Valley Culture

S Aufrecht

We know that “if you aren’t the customer, you are the product” explains the awful design of most of the software, websites, and modern media we interact with. They aren’t designed to be great for you; they only need to be not-awful enough to keep you around while they squeeze all the money they can out of you. The erstwhile norm that, when you pay for something, you shouldn’t get advertising with it is eroding rapidly: cable television and Roku and other paid services integrate upsells and ads pervasively; Amazon now prepends ads to the beginning of otherwise ad-free media that you’ve already paid to access. And it was never that universal a norm (c.f. advertisements in newspapers, advertisements in movie theaters).

But even setting that aside, many of the computer tools we use are not very good. And if you ever suspected that one of the reasons is that the people creating them, or the people managing the people creating them, are terrible people who can’t even conceive of you, the hypothetical customer they’ve never met, as a real person with needs that should be respected, because they can’t even see the people around them, especially women, as real people, it turns out that your suspicion can easily be confirmed in this era of semi-transparency.

He was relatively charismatic. I remember him frequently flirting with the women on the team. Gave me a compounded horrible impression of him.

My desk was directly next to Vic’s glass-walled office. He would walk by my desk dozens of times during the day. He could see my screen from his desk.

During the 8 months I was there, culminating in me leading the redesign of his product, Vic didn’t say a word to me. No hello. No goodbye, or thanks for staying late. No handshake. No eye contact.

—Morgan Knutson 1

Same guy:

Rod Chavez is an engineering director at Google, he sexually harassed me, Google did nothing about it. Reprimanded me instead of him

“It’s taking all of my self control not to grab your ass right now.” VERBATIM quote from someone currently an engineering director at Goog

“He feels like you humiliated him in front of his reports.” Something HR actually fucking said to me.

“You look amazing in that bathing suit, like a rock star.” -Vic Gundotra, to me, when I was a junior engineer at Google. In Maui.

As of this morning, got password reset emails for a number of my accounts, along with several rape threats. Happy International Women’s Day!

—Kelly Ellis via BuzzFeedNews 2

Same guy:

In February of 2011, Google’s SVP Vic Gundotra’s Twitter account went silent as Google was planning to launch Google+.

Gundotra admitted that he was actually asked to stop tweeting by “his boss” (Larry Page)

Gundotra’s conversation with Sullivan revealed just how much Google controls its messaging, forcing consumers - and even the media - to read between the lines to find the truth.

—Kelly Clay, Forbes3

From the branches of the original Twitter thread, a different person, different abuser, different company, same theme:

Then I was hired by a credit union software company because they needed a ‘rockstar’ in PD (never, ever buy your own hype) to redevelop their consumer facing rewards program. I did. In about 3 months. Showed the prototype to the CEO in a meeting and he started yelling

‘Who told you to do that??’ And turned out, I wasn’t supposed to ‘do’ anything. I was to be ‘activated’ (like a drone, I guess) by a line item in a .ppt and only present a couple of lines in another .ppt at the next meeting. Everyone talked about ‘following the cadence’.

I had 5 different bosses while I was there. I was there for 18 months. Not going to lie, I had a mental breakdown.

—Twitter user MJ4

These stories are of course unverified, in the second case, pseudonymous. With that caveat, they are certainly completely consistent with all of the more thoroughly proven accounts of abuse, sexual and otherwise, in the industry.


  1. Knutson, Morgan. Thread by @morganknutson: “Now that Google+ has been shuttered, I should air my dirty laundry on how awful the project and exec team was. I’m still pissed about the ba …”. Retrieved from https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1049523067506966529.html
  2. Hernandez, Salvador. (2015-Mar-08). Google Silent After Former Employee Tweets About Sexual Harassment From Superiors. BuzzFeedNews. Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/salvadorhernandez/google-kelly-ellis
  3. Clay, Kelly. (2012-Dec-7). Google’s Vic Gundotra Told To Stop Tweeting By His Boss. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyclay/2012/12/07/googles-vic-gundotra-told-to-stop-tweeting-by-his-boss/
  4. MJ. (2018-Oct-15). Twitter. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/Meldisny/status/1051811364342251521