Twitter, Musk, etc

Friday, 11 November 2022

If you have not been following the Twitter acquisition by Elon Musk, or don’t know what any of this actually mean, feel free to stop reading now.

So after all the Twitter acquisition saga (Musk to by Twitter, deal agreed, Musk trying to back out of it, Twitter taking Musk to court to enforce the deal, Musk finalising the acquisition before ending up in court), Mr Musk has laid off the executives at Twitter, followed by about 50% reduction of the workforce, and implemented some changes to the way Twitter works (sometimes reversing these changes in short order), causing a big drop in revenue for the business, as some of the biggest advertisers hit the pause button with their Twitter spending.

Now a lot of employees (current and former) and users are unhappy about the way Mr Musk is making decisions about the business he just acquired, and a lot of people are not shy about expressing their discontent online (often on Twitter!). However, let’s think about this for a minute. Mr Musk has acquired the business, and paid a lot of money for it (and had to get some big loans for the that $44bn tag price).
Now you could argue that as Mr Musk owns the business, he can do what he wants with it, even if he ends up driving it into bankruptcy (and at $44bn, it would be an expensive exercise), and that nobody else has got any standing to tell him what to do with what he owns.
If customers, users, employees are unhappy about any of it, they can certainly leave (employees), stop paying for Twitter products (customers), and leave the platform (users), and many have been doing just that. Nobody is obliged to use the platform, work for Mr Musk, and buy Twitter services/products.

However one could also argue that, like any responsible business owner and chief executive, Mr Musk should look after his employees, customers, and users, rather than just treat his business as a possession to do what he wants with. If this a point of view one wants to take though, I would argue that this should have applied to the previous owners (shareholders who looked after their investments through the board of directors) and executives of Twitter as well. The same ones who decided to accept the deal proposed by Mr Musk. The deal that netted executives and shareholders a lot of money: did they actually take enough time to think what the impact of such acquisition would be on the business, its employees, customers and users? After all Mr Musk had not been shy about sharing his thoughts about Twitter, so what is happening now should not have been so unpredictable. Or did they just stopped thinking once they saw the amount of money they stood to make from the acquisition deal? The same deal they were going to take Mr Musk to court for when he started trying to back out of it (and which he eventually completed). Are they any less responsible for the current state of the business, thanks to a self-enforced blindness to the consequences of the deal, induced by a huge payoff? I would argue not, and I would argue that anybody affected could have had at least some idea that things would have been more challenging.

But hey, Mr Musk didn’t get to where he is by being unsuccessful in business, and he is revered by many for his business acumen, and his achievements. So who knows, maybe he does know what he is doing, and Twitter will flourish and become very successful, with good peace of all the employees who were let go of, without a golden parachute, and who are not finding it quite so easy to walk into a new job, at a time of economic uncertainty.


Brexit: how I would love to be proven wrong!

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

I still get asked at times what I think about Brexit (mostly by people who don’t know me well enough).

Since the referendum result happened, I thought that it would be a disaster. Not so much for the EU (although it will hurt the rest of Europe), but especially for the UK, and its residents (both UK citizens and not).

The main reasons behind my thinking are as follows (in no particular order).

We live in a global world, and the idea that any country standing alone, will do better than being in a group of peers, seems to me illogical.

Disentangling 40 years of deals, treaties, laws, bureaucracy, etc, in just a few years, is madness. Somebody likened it to being equivalent of taking the flour out of a cake. That seems a good comparison.

UK politicians cannot agree what they think the UK should look like post-EU: how are they ever going to negotiate a deal with the EU, especially when the EU has no interest in setting a precedent where being out of the EU is better than being in?

The EU, with all its defects and faults, was very good at protecting its citizens against the excesses of national governments, and global corporations. A couple of examples would include legislation to prevent pollution excesses, privacy infringements, human rights abuses, etc, often in antagonism to national governments who were a lot happier to trample of their own citizens’ rights.
Oh, and the EU also pushed through the abolition of mobile phone roaming charges. I never heard anybody complain about any of these.

The ideal that any single county has got more sovereignty on its own, that as part of the EU, I think is debatable. Where a lot of day to day trade, travel, services, etc depend on multinational companies, and other countries, there will always be compromises, and concessions to be made, to get what one wants. While the UK might get away from (some, maybe) of the EU regulations and laws, there will be other restrictions imposed by other countries or multinational corporations, that will set their requirement for the UK to get what they want (services, goods, etc). I believe that when people will look back in a decade or two, they will realise it would have been a lot better sticking with the EU.

Immigration is what politicians blame when they don’t want to admit what a poor job they have done in managing the economy, the infrastructure of the country (hospitals, transport, schools, etc). As they never want to admit that, they always blame in on immigration. And given that the EU implements freedom of movement, they then blame it on the EU. So the EU, by via of the free movement of people (i.e. immigration), become the regular scapegoat of all the problems in the country.
Of course when employers try to point out that not only people from the rest of the EU are a fundamental part of the job market supply, but are often not enough to fill all the vacancies, and that people from outside the EU are also needed on top, they are accused of being scaremongers. Again when companies will have to close down, or move abroad, or raise prices because they are struggling to find the workforce they need, we’ll see who was right.

Now you might have read all of this, and thought that I am just repeating anti-Brexit propaganda, and maybe you have shouted some pro-Brexit propaganda to the screen while you were reading.
To you I say, I sincerely hope you are right and I am wrong. And if that proves to be the case, I will not be upset in the least: on the contrary I will be very happy to be proven wrong.

Snow in Britain

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

First of all, I have to admit I love the snow. No  matter in what country I find myself, and no matter I am not a child any more (even though maybe I still am at heart), I love the falling snow, and I love to see everything covered in white.

