Tumblr founder David Karp's abrupt farewell to his Storyboard team earlier this month was so disingenuous, so thick with noxious doublespeak, that it hardly seemed real. That's because it wasn't: Storyboard's ousted leader ghost-wrote the news of his own firing because Karp wouldn't (or couldn't) do it. What's sweeter than making a fool of your boss on the way out?
Press and tech spectators were a combination of grossed out and agog: how could a memo heap so much praise on a group of people getting shitcanned? How could Tumblr say it "couldn’t be happier with our team’s effort," and then fire that entire team? It was classless and bizarre, even by startup standards. BusinessWeek called the announcement "sugary knifework," and it inspired a fantastic sendup at The New Yorker (not known for its tech satire), solidifying Karp's farcical memo as a bonafide meme.
It made you wonder, why would Tumblr write something so obviously ill-advised? The truth is wonderful: Chris Mohney, former Editor-in-Chief of Storyboard, wrote the memo for David Karp. He penned the news of his own demise, making the company that just fired him look clueless and clumsy.
"We insisted there be a staff blog post about our departure before the news leaked," explains Mohney, "to make it clear that whatever the reasons for shutting us down, the quality of the work itself was not in question." Fair enough—Storyboard was a promising attempt to scrape off the thick crust of anorexia porn and porn-porn from Tumblr, exposing the good stuff below.
But Mohney got way more than he asked for:
They asked me to draft the copy, and I was happy to oblige. Since we weren't told any more about the rationale for the shuttering than has been publicly acknowleded, that's how I wrote it. David made some very light edits and posted, and it was received about as well as might be expected.
Emphasis added. When I asked whose idea it was to circumvent the founder of Tumblr in order to announce Tumblr news, Mohney demurred, stating only that it "wasn't the board." If this is true, perhaps a prominent investor (and board member) like Roelof Botha, or former AOL exec and Tumblr puppeteer Jon Miller, might've asked Mohney in private. Or maybe Mohney is the one who really asked, sensing a delicious way to tie Tumblr's shoes together before he departed. Either way, there was a high-level consensus that Karp wasn't capable of writing his brief own blog post—a consensus that Mohney exploited on his way out to secure perhaps the greatest, most poetic exit fuck-you in Internet history.