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In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives Hardcover – April 12, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
The contradictions of the Internet search behemoth are teased apart in this engaging, slightly starry-eyed business history. Wired magazine writer Levy (Hackers) insightfully recaps Google's groundbreaking search engine and fabulously profitable online ad–brokering business, and elucidates the cutting-edge research and hard-nosed cost-efficiencies underlying them. He also regales readers with the "Googley" corporate culture of hip techno-capitalism: the elitist focus on braininess, the campus game rooms, the countercultural rectitude of billionaire founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin (which can read more like puerile arrogance as they roller-blade into meetings with business-suited squares). Levy's narrative updates a familiar portrait of the company, with breathless accounts of recent innovations. He offers a smart analysis of the tensions between Google's "âÇÿDon't Be Evil'" slogan and its censorship of its Chinese Web site and the privacy implications of its drive to sponge up all information—but he accepts Google's blinkered conception of e-ethics and its demands for huge tax breaks with too much complacency. (Apr.)
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"Levy is America’s premier technology journalist. . . . He has produced the most interesting book ever written about Google. He makes the biggest intellectual challenges of computer science seem endlessly fun and fascinating. . . . We can expect many more books about Google. But few will deliver the lively, idea-based journalism of In the Plex.”
—Siva Vaidhyanathan, The Washington Post
"Almost nothing can stop a remarkable idea executed well at the right time, as Steven Levy's brisk-but-detailed history of Google, In the Plex, convincingly proves. . . . makes obsolete previous books on the company."
—Jack Shafer, The San Francisco Chronicle
"The rise of Google is an engrossing story, and nobody's ever related it in such depth."
—Hiawatha Bray, The Boston Globe
"Dense, driven examination of the pioneering search engine that changed the face of the Internet.
Thoroughly versed in technology reporting, Wired senior writer Levy deliberates at great length about online behemoth Google and creatively documents the company’s genesis from a 'feisty start-up to a market-dominating giant.' The author capably describes Google’s founders, Stanford grads Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as sharp, user-focused and steadfastly intent on 'organizing all the world’s information.' Levy traces how Google’s intricately developed, intrepid beginnings and gradual ascent over a competitive marketplace birthed an advertising-fueled 'money machine' (especially following its IPO in 2004), and he follows the expansion and operation of the company’s liberal work campus ('Googleplex') and its distinctively selective hiring process (Page still signs off on every new hire). The author was afforded an opportunity to observe the company’s operations, development, culture and advertising model from within the infrastructure for two years with full managerial cooperation. From there, he performed hundreds of interviews with past and current employees and discovered the type of 'creative disorganization' that can either make or break a business. Though clearly in awe of Google’s crowning significance, Levy evenhandedly notes the company’s more glaring deficiencies, like the 2004 cyber-attack that forced the removal of the search engine from mainland China, a decision vehemently unsupported by co-founder Brin. Though the author offers plenty of well-known information, it’s his catbird-seat vantage point that really gets to the good stuff.
Outstanding reportage delivered in the upbeat, informative fashion for which Levy is well known."
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"An instructive primer on how the minds behind the world's most influential internet company function."
—Richard Waters, The Wall Street Journal
"[Steven Levy] spent much of the past three years playing anthropologist at one of the Internet's most interesting villages and set of inhabitants -- the Googleplex and the tribue of Googlers who inhabit it. . . . A deep dive into Google's culture, history and technology."
--Mike Swift, San Jose Mercury News
"The wizards of Silicon Valley often hype their hardware/software breakthroughs as 'magical' for the products' ability to pull off dazzling stunts in the blink of an eye. And true to the magicians' code, these tech talents rarely let mere mortals peer behind the curtains. . . . That's what makes Levy's just-out tome so valuable."
—Jonathan Takiff, The Philadelphia Daily News
"The most comprehensive, intelligent and readable analysis of Google to date. Levy is particularly good on how those behind Google think and work. . . . What's more, his lucid introductions to Google's core technologies - the search engine and the company's data centres - are written in non-geek English and are rich with anecdotes and analysis. . . . In The Plex teems with original insight into Google's most controversial affairs."