However I find that in Britain lots of people (adults) deeply hate it. The reason they give is that it causes chaos on the roads, and on transports in general (trains, flights, etc.). And from a certain point of view they are right, because it does. Or does it?

I would rather say that it is not the snow that causes chaos, but rather the un-preparedness of people and organizations for it. Over the last few days I have repeatedly heard on the news that we have had heavy snow falls across Britain, in particularly in the South-East (where I live). However, I have not seen around me any more than 10-15 cm of snow. Now when I was little, and I used to live in Northern Italy, I remember we used to have winters with 50cm of snow, or more. In places like Switzerland, Southern Germany, Nordic countries etc., what we have just had in Britain probably counts as a small amount of snow, and in those countries things carry on as usual with similar amounts of snow.

So why does everything in Britain grinds to a halt instead? Well I think the answer is that most people and organization do not prepare for it. For organizations it is a matter of costs versus return: it is not worth investing money for an occurrence that happens only a few days a year (imagine an airport buying and maintaining equipment to de-ice plane wings, adapt runways, train staff, etc.): the business lost, and the compensation paid (if at all), costs a lot less. I do not have figures at hand to prove this, but I believe the facts are proof enough. And I believe that the cost of compensation and lost business might well be on the rise. Whether it will be enough to spur them into action, that remains to be seen, but maybe it is the general attitude that has to change, because when individuals don’t prepare themselves, business (who are made of individuals) won’t do it either.

For the normal person getting out on the road in his or her car, the reasoning is pretty much the same: why would I buy snow chains, and keep them in the boot, or put winter tyres on, when we hardly get snow at all? It would be an extra cost to add to the car bill (on top of MOT, servicing, insurance, road tax, repairs, etc.).

So when things do go wrong, and people find themselves stuck, they complain. I would really like to know what they are complaining about. Is it that the roads weren’t cleared? But even with all the goodwill and effort and staff and equipment in the world, roads can only be cleared so fast, and it doesn’t help if the gritters and snow ploughs can’t get there because the roads are already clogged with traffic. How many of these complaining people were prepared for it? How many had chains on their tyres? How many had winter tyres fitted?

Last night on my way home (it took me about three times longer than usual thanks to queues caused by unprepared people, but the snow was beautiful when travelling on the back roads), I was happily going down quite a steep hill, when a lady driving up the opposite direction got stuck. Seeing me approach she lowered her window, so I stopped to listen to her. She told me “I am stuck”. Now I don’t quite know what she expected me to do about it. I wasn’t going to be able to tow her up the hill (I did not have the equipment, and even winter tyres don’t do miracles), and I wasn’t going to be able to push her up (it was a good couple of hundred meters at least). The only thing I was really able to do was to try and avoid getting more cars stuck behind her by warning other drivers on the way up, so that she could turn around, go back and reach her destination a different way.

But to all the motorists who found themselves in the same situations, I would like to say that if you are not prepared for it (when the warnings have been widely publicized on tv, radio, newspaper and the internet), don’t go and complain when you get stuck. You are the ones the rest of us who do put the extra effort in to prepare for the snow, should complain to.

Italy: coup, civil war, or resurgence?

Friday, 9 October 2009

I am getting the impression that Italy is on the brink of something dramatic. In the last few years, the government led by Mr Berlusconi has wrecked the economy, in the pursuit of their own interests, and those who would give people in power a good return.
Parliament has been nothing more that a rubber stamp for laws to allow Mr B and associates to pursue those interests, and avoid having to face the consequences of breaking existing laws.
The media has been subjugated into being the government mouthpiece and censor (even though, by listening to Mr B it seems they are all out to get him).
The judiciary has been obstructed and deligitimized, to avoid prosecution.
The people have not been able to exercise their democratic rights, thanks to a distorted electoral law, allowing the main parties to choose who to send to parliament.

In brief Italy is headed for financial ruin, and democratic disintegration. However, it might not be too late yet. More and more people are waking up from the media (TV especially) induced slumber, and are starting to realize what is going on.

The following scenarios are the ones I see possibly happening:
1) The goverment, or groups close to it, will finally break all pretences of legitimacy, and be done with laws, the constitution, and turn the country’s form of goverment into a tyranny. This would seem the logical next step, for what today is quite close already to an oligarchy.

2) A civil war will break out, as the above is attempted, and large parts of the population refuse to put up with it, and decide to take up the struggle in defence of the republic.

3) A large majority of people will start getting involved in public life, and start a peaceful revolution from the bottom up, legally entering the centres of power, a bit at a time, and putting into play those values that seem to have disappeared from Italian politics, so fostering a resurgence of the country. Moral first, and economical following up.

I really do with for scenario 3), and some hopeful signs are already present (Movimento a 5 stelle (for civil politics), and Il Fatto, for an independent media, just to name two).

Canal boating

Monday, 5 October 2009

Discovering beautiful places on your doorstep, can almost sound like a cliché.

Well it happened to me last weekend, as we went canal boating with friends for the afternoon. I often moan that Hertfordshire is not as idyllic as other countryside spots, and that the ever-present motorways spoil the landscape (both visual and auditory).

However, as we were chugging along under the M25, and along the A41, it almost felt like they belonged to a different world. In our world we spotted a red kite in the air, we passed by a braying donkey, we met a number of ducks and swans going about their business, or catching a nap in somebody’s garden, and we could see the whole landscape reflected in the water.

We still had to keep an eye out for Annalisa, to make sure she didn’t let her curiosity and sense of exploration take her overboard, just to see what happened there: some things always stay the same, even in a canal boat!

New blog!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Well this is the beginning of my new blog. Here I can rant about anything I want, and you can express your assent or utter disbelief at whatever I write.

More to come, stay tuned!