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OMG! SocialGate!

I was already packing my suitcase for my vacation next week when I learned about the makings of the biggest scandal that is about to happen on the Apple campus. And I am not talking about AntennaGate or WarmGate, this is a REAL scandal! I just had to sit down and document the facts – as we know them so far.

A source close to the matter informed me (on condition of anonymity) that Apple CEO Tim Cook has set a plan in motion that will – so he fears – dramatically tarnish Apple’s reputation and throw them back to the technological stone age … at least when it comes to social media.

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It is a little know fact that shortly after returning to save Apple in the late 1980s Apple founder Steve Jobs established a strict ban on smoking cigarettes on the Apple campus. This was not even known to his biographer and thus omitted from the book. Contrary to what was written in the biography it were not health concerns or even a public mandate, but Jobs had gotten hold of an internal chart that showed a correlation of number of source code lines dropping and the level of smoke addiction of individual employees. Smokers’ productivity was roughly 5% lower than their peers, and Jobs reasoned that the frequent smoking breaks must have been the reason for that.

Steve Jobs was well aware that this was a very unpopular move and so he mandated that this be kept a secret. This ban took place in 1998 one year after US President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13058 which banned “smoking in all interior spaces owned, rented, or leased by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government, as well as in any outdoor areas under executive branch control near air intake ducts. The rest is history, Apple was saved partially because of the invigorated productivity and rose again to become the most valuable brand in history.

Apple’s current CEO Tim Cook had not been aware of this unpopular decision because he joined Apple much later, in 1998. They say “those who do not know past mistakes are bound to repeat them.”. This post is a chronicle of one CEO probably proving this adage right.

Cook had already been acting as interim CEO when we learned in Spring 2011 that there had been a drastic decrease in programmer productivity as of late. This had resulted in iCloud being buggy and would not make the deadline of getting released at WWDC 2011 together with iOS 5 and the new iPhone. iCloud is Apple’s big bet and not being able to ship the iPhone 4S with iCloud in Summer  2011 caused the CEO to go on a rampage. No real solution was found and so Cook decided to preview iCloud to developers in June and do the actual launch of iPhone and iCloud in Fall.

About the same time as this happened Apple – quite uncharacteristically – had begun talks to enter a partnership with Twitter to integrate their popular social network with Apple products. We know that the partnership was fruitful, Twitter gained even more popularity because of the tight integration with iOS and Apple finally was able to shed the ridicule they incurred from launching Ping. One side-deal of this partnership was that Apple would get access to the Twitter “firehose”, the unfiltered unrestricted live-stream of all tweets.

This stream of tweets would be used to train the artificial intelligence product Siri which Apple had acquired in April 2010. But that was not the only use the CEO Cook had in mind for the combination of Siri and Twitter.

Being “old school” and an avid runner Cook is considering social networking as much as a waste of time (and health) as smoking. He developed the theory that all these frequent interruption and “quick tweets” would be detrimental to programmer’s productivity. But before the partnership with Twitter and the acquisition of Siri he had lacked a way to prove this theory.

Apple employees are living in constant fear of overstepping the line when it comes to social networking. My source told me that one of the first things that new hires are being told is that they should refrain from tweeting about work and keep their employment a secret from the public. This is why you often see profile descriptions like “I work for a fruit company” and “I speak for myself and not my employer” in Twitter profiles of Apple employees. Other ways of masquerading include discussing BMW cars, music and the liberal arts.

Ironically these terms are forming a recognizable pattern that an AI like Siri can look for and this identify the Apple employees who are spending way too much time in “tweeting around” during working hours.  This finally gave Cook the information he needed to produce a list of 1000 most-distracted individuals who will find themselves on the ejection seat as of coming Monday.

On a recent conference call with investors call Cook had mentioned that “we’re doing some things are differently now” and we now know what he meant. Cook is known to be ruling with an iron fist over the “regular foot soldiers”. So in stark contrast to Steve Jobs, who was content with a ban, he is going to be laying off the individuals on his hot list.

Why now? Well Apple’s stock price is on an all time high and the next big event will be WWDC 2012 in June. So the strategy is to do the layoffs in April because the “shareholder value” can digest this the easiest right at this time.

Apple has been hiring new employees like crazy in the past few weeks, partly because the company is growing in leaps and bounds, partly because Cook has instructed his VPs to buffer the coming bloodletting. Also managers were instructed to not hire people who are overzealous on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Instead an internal memo is instructing them to respond with “sorry, but you weren’t a good fit” when asked for the reason of rejections.

My own reaction to this – despite my disbelief – is that I couldn’t believe it to be true. In my humble opinion this will cause a major outcry in the developer community and Apple will find it much harder in the future to find good programmer talent. Of course Apple will deny it and try to silence laid off individuals by threatening severe legal actions. And if you know Apple’s Legal Department then you are afraid of them.

It is because of this that I am asking you to tell everyone about this shady maneuver. We should not let Tim Cook get away with dismantling our beloved Apple this way. Social networking is not a crime and even less it can be likened to smoking. We should let Apple know that if they seriously will go ahead with the layoffs then we’ll all be switching to developing for Android. I know I will.

Update: April Fools!!! Sorry if I caused any actual Apple Employee’s to sweat and hastily delete their Twitter accounts.

Categories: Apple


  1. I agree that social networking is a distraction and can result in reduced productivity, and Apple is fully within its right to ban it during work hours. Masturbation for example also isn’t a crime, but it reduces productivity and has no place in the workplace as that’s not what one is paid to do. (silly example, I know)

    What I do have a problem with is the way the data is acquired and acted upon. It’s the ultimate passive-aggressive move on behalf of Cook. It’s kind of a violation of privacy and a dirty tactic (OK, one could argue that one forfeits their right to privacy when accessing such services during work hours).

    They should have come up with a better policy.

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