👍 It's Mudge!
Ex-security chief finally drags Twitter through the mud | Adam Neumann is BACK (god help us)
Hello, and welcome to your weekly tech gossip email. If you think Horrific/Terrific isn’t gossip YOU’RE WRONG. If you think gossip doesn’t make you smarter — you’re ALSO WRONG.
This week was good! Finally 👍. Why?
Adam Neumann has a conscious re-coupling with venture capital
Let’s have a look at the Twitter whistleblowing, shall we? ← FYI this is mostly the ‘good’ bit
A tool that beeps every time a website sends data to Google!
📁→🏠 Work-life MERGE
This week, the newsfeeds were full of outrage as we all learned that Adam Neumann (professional failure; you know, the WeWork guy), has just raised $350m for his new startup, Flow, which will apparently ‘solve’ the housing crisis in the US. I’m honestly quite surprised at everyone’s outrage — if they were all as cynical as me, they’d be quite calm about this. Let me demonstrate:
The general vibe on the internet upon hearing this news: why would ANYONE work with this guy again after what he did; I cannot BELIEVE that Andreessen Horowitz has sunk this much money into this piece of shit idea; woah what the fuck woahhhhhh
My reaction: well, I see everything is in working order here makes toast
Because honestly, what the hell do you expect from these people? For them NOT to be greedy? For them NOT to reward putrid gut-sacks of white men for all their wrongdoings?
👩🏫 It’s time for school. Here’s what Flow is all about:
Literally no fucking idea tbh. The website simply reads ‘live life in flow’ which is just VC speak for ‘live, laugh, love’.
‘Rethinking the value chain’ and ‘transforming the way buildings are purchased and owned’ are stock phrases that Adam and his investors are throwing around a lot for the press.
Adam has bought around 3000 apartments across a few cities in the US — I guess his idea is that he just… becomes a landlord? With like… extra features? I literally think that’s it?
The general messaging suggests that both Adam and Mr Andreessen don’t have any idea about the underlying problems and externalities that bring about housing crises, and therefore I very much doubt their ability to ‘solve’ anything here.
All their chat this week has just been a swirling word cloud of social-good jargon: they want to ‘increase opportunities’ and ‘transform communities’ and I want to vomit. They’re dreaming of apartment buildings with music rooms and special fermentation kitchens where the residents can get together and bond over making kefir. This sounds expensive, and nothing to do with the housing crises. People who work to feed their children don’t have time to make kefir, or start a band — they just need somewhere affordable to live that has enough space. Maybe — and this is just off the top of my head — all those half empty WeWork offices that are still lying around could be housing instead???
🔔 The more whistles are blown, the less meaningful it all becomes.
🔥 Hot news: someone called Mudge has blown the whistle on Twitter. On Tuesday evening I was getting ready for bed by casually looking at my RSS feed of tech news (just some light reading, you know). But, literally the whole fucking thing was covered with headlines like ‘Twitter ex-security chief reveals xyz’. Naturally I headed straight to Twitter and sure enough someone was hosting a Twitter space about the whistleblowing — I was tired and couldn’t be bothered to read/care about how cringey Twitter spaces are so I joined in to listen.
All of the journalists in this space were very very upset. They managed to hate Twitter and hate Mudge all at once. This might be because Mudge has A LOT of complaints, and many are wondering why they’re only just coming out now. The biggest parts of his complaint are:
Twitter would routinely falsify reports about security to the leadership, telling them everything was just fine even though they were probably always on the brink of embarrassing hacks
Speaking of embarrassing hacks, part of Mudge’s complaint is actually that he needed to be hired in the first place. You may remember in 2020 when Jack Dorsey recruited Mudge right after a bunch of teenagers took control over high-profile accounts.
Twitter actually has an incentive to lie about how much spam there is on the platform, and to generally ignore it — in which case, Elon Musk actually has a point when he says they are dodging his spam-related questions.
Indian government agents were put on the payroll and so had access to Twitter’s back end which — judging by the way Mudge talks about it in the report — is horribly configured, giving way too much access to important data to way too many people. Which is JUST what you DON’T want even without having government agents in on it.
If you’re curious, you can read the full report yourself (I only skimmed it tbh), but please be aware that so far my key takeaway is: everyone who has run Twitter, currently runs Twitter, or wants to run Twitter… is an idiot.
👨💻 More about this Mudge guy: before he got hired to be a corporate shill, he was the kind of hacker who would find security vulnerabilities present in software, and write reports for the owners of that software, instead of embarrassing the shit out of them by actually hacking them and doing some damage.
Basically, I think his intentions are good (and I believe what he’s saying in this report), but I think his methods and lack of self-awareness are questionable. E.g. the timing of some of these revelations is terrible. In this report he makes clear that Twitter do indeed have an incentive to ignore spam bots:
In 2019 Twitter switched from counting daily active users (DAU), to counting monetisable daily active users (mDAU) instead.
Just to be clear: DAU is a standard way many platforms measure general usage, and mDAU is a thing that Twitter totally made up, and so what they are actually counting is not 100% clear
But what is clear is that bots are obviously not monetisable, so Twitter has no incentive to count these — so yes, they really don’t know how many bots are on their platform.
Right okay… this is good to know, and I’m glad it’s out there, but seriously, is he TRYING to give Elon Musk a boner? This is exactly what Musk wants to hear right now, because it’s exactly what he’s been using as a reason to back out of his stupid hostile takeover deal.
☝️ One more thing: I found something in this report which no one else is really talking about, and I really want to bring it to the surface because I think it illustrates both what Mudge is all about, and how utterly shambolic Twitter is. During the storming of the capitol, Mudge:
“…quickly went to the executive in charge of engineering and asked “how do we seal the production environment?” Not knowing if there would be acts of internal protest aligned with the rioters, Mudge did not want any employees accessing, or potentially damaging the production environment. It was at this point when he learned that it was impossible to protect the production environment. All engineers had access. There was no logging of who went into the environment or what they did.”
I’m sorry but that is fucked. It surely takes YEARS of negligence for a company that big to be so exposed. The report goes on to say that Biden admin then offered Mudge the position of Chief Information Security Officer for the United States. Guess what: he turned it down, because he thought he could have more impact at Twitter, a place where everyone ignored him and he was eventually fired for trying to tell the truth — good move, pal.
🦜 Something random and cool to finish things off
This person decided to make a tool that demonstrates how aggressive Google’s tracking is across the web. He tested it with Chrome and Firefox and got the same results. This is a kind of ‘here’s how the sausage is made’ sort of thing, except of course, this is sausage that no one asked for.
Then, this other person replies completely misunderstanding the experiment, while managing to prove the OP’s point, telling him to ‘try a website that doesn’t have Google Tag Manager’ — I would be very impressed if he found such a site.
That’s it for this week. Don’t forget to update your passwords and have a sopping-wet pleasure-scape of a weekend!