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Elon Musk issues ultimatum to Twitter staff: Go hardcore or go home

Divisive CEO becomes a prisoner of his own device

Comment Following a public engineering spat and multiple firings, Twitter CEO Elon Musk has issued an ultimatum to his employees: get hardcore or get out of my way.

It turns out he was not talking about punk rock, or road construction, but the vision of a new Twitter, the 2.0 iteration of the pioneering social media platform he was destined to make "extremely hardcore."

"This will mean working long hours at high intensity," he said. "Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade."

It's OK, though: employees who did not see being "extremely hardcore" in their future could opt to leave the company and collect three months' severance pay. Those wanting to stay were told to sign a "pledge" by 5pm Eastern time Thursday. If they didn't sign, they were out, the missive implied.

According to reports and Twitter users, Musk emailed staff in the middle of the night to tell them of his vision.

Musk, who is also CEO of electric car company Tesla and rocket business SpaceX, has previously tweeted about the prospect of "hardcore software engineering" at the social media platform once he took over.

The expression was then mercilessly mocked by Grady Booch, who has a track record of establishing concepts in software engineering.

Since Musk's $44 billion takeover of the platform – a commitment he tried to wriggle out of in a series of court cases – employees have suffered a tumultuous existence.

Earlier this week he fired software engineer Eric Frohnhoefer, who had responded to Musk's public apology for Twitter's performance by pointing out the CEO's apparent misunderstanding of the system's architecture.

Others have followed including principal software engineer Yao Yue, software engineer Sasha Solomon, and backend engineer Nick Morgan.

Several colleagues, former colleagues, and fellow professional software engineers have expressed their sympathy and support on Twitter.

Musk also took to the platform to mock those he had fired over disagreements with him.

"I would like to apologize for firing these geniuses. Their immense talent will no doubt be of great use elsewhere," he said.

An industry source working in software development told us: "I have worked on high pressure projects and if there is one lesson to be taken away from all of them is that longer hours result in negative productivity when it comes to code because you have to undo more (initially undetected) errors and engage in more debugging than if you ensured that people took the breaks they need.

"I have personally hauled someone off their chair and dragged them into a pub to eat something and then go home because they had coded through the night. Although I appreciate the effort, in my opinion you also have a duty as manager to ensure your crew stays sane and healthy - evidently Musk doesn't see it that way.'

Claims have also emerged that Musk is firing employees critical of him in the company's Slack channels.

With comments appearing to emanate one day from a business leader and the next from an unhinged high school prankster, some might say Twitter is starting to look like an endless reflection of the man himself, leaving the platform doomed to debate, criticize, mock, and praise his every pronouncement and robbing denizens of their collective will to live, let alone board a space rocket destined for Mars. ®

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