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Daily Authority: 👉 An actual cult in Google?

Super weird story where accusations are a bunch of cult members made up most of a team inside Google.
By
June 17, 2022

⚡ Good morning! Some personal news… I’ll let you know next week! For now, on with the news…

Fellowship of what now?

Okay, there’s a bit of a wild story coming out of Google.

The New York Times published this detailed look at a Google contractor suing Google for being sacked (gift link). That wouldn’t usually be worth a Page 1 appearance in the B1 slot in the Times. But goodness, look at this thing.

  • Kevin Lloyd is suing Google, claiming he was fired last year because he complained about the influence of the religious sect.
  • Lloyd worked as a contractor within Google Developer Studios. That team is responsible for being product evangelists for Google’s developer products.
  • Lloyd noticed nearly half of the team he worked with lived in a place called Oregon House.
  • Oregon House is an elaborate, “1,200-acre compound full of art and ornate architecture,” and also: it’s a cult.
  • The “religious organization” in Sierra Nevada is called the Fellowship of Friends, which “believes a higher consciousness can be achieved by embracing fine arts and culture.”
  • There’s a podcast called Cults which has episodes about them.
  • It took Lloyd a while to realize, he says: “Oh, you’re from the place everyone we work with is from,” chimed in my friend and co-worker, who was chatting with us. “Oregon House,” I clarified for my friend. At that, I saw the blood leave the freelancer’s face. He was gravely serious. “Oregon House isn’t a town,” he said. “It’s a cult.”

Er …what?

  • The reporting has a concerning tone but it doesn’t sound like the cult members at Google were doing straight-up illegal things.
  • The cult itself doesn’t sound great: the Times finds multiple suits against the founder for alleged sexual abuse which were settled out of court.
  • One weird thing is that they made a lot of wine, and then sold it to Google for events. The accusation is Google is therefore funding the cult. (Lloyd claims Sundar Pichai drank it too.)
  • The detail that goes from off-putting is the cronyism: Lloyd said cult members were hiring other cult members via this contracting setup that was going on.
  • “They were able to further their own aims very rapidly because they could hire people with far less scrutiny and a far less rigorous on-boarding process than if these people were brought on as full-time employees … It meant that no one was looking very closely when all these people were brought on from the foothills of the Sierras.”
  • You can also read Lloyd’s post about The Cult In Google which I quoted above as well.

And:

  • Remember, this is the second time this week that something odd has emerged from Google with a quasi-religious tone.
  • In case you missed it, a (strongly religious) Google AI employee was “placed on administrative leave” for talking about Google’s LaMDA, a large-language model; believing it was sentient, and demanding legal representation.

Roundup

💵 The price of the Motorola Razr 3 just leaked, and it’s good news (Android Authority).

📅 Samsung Galaxy XCover 6 Pro has a launch date, rugged tablet tagging along (Android Authority).

👉 Poco’s latest smartphones break cover ahead of official launch (Android Authority).

Google Pixel Watch accessories detailed in new leak (Android Authority).

🏪 Google’s second-ever permanent store is open now: in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Android Authority).

🤔 Microsoft Defender extends malware protection to Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android — for a price: only part of an O365 subscription (Ars Technica).

📺 LG’s extra-tall DualUp Monitor is available now for $699 (Engadget).

👉 “Anna Sorokin wants to move away from her ‘scammer’ persona… by selling NFTs(Engadget).

🐤 Elon tells Twitter employees: Make it less boring, make it more like WeChat, and more like TikTok (Gizmodo).

📶 “Your router is probably in the wrong spot. Move it to speed up your Wi-Fi” (CNET).

🪓 After layoffs, crypto startups face a ‘crucible moment’: hard times could be a harbinger for everyone else (Wired).

🐘 “If all forms of elephant went extinct before we came to be, and all we had were fossils, could we figure out that they had long trunks?” (r/askscience).

Friday Fun

So Sonos kept sending people a bunch of speakers for some reason. One guy, in particular, ordered a nice set of Sonos Turntable Set, Arc soundbar, Arc wall mount, One speaker, and Roam speakers. Then Sonos sent him 30 more, and billed him more than $15,000!

  • But the fun is this: Sonos wanted them all back, all 30 packages: “Sonos wanted him to cart all the items to a UPS store” and “a UPS carrier was sent to his building, but the worker was unaware he needed to pick up 30 packages and left with just one.”
  • Sonos said it was a glitch, apologized, and sent refunds, but also demanded everything be sent back, from reports on Reddit.
  • Anyway, as it happens… the law is on your side, and Sonos is finally admitting no one needs to send their items back.

Free!

  • The Verge points out that the FTC website says: “You never have to pay for things you get but didn’t order … You also don’t have to return unordered merchandise. You’re legally entitled to keep it as a free gift.”
  • And Sonos, after quite a lot of media attention, is being a lot more meek since people realized the stuff is now a gift.
  • “Sonos does not require the return of extra equipment and respects the decision of each impacted customer,” said spokesperson Madeline Krebs to The Verge. “We have and will continue to be in full compliance with FTC requirements.”
  • Nice! Free Sonos stuff, aside from the stress and hassle when it just kept arriving.
  • But still: free!

Have a great weekend,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor.