Elon Musk owning Twitter is a terrible idea – and he probably knows it

Why does Elon Musk want to buy Twitter?

It's the question everyone is asking Thursday morning after the billionaire entrepreneur, Tesla CEO, and serial pot-stirrer made a $ 43 billion take it or leave it offer to the Twitter board.

“If it is not accepted, I would need to reconsider my position as a shareholder,” Musk said, according to the Wall Street Journal. That's tantamount to, Let me play as captain or I take my ball and go home.

In typical cheeky fashion, Musk tweeted about the potential deal with echos of The Godfather: “I made an offer”

But why is he doing this?

To understand, we need to rewind a bit. A few weeks ago, Musk started complaining about Twitter as not being a bastion of free speech and ran a poll.

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Musk was airing a common frustration among some Twitter users who complain they're shadow-banned for speaking their minds on the platform. While 70% of his respondents said, “No,” I saw the poll as a flawed exercise in self-selection. Musk's 84 million Twitter followers are often devotees to his particular brand of libertarian maverickism.

Twitter, which is not a government body but in fact a private company, has no compunction to follow the rules of free or balanced speech. Instead, as a private company, it has to protect its users from harm to both themselves and others. It has, as a private company, the right to remove people and their posts as they see fit (if they go outside the platform's published terms of use).

This is somewhat beside the point because I think Musk knows this but just lives to stir the pot and get people thinking – or maybe thinking like him.

He later pressed the point and insisted that Twitter's role as a public town square meant it had to adhere to free speech principles, lest it undermines democracy. 

Again, Twitter is not just a US platform. It operates around the world, even in places that do not support democracy. Musk knows this, but he has pressed on.

Eventually, Musk bought 9.4% of Twitter's shares, joined the board, and then unjoined it before he could, but basically won the right to have outsized influence and hinted he might go further.

Now we know his true intentions. Musk seeks to own and control Twitter outright.

But for what purpose?

What's next?

If Twitter's board accepts this Faustian bargain, it will see a significant portion of Twitter's workforce leave. Musk must know this, as well. Does he hope to replace a depleted knowledge workforce with like-minded Muskians?

Let's say he gets his way and takes ownership. How quickly will Musk acknowledge that Twitter is not in fact just a US-based town square and that using the Constitution as a template for a TOS cannot work for a private, globalized company?

Elon Musk runs Telsa around the world. He sells electric cars to people around the world. A huge chunk of his Twitter followers probably live outside the United States and may dream of living in a democracy where private companies are not beholden to state interests as they are in China.

What is Musk's game here?

I know what he's said in public, but Elon Musk is no dummy and he must know how this plays out. It does not end well for Twitter, but perhaps that's the point. This is just another feint in the game where Musk treats his billions like Monopoly money, sliding orange $ 500 notes from out under the board, throwing them on the table, and demanding Park Place when he really wants Boardwalk. Or maybe he does want them both… then what?

By the time you read this, Twitter may have already rejected Musks' offer, and Musk, as he is wont to do, may have sold off his shares and walked away.

Will he also walk away from Twitter? Probably, but expect him back in six months.

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Twitter rolls back another terrible feature update in new speed record

In record time, Twitter has rolled back a feature that would force you to either look at two timelines or only view the 'Top Tweets' timeline, to the scorn of users.

For almost a week, users would have to switch between two timelines as they would scroll to see what new tweets were there from their brands and friends – myself included.

But it got to the point where I would be scrolling for five minutes, not realizing that I was on the 'Top Tweets' feed, not the 'Latest Tweets' feed.

It's a ridiculous design decision that didn't go down well with its many users. While there were some self-congratulatory tweets from designers at Twitter praising this reversal, I can't help but wonder if this was a feature purposely designed to annoy users for a short time, or communication of what users want in features at the company, has hit a new low.

Leave our feeds alone Twitter

I had spoken before about how much I hated this new feature, and I wasn't alone. Executives at Twitter were replying to others in how they were working on an alternative to this change in the feed, and we didn't have long to wait.

The alternative turned out to be Twitter reversing its decision to push 'Top Tweets' as if nothing happened. But it's an example of a feature that shouldn't have been there in the first place. Its change made no sense, and from a usability angle, it didn't give any benefits to the user.

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Having two timelines was confusing, and the added fact that the 'sparkle' icon on the top right, would give you the option to show one feed that no one wanted, was another baffling decision.

Every user on Twitter has different feeds from everyone else. It's what makes the social platform unique – its algorithm and the people you've decided to follow shape your interests while discovering new voices.

But features like this hinder the experience massively, and I'm not aware of anyone who likes to use the 'Top Tweets' feature. Twitter is a platform that many folks use to catch up on the latest news, regardless of the topic – it's not a magazine highlighting the last few days.

Hopefully, when the company realizes this, we will see less of these useless features and others that we can benefit from, such as an edit button.

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Microsoft Teams isn’t adding this terrible feature just yet

Video call users around the world may have breathed a big sigh of relief after the launch of filters for Microsoft Teams has been delayed.

The company had been working on a new feature for its online collaboration platform that would have allowed users to customize their appearance before joining a video conferencing call.

The tool was set for launch sometime in 2021, but its Microsoft 365 roadmap entry, simply entitled “Microsoft Teams: Video filters” now shows a release date of March 2022.

Lights, camera, filters

The roadmap entry explains that Teams users will soon gain access to a number of different video filters, which will give them the ability to dial up and down certain aspects of their feed.

“Before joining a meeting, you can use filters to subtly adjust lighting levels and smooth out facial features to customize your appearance,” wrote Microsoft.

The company first announced its intention to introduce Microsoft Teams video filters in summer last year, before then targeting an August 2021 release window until today's update.

It added that the feature could prove useful to a range of users, especially those working out of a dimly lit home office or using a poor-quality webcam.

Filters are also already present in competing offerings such as Google Meet, which recently revealed a new settings panel to help both you and your workspace look the best you can when joining video calls.

With Google Meet's new settings panel, users will be able to quickly access effects such as background blur, background images and styles before and during a video call.

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