For more comics like this, see the Design Thinking! site.
Pictured above is Haraldur Thorleifsson, better known as Halli. He founded Ueno, an agency that designed digital brands and experiences for a fine list of clients that included Airbnb, Apple, ESPN, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, NY Times, Oculus, PayPal, Uber, Venmo, Visa, and Walmart. As a result of their success, Ueno was acquired by Twitter in 2021. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Twitter was then acquired by Elon Musk in 2022.
Halli had a problem: he had no idea if he’s still a Twitter employee or not.
Here’s his situation, explained in a tweet made at 3:38 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (UTC-5) on Monday, March 6th:
About four hours later, Musk replied.
Halli made a very good point there. Musk replied with this:
That definitely doesn’t look legally binding, but what other path of communication did Halli have? He replied, carefully treading the line between providing enough information to explain the work he did and not breaking any non-disclosure agreements. What he did required a fair bit of effort; everything Musk did so far required little or none:
Here are Musk’s responses: an adolescent “pics or it didn’t happen” and the “What would you say you do here?” clip featuring “The Bobs” from Office Space (which, ironically enough, was about working for a terrible boss at a soul-crushing workplace):
At this point, Musk wasn’t trying to converse — he was simply trolling. Employees from Twitter acquisitions were laid off the previous week (as evidenced by this tweet by Leah Culver), but Halli hadn’t yet been informed.
Here’s what happened in the end, as explained in a couple of tweets from Halli that appeared a few minutes ago at the time of writing:
Halli was definitely the better person in the conversation, but when Elon Musk is the other person, the bar’s pretty low.
What Musk demonstrated in this exchange wasn’t leadership, nor was it management — in fact it wasn’t even decent. It was simply Musk being what he is at his rotten core: an asshole. I’m using philosophy professor Aaron James’ definition from his book, Assholes: A Theory: someone who “allows himself to enjoy special advantages in social relations out of an entrenched sense of entitlement that immunizes him against the complaints of other people.”
More irksome than Musk’s behavior is the number of responses by others cheering him on, questioning Halli’s value, or calling for Halli’s firing. I looked at a number of these fanboys’ profiles — and yes, they were largely male — and while many of them liked to portray themselves as independent thinkers and savvy businesspeople, most also appeared to collect a paycheck every two weeks, live vicariously through Musk’s public persona, and their Twitter feeds looked like laundry lists of grievances against “others.”
The cruelty from Musk’s supporters towards Halli reminds me of a couple of lines from a critique of the classic sci-fi short story, The Cold Equations:
…I think these readers are tripping on the story’s considerable jolt of machismo. It’s a commonplace that our civilization is soft and sentimental. It’s less remarked that soft and sentimental people — particularly the chair-bound geek variant — often idolize brutality. The actual inhabitants of barbarian eras don’t necessarily share this feeling; they often took pains to appear as refined and cultured people.
There were a few posters for whom this was the incident that caused them to question their admiration for Musk. It might be that this is the first time they could picture themselves in the position of the person having to face off against Musk, instead of seeing Musk as the movie protagonist you’re supposed to identify with.
Stop worshipping Elon Musk. He’s not Tony Stark; he’s Justin Hammer.
If you’re still using Twitter, give Halli a follow and drop him an encouraging line.
Also: Did you know that Halli is Iceland’s Person of the Year?
Haraldur Þorleifsson, known as Halli, has garnered multiple Person of the Year Awards from various Icelanidc media outlets, including from national broadcaster RÚV, Morgunblaðið, and Vísir.
Halli, a 45 year-old designer, gained nation-wide recognition this year when, after the sale of his tech company Ueno to Twitter, he chose to be paid the sale price as wages. Normally in such large sales, the payment comes in the form of stock or other financial instruments, which categorize the sale as capital gains, meaning it is taxed at a much lower rate. Halli, however, gladly paid the higher tax rate, having spoken publicly on many occasions about the benefits he has received from the Icelandic social system.
Halli was born with muscular dystrophy and came from a working class background. In statements about his decision to pay back into the Icelandic social system, he cited both healthcare and education in Iceland as keys to his success. Notably, he was one of the highest tax payers in the nation after the sale of Ueno.
If you work on a team that produces software, and especially if it’s supposed to be an agile team, do yourself a favor and check out Arguing Agile, the YouTube channel and podcast produced and presented by Tampa Bay’s own Brian Orlando and Om Patel.
They’ve been really hard at work on this project, gathering interesting guests to talk about important topics in software development, from leadership, career progression, and knowing when it’s time to quit, to handling conflict and dealing with gatekeeping, to estimations and acceptance criteria, and so many other topics!
Here’s the latest set of videos/podcasts from Arguing Agile:
And just for kicks, here are the episodes featuring The Missus and me!
Here’s the text of the tweet and response above:
@laugh_track_nat: For those that work remote: What are the pros and cons?
Pros: sleeping in, showering on my own time, no traffic, peace and quiet, running errands in spare time, taking my life back, not being overly tied to my work
Cons: people making up articles about wanting to return to office
About the video
Here’s the description of the video…
On this episode, Brian Orlando and Om Patel talk with Sr. Product Owner Anitra Pavka about her experiences across the software development and agility field – from Web Developer, to Business Analyst, to Scrum Master and Agile Coach, to Product Owner/Manager and beyond. …and BEYOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOND!
…and here’s the chapter list:
- 0:00 Intro
- 0:22 Anitra’s Background
- 3:57 Exploring Cultures
- 6:48 Agility Enters the Picture
- 11:58 Learning by Trying
- 13:09 Creating Great Teams
- 16:17 Resistance, Perfection, and Bad Actors
- 19:56 Agile Aggravations
- 23:09 Job Descriptions in Agile (they’re getting worse)
- 26:25 Improving Agile
- 29:02 Adding Perspectives to Agile
- 33:46 Intentional Exclusion
- 36:23 Changing Agile: Systems Thinking & Agility at the Top
- 42:06 Being an Organizational Change Agent
- 44:58 Advice
- 49:25 Influences and Influencers
- 54:55 Forming Trust and Teams
- 58:45 Coaching Up (Coaching the Organization)
- 1:03:33 What’s Next for Anitra
- 1:04:13 Wrap-Up
Anitra has been a regular on Tampa’s tech scene since 2011, and chances are that you’ve seen her at a local event — perhaps at one of our local agile or UX gatherings, or at the Coders, Creatives, and Craft Beer meetup, which she co-organizes. She’s a Senior Product Owner at Deque (pronounced “D-Q”) Systems, creators of the axe line of tools for measuring and monitoring the accessibility of your sites and applications.
You may often see me hanging around Anitra, but there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation: I’m married to her. We met at BarCamp Tampa Bay in 2011, which makes us the prime example of why you should attend tech events here — you never know what’ll happen!
About Agile Podcast
Agile Podcast is Tampa Bay’s own video podcast on all things agile. Host Brian Orlando — often with co-host Om Patel — are joined each episode by a professional in or around the agile space for unscripted conversations about getting work done in an agile way. In one year, they’ve put together almost 60 podcasts, and they’re worth checking out whether you manage or are in an agile team!
I like drawing out my article ideas for the Auth0 Developer Blog before firing up the blog editor and typing. Here’s an example, which I was doodling this morning, which I made at the dealership while my car was being serviced.
This made me laugh out loud. I’ve seen teams use Jira in some shockingly un-agile ways.