—Andrew Keen, New Scientist
"Steven Levy's new account [of Google], In the Plex, is the most authoritative to date and in many ways the most entertaining."
—James Gleick, The New York Review of Books
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Top customer reviews
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Since Google is a company of the internet age there were areas where I skimmed, thinking that I knew all about this. More interesting to me was the behind the scenes information. It was interesting to see how the the viewpoints of senior Googlers differed from the common interpretation of their actions.
The section on China was particularly revealing with lots of description of the friction and disagreements within Google itself about whether to engage with China and when to pull out.
Another bit of particular interest to me was comparing the struggle that Google had once it became an established tech giant and the struggles the Obama administration had.
In both cases idealism and a certain naivety came into hard conflict with entrenched interests. And both groups discovered that while the facts are indeed the facts. The facts won't stop people from misinterpreting everything you do and seeing the worst in you.
I've always had a soft spot for Google and tend to think that at lot of the criticisms levied against them are rather ignorant or fail to recognize the realities of the world. This book reinforced that belief.
It is a bit of a dry read. Perhaps because the people are secondary to the company in the story of Google. It took me a while to read because I found it easier to dip in and out than to read whole chapters at a time. But it is fact with insight.
Many have heard about what makes Google tick but this book take your behind the scenes from day one and reveals what makes the place tick. It demonstrates how Google is really an extension of the personalities of Sergey and Larry. Reading the book helps you to better understand why Google does the things that it does and its whole approach to business. This is extremely beneficial given that fact that most people use a Google product every day.
The book is well written, easy to read and very entertaining as it takes you through the history of Google, dwelling on the major moments and products that have made it the colossus that it is today. It is very interesting to see how major products like Gmail grew from extreme small, almost hobby like projects into the features of mass culture they are today.
Most importantly of all it it gives you fantastic insight into the way Google thinks, how it make decisions and most importantly what it sees its mission in the world. As they say, knowing is understanding and with this book you'll certainly be more knowledgeable about what makes Google tick.
I love Google. I love their products, like Search, Gmail, Maps, Reader, and YouTube. In this book I got a lot of info (or gossips, depending how you define this small things) about the company.
The Chapter Six is unsurprisingly interesting to Chinese Google users. Not long after release of this book, tons of blog posts, illegal translations are flooding my RSS reader. This is phenomenal. And it haven't happened for a long time. The big heads - Tech Crunch, Business Insider and Mashable - also have at least one post on the book. They also reminded me to purchase a copy to fill my little monster of curiosity.
So this is it. I paid $12.99 to get a copy. Thanks to Amazon's kindle reader. I can get hands on the book in less than five minutes. If I place an order to a printed copy, I have to wait, like two weeks.
In my opinion, all the interesting gossips in this book have been leaked by the bloggers. Nothing more. Google has a hiding strategy. They have a lot stories hidden, which should be publicly known. That's why we have to buy a history book on Google. As Steven Levy wrote on Quora, this book has approved by Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt. Google even gave Steven a unprecedented access.
But some engineers think Google is no longer cool. A few left the company from Mountain View to Palo Alto. The most shocking big one is Sheryl Sandberg, who was a key person for Google ad division. She left Google for Facebook in March of 2008. It is hard to say Facebook is the future of internet, or social network will kill search engine. Yet, you know what I mean :)
In any aspect, Google is a great company. Without help from Google, I couldn't have learned Python script in a short time (higher productivity on daily basis), or enjoy the fantastic map service, read free ebook in public domain, maybe still using a offline RSS reader, and $300 revenue from AdSense...
Yet Google made strange decision facing evil and dark power. In my understanding of two co-founders, they should haven't make such a decision (to enter China market and quit). I don't have an answer even carefully read the Chapter Six. Maybe it's a result to satisfy everyone(?). Eric Schmidt said they had 5000 years patience. Yet they quitted in five years.
So let it be. Google should haven't been here.
However, this is the best book on Google by now. If you are interested in small stories on Google, buy one now.
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Levy's In the Plex is an accessible peek inside the world of the technological megalith.Read more