Interesting, amazing and disturbing. It's great American entrepreneurial tale, but in the back of my mind I couldn't escape the realization that the core of their business is selling ads. Billions of dollars in ads, and said billions they spend like drunken sailors.
Barbarians at the Gate, because that book features a similar value toward large sums of money and the desire to own everything.
Neutral, bland and unexciting. There were a few pronunciation curiosities... "DEC" is usually pronounced "Deck," and to the best of my knowledge, "Vista" in "Alta Vista" is not pronounced "Vee-stuh." Small quibbles, though.
It's worse than you think.
I enjoy Steven Levy's books. Hackers is one of my all-time favorites. BUT it's clear that the cost of the level of access to Google that Levy was granted came at a cost of objectivity. Still, it's an interesting story.
I love learning, teaching, and exploring!
I love Google and Google products so this book enjoyable listening for me. It was informative to learn about the ideas and people behind the products that I love to use, but also interesting to learn more about some of the controversial practices used by Google. Everything from hiring practices, to the concept of page rank, and the China decision was covered. It might come across as a little bit pro-Google to those who are not Google fans, but I didn't mind.
The story and background are great. I really enjoy learning how "startups" like this are conceived and how they grow to be the global forces they are today. However, the author does not appear to have any distance between himself and the story. He is clearly enamored with the founders and spends countless pages telling us how "amazing" these guys are. I prefer the "Steve Jobs" book approach. In that book, the author sang the praises when due but also exposed the warts, pimples and just plain ugliness of the man/story. In the Plex makes you believe that these two had some grand plan and that each step was preplanned for maximum success. Reality is, they fell ass-backwards into a gold mine. Good for them ... but tell the story from some source other than the ego-driven Serge and Page.
He skims over the scary parts of Google and does his best to be their defender. One does not have to know much about the missteps to notice that you are only getting a surface story from a man enamored with his subject. Now I feel obligated to read a book that makes an effort to tell me the other side.
YES! By an investigative reporter. We all know that two brainy students changed the world with their search product. We understand that they have done a spectacular job building a company. We also know they do not care at all about privacy or personal data.
I started this book only mildly interested and ended with an example of how to build a new world. I could have used a lot more detail on the technical aspects of this story: page rank, server clusters, etc.; and less of the internal politics and business models. But the message which was repeated throughout this story was "change the world for the better and let the algorithms do the heavy lifting". It is almost curious that such a bunch of technonerds could make such a profound humanitarian statement, but that is Steven Levy's genius for detail as much as anything purposely done of the principals in this story. Ganser did a superb narration job. If we are lucky this will be the first volume with another installment in 20 or so years. Spolier Alert: Paleonerds will really enjoy this tale. For all others, proceed with caution.
This book is way better than "What Would Google Do". I particularly like the sections that talked about Google's data centers: the machines they use, the cooling systems, the locations, etc. Techies and non-techies will get enjoyment out of this book.
Letting the rest of the world go by
Everything I thought I knew about Google was wrong. I have a whole new understanding and, yes, an appreciation for the success of Google. Google was much more than just a good search engine. They knew how to take that product and leverage it to make money. The author really lets you feel like your inside the company and understand how they succeeded. A very fun and eye opening read.
This is not all an objective treatment. However, even with the author's reverence for the
Yes and no: it's competent but nearly hagiographic. VERY few opposing viewpoints. I would bet that Google traded access for guaranteed favorable treatment.
The author would have been well-served to leave out the Obama-centric chapters near the end of the book. They add very little and sound too much like mainstream Obama puffery: according to Levy, the President's main problem is just being too darn rational.... Yeah, right.
This was more interesting than some other examples in this genre (Hsieh's book about Zappos or Employee 59 for example) probably because it was written by an outsider with access to the company, not a founder, former employee or someone with a direct stake in the company. It's interesting to see the development of the algorithm, the inside look at the corporate culture and other aspects of the company that is such a big part of all our lives, whether we like it or not.
Mr. Levy wrote THE definitive book about google and his insights are fascinating. It is also clear that he was given access to individuals and documents that had previously not been available to other authors. The resulting story is a balanced book not just a love note to Google.
The Narration by Mr. Ganser is pitch perfect! He is authoritative and clear. Even when the book drags just a bit Mr. Ganser's narration keeps you involved and listening.