said that Musk’s involvement could help quicken the pace of new feature and product launches, and provide a fresh perspective as an active user of Twitter.
Neither Tesla nor Musk responded to requests for comment.
Twitter’s board figures prominently in discussions within Twitter, more so than at other tech companies, one employee said. That is because unlike Meta Platforms Inc, where founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg controls the company through a dual class share structure, Twitter only has a single class of shares, making it more vulnerable to activists like Musk. Teams within Twitter often consider how to communicate a strategy or decision to the board, for instance, the employee said.
On Thursday, Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1511982702819520512?s=20&t=icqGAAlqCZdXjrowWZk0zw an image from 2018 of him smoking weed on the Joe Rogan podcast on Spotify, with the text: “Twitter’s next board meeting is going to be lit.”
One employee familiar with the company’s operations said there were no current plans to reinstate Trump. A Twitter spokesperson said there were no plans to reverse any policy decisions.
But a veteran auto analyst who covers Musk’s operating style at Tesla said such a decision may only be a matter of time.
“If Donald Trump was actually rich, he would have liked to have done the same thing but he couldn’t afford it. So Elon is doing what Trump would have liked to have done,” said Guidehouse Insights analyst Sam Abuelsamid.
“I wouldn’t be surprised” if Twitter restores Trump’s account now that Elon owns nearly 10% of the company,” he said.
Longer term, employees said Musk’s involvement may change Twitter’s corporate culture, which they say currently values inclusivity. Musk has faced widespread criticism for posting memes that mocked transgender people and efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19, and for comparing some world leaders to Hitler.
Several employees were alarmed by the warm welcome Musk received from Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal and cofounder Jack Dorsey, which prompted them to hit the job mar
“Some people are dusting off their resumes,” one person said. “I don’t want to work for somebody (like Musk).”
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