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Showing 1-7 of 7 reviews(2 star)show all reviews
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2008
This book reads like an extended magazine article. It is written at a non-technical level for a general audience. While some of the topics addresse are clearly disrputive / revolutionary in nature this book merely skims the surface and offers no real depth of thought on the subjects. The casual thinking represented here would have been interesting two or three years ago. I didn't take away any insights of interest.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2010
There is a fair chance that a book which was written more than two years ago, that is many Internet-years ago, and discusses the implications of network computing and Internet on society and life would seem outdated. It is interesting however, to read such a book in the perspective of the fast developments in the field since. I therefore took to reading the book with the understanding that my impressions would be affected by the time passed.
While reading the book I was asking myself who is the reader that Carr targets. Is it the savvy technology and IT expert who would like to better understand the changing technological environment? Is it the technology aware reader who is interested in a better understanding of the changing social ecosystem? or is it the person who has a vague idea on the developments and would like to know more. I see myself as belonging to the first 2 groups and an therefore my review should be considered accordingly.
In the first part of the book Carr compares the historical evolution of Electricity and computing from localized resource generation to commoditaion and by doing this positions computing power as utility. The examples are nice though rather tedious, but well serve the purpose of establishing this analogy. However Carr preaches to the convinced. There is nothing new in this part of the book and its obvious to anyone involved in IT.
In the second part of the book Carr addresses the soft aspects of the proliferation of the Internet to our lives. Here I must confess that my views completely part from those of Carr. Carr has established a reputation for being the devil advocate to the promoters of open source and the Internet. Belonging to the later camp I was expecting a well established and convincing discussion of the negative aspects of the Internet. Some of them were indeed so. However some sounded like a paranoid talk of someone afraid from losing control and disrespects the human nature and the ability of the ordinary person to distinguish between right and wrong.
I did find some interesting points in the book, mainly in its second part, but from the technical point of view I think that it has already lost its relevance. As an Internet advocate I think the book is highly biased towards ideas that differ from mine and mostly unconvincing. I would suggest a big switch in attitude towards computing and Internet too.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2008
Carr teases us with a fascinating explanation of the development of electricity-as-service in the 19th century, then examines the consequences of the grid in the 20th century with hasty, shallow criticism. The rest of the book is a patchwork of web 2.0 anecdotes and borrowed predictions.

The book is worth reading if you don't know much about computer science or computer commerce, and wonder what all the hubbub is about. Don't let it be the last word you consider on the subject -- this is a seductive book, but don't expect it to stick around for breakfast.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2009
My interest in the impact of new communication technology on politics brought me to read this book, and I was fairly disappointed. Part of it is my fault; I assumed the central analogy equated the introduction of electricity to networked computers. Instead the analogizing focuses on the move from decentralized electricity and computing to centralized electricity and computing, pretty much a waste of time.

The book's formula is easy enough: sketch some history, and predict the pattern will recur given trends in recent events. With high stakes, perhaps this formula would work--I am thinking of a work like Diamond's Collapse. Here, the stakes are minimal, specifically how power production's centralization presages the centralization of computing. Worse, Carr is so tied to his analogy that he elides or confuses many points along the way.

For instance, even a cursory background in solar and wind power suggests electrical generation may be headed in a less centralized direction. Seemingly forced to find a hero, he also lauds one generation entrepreneur (Edison's assistant) who engaged in predatory pricing. Most importantly, he fails to notice the most interesting political aspect, namely that the utility industry is heavily regulated. It isn't that Carr--a business writer--takes any biased view; he just ignores this development. If this book is taken seriously, it would make a good argument for regulating centralized computing. Clearly this is not his intention, and I am unsure if he consciously avoided this obvious deduction.

As it is, this book does not make any serious argument. There are some nice anecdotes about the connection between electricity and progress, apparently electricians were the computer geeks of their day, but there is too much pretention. Carr suggests electricity brought increased education and vast prosperity. However, everyone should notice his sleight of hand, moving away from centralized generation to talking about electricity overall. Though I am a big fan of electrification and willing to accept this tie; its relationship to the driving analogy is weak (low low prices). The analogy almost disappears toward the end; in my eyes, the set up obligates Carr to underline or even convincingly list the benefits of centralized computing (I would settle for computing in general) and this he fails to do; instead leaving the reader with a muddle of speculation and no clear knowledge.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2009
The Big Switch describes the change from each company providing its own IT infrastructure and services to those services becoming a commodity sold by large utilities. Nicholas Carr devotes many pages to describing the early days of electricity in this country and the analogous move from companies and factories providing their own electricity to purchasing it from utilities. Superficially the analogy seems apt, however there are a number of differences between IT services and electricity. Corporate IT services have a need for security and privacy and in many cases provide unique services. Carr does not really address the differences between IT and electricity. In addition I thought there was just too much history.

The excessive historical descriptions made the books seem scattered and distracted from the main point. I would have preferred to read more about why the switch is happening and what problems are being encountered with it.

The second part of The Big Switch describes the early days of "Cloud Computing" we are now living in. Most of what Carr describes will be familiar to anyone who is interested in this topic. The descriptions seem to wander far beyond his main point and add little to the book.

Nicholas Carr has made a reputation for himself as a technology curmudgeon. He continues in that vein here. He describes many actual or possible problems with cloud computing. He repeats some of the hyperbolic propaganda of the cloud computing boosters. None of that really contributes to the readers understanding of cloud computing. The text would have benefited from a more sober appreciation of the risks of cloud computing, and from some admission that their might be benefits from it as well.

In the end this was a scattered and unoriginal text that does not really advance the knowledge of anyone with a superficial familiarity with the subject and would mislead someone who is not familiar with it.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2008
Big Switch is easy to read and, for the most part, entertaining. The first half of the book is coherent and provides a fun (but not new) comparison of the development of electrical distribution systems to the development of information distribution systems. I enjoyed reading the first half of the book.

The second half of the book needs the attention of an editor with a sharp pencil and some technical knowledge. The technology and challenges are trivialized and seemed to be presented in an almost random fashion. I did not enjoy the second half of the book and wanted to send it back for a rewrite.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon December 7, 2012
I have read Carr's book but never fascinated. he rambles a lot which is common sense to most people. Wikipedia says of him" Through his blog "Rough Type," Carr has been a critic of technological utopianism" He thinks google makes us stupid. The book is in small font and no images/graphs/pictures. I went to part 2 directly. I felt extremely bored after reading dozen's of pages. That sums up my review, I guess :)
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