The biggest story in tech right now is the depth and breadth of layoffs.
And the best coverage is coming from a former engineer named Gergely Orosz who writes a newsletter called The Pragmatic Engineer.
It’s a reminder of how much the media landscape has transformed. People waiting for traditional news organizations to keep them informed are missing out.
Orosz started his newsletter 10 months ago focusing on practical — though in-the-weeds — stories such as best practices for shipping code or why Big Tech doesn’t use Agile.
But as the layoffs piled up in April he was quick to recognize their significance and capitalize on sources he’d developed who were on the front lines. What’s striking is that he breaks news and provides context in a way people usually expect from journalists.
You can see the impact in the accompanying chart of subscriber growth.
The layoff story is huge because it is the first time engineers are being targeted since tech went on a hiring tear a decade ago.
Orosz is emblematic of a new phenomenon on the web: someone who isn’t a trained journalist but has news judgment, sources, deep knowledge and perspective.
In the past, reporters called people like Orosz to get the story. Now he publishes directly.
A great example was his story this week about Bitpanda, an Austrian based crypto exchange backed by Peter Thiel, which fired 30% of its staff two weeks ago.
He noticed a LinkedIn post by the company’s former social media manager complaining that Bitpanda was threatening to sue him for a social media rant.
Given the slump in Bitcoin, it’s not surprising a crypto company is laying off people. What is surprising is that they are suing former employees for social media posts.
This is the type of story the Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg or the Financial Times will publish as a “cautionary tale” feature in a week or two.
Orosz already has it covered. He talked to the manager and labeled the move a SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation). He anticipated the Streisand Effect would prompt Bitpanda to cave.
Bitpanda noticed Orosz’s coverage and reached out to explain that they had to threaten the suit.
Orosz countered telling Bitpanda he would cover the manager’s legal costs.
Bitpanda backed down. Game. Set. Match.
This isn’t journalism exactly, but it is a huge story.
Tech firms everywhere are muddling through layoffs and often doing a bad job. You can be sure the lawyers and HR departments in tech companies have taken note.
No one wants to be the next Bitpanda.
As a postscript, Bitpanda apologized to the manager they threatened to sue and invited him to provide feedback to the company.
The manager’s takeaway: “This shows you never have to fear companies. You have the world at your back, always. If ever in a situation like this, come back to these posts and remember we came out on top.”