📸Patryk Sobczak

10x engineers and my approach to Twitter

You're probably a bit tired of the whole 10x engineer thing by now, but this post isn't really about that. It is about what I learned from it and how I’m reconsidering my approach to Twitter.

10x what? Context, please.

Investor Shekar Kirani recently posted a thread on twitter about the traits to an alleged type of engineers/programmers. I think it's safe to say that they are a combination of stereotypes that many people find toxic and problematic in a work environment. The ethos of the tweet seems to be that there are these people that don't fit in with the normal expectations of the workplace (“they don’t like meetings” etc), but will be these efficient, high performing workers that will give you, the founder, an advantage in the race that is product development.

I'll leave it to others to rebuke each and every argument in this thread (just dive into the replies to get an idea), but let me just point out that the best coders I know have tended to be really nice people that have happily shared their knowledge, gone to meetings, had family obligations, and all sorts of desktop backgrounds.

I piled some wood on the bonfire

So Shekar’s tweets struck a nerve and the reactions were plentiful. People were tired by the whole 10x thing before two hours had gone. The sentiment among the outspoken programmers and tech people were pretty unified against the idea that the profile the tweets painted had any basis in reality, and were a collection of traits that had no business being in tech or a workplace. There were also worry that these tweets rehearsed and perpetrated ideas that are shared among founders and investors. Some of the generalizations also made it really easy to mock and satirize the twitter thread.

As I've written before, I'm sometimes tempted to do the hot take or go for the satirical smartass comment on Twitter. Shekar’s thread got to me, both because here was this investor promoting something I deeply disagree with, but also because it seemed so out of place to do so in an environment that's just ready to pile on people that seemingly work against making tech a healthier and more inclusive place.

So I tweeted something to the effect that I think it's weird that an investor would say these things publicly, and should have known the response it would get. It simply doesn't seem like a strategic move, even though if one means it. Only I choose to put emphasis on what these tweets said about Shekar as a person, and by “quote tweeting” him. Making the recipients my audience, and engaging him directly.

I got my likes and replies and moved on with the day. I was one of many hundreds, if not more, that more or less mocking wrote Shekar and his thread off. As one does on Twitter, right?

Is this the person I want to be?

And then I got some feedback. A person, whose opinions I care about, told me that I came off arrogant and with little respect to a person I disagreed with, who I didn’t know, on the basis on some tweets. My first reaction was to become a bit annoyed. I just did what you do on Twitter, right? Here's this investor saying outrageous stuff, and I was sticking it to the man. But then I had to reconsider the critique because it came from a place of concern.

I don't know Shekar. I don't know much about the context he's working on in India. But I know that the respect and humanity I found lacking in the ideas behind his tweets were a bit lacking in mine as well. I didn't tweet what I did because I hoped to change anyone's mind or educate them.

I tweeted what I did because I wanted to look smart and part of “good team“. I was virtue signaling. And doing so by throwing timber on a bonfire to a person that probably didn't expect how this thread would blow up. That's not a person I want to be, and I don't think I really was helping promote the ideas and practices we so dearly want in tech.

So I deleted my tweets.

I’m not done thinking about how I approach Twitter

My reconsideration of how I approach Twitter can easily be read as a value judgment of others’ satirical or mocking replies to Shekar’s tweets. This is where I’m ambivalent. Because I do mean and appreciate that there is a place of satire, humor, and jestful creativity to counter destructive ideas put forth by people in power. The site 1x Engineer is a good example of this.

There’s also another side of this, which is that of privilege. I have, as a Norwegian guy in my early 30s, very little reason to feel particularly angry or hurt based on my experiences growing up in one of the safest environments on this planet. But other people have plenty of good reasons to feel and express both.

That’s why I explicitly am framing these thoughts as the reevaluation I’ve done for my own behavior, and put them here in a way to think loudly in public, and to hold my self accountable. So this is how I'll try to approach critique on the web going forward. And frankly, most of these points are not original and have been made by many others before me:

  • I'll consider that I’m responding to a real person.
  • I’ll comment on the actions and ideas represented in the tweets.
  • I’ll consider that the person may have English as a secondary language (as I do), and are not aware of nuances and the implications that certain word choices may have.
  • I’ll consider what I want to achieve: Is it providing nuance or reconsideration? Is it just blowing off steam? Is it marking a stance?
  • I will to the best of my ability, try to make it possible for the person to reconsider, or engage me in a discussion.

I believe I know what you’re thinking: What about trolls and people with extreme and hurtful opinions? I don’t really think all people on Twitter is there for “enlightened discourse”, which the points above are aiming for. And obviously, many people know what they’re doing when they say hurtful stuff. As for now, I’ll probably not grant them much of my attention and counter with promoting ideas and activities that make tech a safer and more inclusive (for example, Making tech surviveable: What can men do?).

---

Is there something I have failed to consider here? Did this make you think about how you use Twitter? I’d love to hear about it!