[content warning: violence, trauma, harassment]

The irony is not lost on me that I incited a tidal wave of harassment from Reddit’s cesspit of toxicity because I went in there to talk about working on anti-harassment software. It was the perfect case in point for why we’re building what we’re building at Block Party. And all the same, it was a torturous way to re-learn a lesson I’ve already had beaten into my psyche from more than 15 years of online bullying, hate, abuse, and stalking.

I was so foolishly optimistic about how a Reddit AMA might go

When someone first suggested the idea of going on Reddit, I instinctively recoiled from the idea, knowing the site’s reputation — but I ignored my intuition and last week I went in naively optimistic about doing an AMA (“ask me anything”) question and answer session in the subreddit r/IAmA/. I thought it would be a good opportunity to share more about how I came to be working on Block Party and to engage in genuine discourse about the problem of online harassment and our product thinking on how to solve it. Perhaps I would get questions about what I’ve learned from building and running a distributed team, or other lessons from working in Silicon Valley and then leaving for less tech-saturated locales. Or about diversity and inclusion, especially as I just released a course for startup founders. When I announced on Twitter that I would be doing a Reddit AMA, I even got a few good questions there: about COVID and re-opening, collaboration with social media platforms, crowdsourcing of Block Party’s filters. …

A photo of a woman running on a desert trail, her left foot kicking up dirt.
A photo of a woman running on a desert trail, her left foot kicking up dirt.
Photo: Jordan Siemens/Getty Images

I recently hit an 11.5-mile rocky trail run through the desert, up 1,600 feet of elevation gain. As I traversed through unknown terrain, up rocky inclines and through dried-out river washes, my feet slipping through the sand and gravel, one thought kept drifting through my mind. A mile on this run is so much harder than a mile on one of those synthetic rubber tracks, but damn, am I feeling so much stronger and more powerful. It felt a lot like my experience building my startup.

It also reminded me of a cartoon I once saw in a diversity and inclusion workshop. Two runners are positioned at the starting line of a race. One is in his running uniform and cleats, sprint position, ready to tear down a smooth track lane. The other doesn’t have on proper athletic gear and is looking down a torn-up path, obstacles in her way. …

It’s been almost 20 years and I still remember the dread of Mile Day in high school gym class: four terrible loops around the track, greeted at the graceless end by the rest of the class long awaiting us, some of the cool popular athletic girls laughing in that mean girl way at the misery of the final finishers.

Last week I went out with no particular training and hit an 11.5 mile rocky trail run through the desert, up 1600 feet of elevation gain. One thought kept drifting through my mind as I pushed through the sand and gravel and rocks: A mile on this run is so much harder, and in so many ways I didn’t even know it could be harder! …


Tracy Chou

CEO and founder of Block Party, co-founder of Project Include, software engineer and diversity & inclusion advocate

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