Shoes and secret projects with Vic


3 min read

Google used to have a tradition called TGIF. It still seems sad that I'm talking about this in past tense, but hey ho. At TGIF, the founders and other executives got up on stage, welcomed nooglers (new Google people), introduced a bunch of prepared speakers who talked about interesting things that were going on, then opened themselves and other executives up to pre-voted and audience questions.

There are many infamous things that happened at TGIF during my time there that I can't talk about, but I was physically present in Charlies for these:

  • the time they let off fireworks inside Charlies to celebrate a Nexus device launch and gave everyone in the company the new device
  • the time they announced that everyone at Google was getting a significant pay raise and bonus. People went wild. There was screaming and yipping. It was like a music concert in the 80s.
  • the several times Patrick Pichette came by with a huge backpack of cash and everyone got an envelope with 10x$100 bills as a Christmas gift.
  • the time someone's mic had to be cut during the live q&a because they were ranting quite wildly at Larry Page for a significant period of time, fairly incoherently.
  • the infamous Handbook Guy incident, which I am mildly surprised to find no references to on the Internet. But I was there in the audience that day in Charlies, and wow.
  • the TGIF where Google Glass was revealed internally for the first time. People gave it a standing ovation.

Caitlin enjoying the food in Charlies. Not a picture of TGIF, since those aren't allowed (ok, not everyone got the message apparently, which is probably part of why they're not around any more)

Anyway. At one point, I'd recently started working on mobile infrastructure for Google+, and at TGIF, Andy Rubin (of all people - this was before the terribleness) was up on stage talking about how a lot of the developer pain with Android was going to be solved soon by some upcoming project. This was intriguing, and so I figured I'd pop him a quick email to ask about it. To my surprise, Andy replied almost immediately, and this resulted in a meeting between myself, my manager, and Vic Gundotra, the charismatic overall lead of Google's social efforts.


I never did learn what this mysterious solution to all developer pain was - the intrigue around it only deepened in the conversation with Vic. He alluded to some shadowy organization, hidden from the org chart, and working on a project so secret we didn't even want those people to show up in internal systems for fear of opposition. They were working on something that might never pan out, and it was being given a bubble of space in which to grow without criticism. I think I can sort of guess with the benefit of hindsight what it became eventually, but it was super intriguing at the time.

Vic did enthusiastically share his love of shoes with us though, at great length. I really enjoyed the passion with which he talked about this, and how he connected it back to the overall product direction of Google+ at that time. Interest based channels eventually became a key component of Google+. I think a lot of it had to do with shoes.