- A former Google web designer recently described his experiences while working briefly at Google+, the company’s recently shuttered social network.
- Morgan Knutson, who worked at Google for eight months before resigning in May 2012, described a lack of vision for the service and wasted resources while detailing ways Vic Gundotra, the overall leader of Google+, wielded his massive power within the company.
- Knutson’s narrative, written like a Twitter serial, sheds light on the troubled Google+, one of the company’s most noteworthy and expensive failures.
If you’re interested in technology, then one of the most fascinating longer reads available about Silicon Valley culture is the Twitter serial posted last week by Morgan Knutson, a former Google+ web designer.
Knutson wrote 149 tweets over a period of five days about his brief tenure at Google+, the long-troubled, now-defunct social network.
Knutson began writing a day after The Wall Street Journal revealed that Google had waited seven months before disclosing that a security lapse had enabled third-party developers to see private information belonging to as many as 500,000 Google+ users.
A few hours after the story was published, Google announced it had shuttered Google+, which was created to challenge Facebook but never came close.
Apparently, the situation prompted Knutson to reveal information he had bottled up for six years.
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 bait and switch they pulled by telling me I’d be working on Chrome, then putting me on this god forsaken piece of shit on day one.
— Morgan (@morganknutson) October 9, 2018
Part of what makes Knutson’s tweets so fascinating is the idea that a former Googler has anything bad to say about the company. Google has a reputation for being one of the most employee-friendly places in tech, chock full of perks and benefits. It’s rare that a former staffer complains publicly.
The other reason Knutson’s story is so compelling is due to the titillating details about the dysfunction he said reigned at the Google+ of 2012.
Knutson, who resigned for a job at Dropbox in 2012 after only eight months at Google, describes a service that lacked an overall vision, often wasted resources, and was propelled and shielded internally by Vic Gundotra, the powerful former Google executive who led the Google+ effort.
He also said, contrary to his prior beliefs or the image that Google sells, he discovered not all employees were at the top of their field.
Thought this was the pros.
Never would’ve imagined that I was joining a team of 50+ designers where a bunch of them had never designed before.
And I was “evaluated” at *about* their level? These weren’t interns, these were designers in their very first roles ever…at Google.
— Morgan (@morganknutson) October 13, 2018
It’s important to remember, as Knutson acknowledges, that he was one employee working on one project during a brief period.
To say Knutson sounds disgruntled is an understatement. To his credit, he acknowledges that he chaffed at receiving criticism and disliked it when he believed he didn’t get enough credit.
He also had good things to say about some of his managers and about most of the people he came in contact with at Google.
The common thread between 99.8% of the people that I interacted with at Google is that they were ethical, highly intelligent, and hard working.
I had a lot of admiration and respect for many of them and wish more of them had stayed in touch.
— Morgan (@morganknutson) October 14, 2018
With all of Google’s success and money as well as its sheer size (more than 80,000 employees now), it’s easy to think of the company as something otherworldly.
What Knutson does — with his descriptions of bruised egos, turf wars, and politically minded bosses — is remind us that Google isn’t all that different from anywhere else humans are employed.
Correction: This story incorrectly stated the number of tweets that Knutson posted to tell his story. The correct number is 149.