Here’s How A Twitter Engineer Says It Will Break In The Next Weeks

This is especially problematic, Krueger says, for a site like Twitter, which can have random unexpected spikes in user traffic and interest. Krueger likens Twitter to online retail sites, where businesses can prepare for major traffic events like Black Friday with some predictability. “When it comes to Twitter, they have the option of having Black Friday any day and any time of the day,” Krueger says. “On any given day, a news event can happen that can have a significant impact on the conversation.” That’s harder to do if you’re firing up to 80% of your SREs — a figure that Krueger says is used in the industry, but which MIT Technology Review has been unable to confirm. The engineer agreed that that percentage sounded “plausible.”

The current Twitter engineer sees no way out of the problem other than reversing the layoffs (which the company has… reportedly already tried to roll back somewhat.) “If we start pushing at breakneck speed, things will break,” he says. ‘You can’t get around that. We’re building up technical debt much faster than before — almost as fast as we’re building up financial debt.”

The list is getting longer

He presents a dystopian future where problems pile up as the backlog of maintenance tasks and repairs grows longer and longer. “Things will break. Things will break more often. Things will break for a long time. Things will be broken in more serious ways,” he says. “Everything will melt together until it’s ultimately useless.”

Twitter’s collapse into useless wreckage is some time off, the engineer says, but the telltale signs of process rot are already there. It starts with the little things: “Bugs in any part of the client; whatever service in the backend they are trying to use,” says the engineer. “It will be minor annoyances at first, but as the backend fixes get delayed, things will pile up until people eventually just give up.”

Krueger says Twitter won’t blink out of the blue, but we’ll see an increased number of tweets not loading and accounts appearing and disappearing seemingly on a whim. “I would expect that anything that writes data to the backend might have sluggishness, timeouts, and much more subtle kinds of error conditions,” Krueger says. ‘But they are often more insidious. And they also generally take a lot more effort to detect and fix. If you don’t have enough engineers, that becomes a big problem.”

The quivering manual retweets and faltering follower numbers are indications that this is already happening. Twitter engineers designed failsafes for the platform to fall back on so that the functionality doesn’t go completely offline, but instead offers scaled-down versions — that’s what we’re seeing, Krueger says.

In addition to the minor outages, the Twitter engineer also believes there will be significant outages on the horizon, thanks in part to Musk’s cost-cutting drive to reduce Twitter’s cloud computing server load as an effort to recover up to $3 million a day in infrastructure costs. . Reuters reports: that project, which came out of Musk’s warroom, is called the Deep Cuts Plan. One of Reuters’ sources called the plans “insane”, while Alan Woodward, a cybersecurity professor at the University of Surrey, says that “unless they have massively overdeveloped the current system, the risk of poorer capacity and availability seems like a logical conclusion. “

Brain drain

Meanwhile, when things break, there is no longer the institutional knowledge to quickly solve problems as they arise. “A lot of the people I saw who left after Friday have been there for nine, ten, eleven years, which is just ridiculous for a tech company,” the Twitter engineer says. When those individuals left Twitter offices, decades of knowledge about how their systems worked with them disappeared. (Those within Twitter and those watching from the sidelines have previously claimed that Twitter’s knowledge base is overly concentrated in the minds of a handful from programmers, some of whom have been fired.)


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