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In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives | [Steven Levy]

In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives

Few companies in history have ever been as successful and as admired as Google, the company that has transformed the Internet and become an indispensable part of our lives. How has Google done it? Veteran technology reporter Steven Levy was granted unprecedented access to the company, and in this revelatory book he takes listeners inside Google headquarters - the Googleplex - to explain how Google works.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Don't be evil. That's Google's official motto. But what's really going on behind that simple little search box? Wired's Steven Levy guides us through a history of the rise of the internet, the development of complicated search algorithms, and, in many ways, a who's who of Silicon Valley — all beautifully narrated by L.J. Ganser.

What started as two geeks obsessed with improving internet search engines rapidly ballooned into a company eager to gobble up other useful startups (Keyhole Inc., YouTube, Picassa) as well as larger, more obviously valuable companies (most notably the marketing goliath, DoubleClick). Google's strategy has also been a game-changer in regards to the way we use data and cloud computing. Thanks to its highly lucrative AdWords and AdSense programs, the company exploded the way people think about the internet and the way people think about making money on the internet.

In the Plex gives listeners a real idea of what it's like to exist within the company's quirky culture. And Ganser knows when to keep it serious, but that doesn't stop him from adding just the right amount of snark to the “like” and “um”-ridden quotations from various engineer types. This edition also includes a fascinating interview between the author and early hire Marissa Mayer, the youngest woman to ever make Fortune's "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" list.

Levy dedicates a large section of the book to Google's controversial actions in China, the ultimate test of the company's “don't be evil” philosophy. Here, In the Plex takes an unexpected turn from company profile to a technology coming-of-age story for notorious “founder kids” Larry Page and Sergey Brin. How does “don't be evil” play out in a real world that is sometimes, well, evil? Results are mixed.

In addition to China, Levy touches on some of Google's failures, flubs, and flops, like the company's book scanning project and its development of Google Wave and Google Buzz. However, he seems to miss the point when he makes excuses for their inability to compete in the social space. It seems particularly obvious why a corporation completely run by data-obsessed engineers would have trouble making inroads in the world of social media, which is by nature more organic and subtle.

From the early days as a gonzo-style startup to the massive corporate giant that has quickly integrated itself into almost everything we do, this is an essential history of Google. —Gina Pensiero

Publisher's Summary

Few companies in history have ever been as successful and as admired as Google, the company that has transformed the Internet and become an indispensable part of our lives. How has Google done it? Veteran technology reporter Steven Levy was granted unprecedented access to the company, and in this revelatory book he takes listeners inside Google headquarters - the Googleplex - to explain how Google works.

While they were still students at Stanford, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin revolutionized Internet search. They followed this brilliant innovation with another, as two of Google's earliest employees found a way to do what no one else had: make billions of dollars from Internet advertising. With this cash cow (until Google's IPO, nobody other than Google management had any idea how lucrative the company's ad business was), Google was able to expand dramatically and take on other transformative projects: more efficient data centers, open-source cell phones, free Internet video (YouTube), cloud computing, digitizing books, and much more.

The key to Google's success in all these businesses, Levy reveals, is its engineering mind-set and adoption of such Internet values as speed, openness, experimentation, and risk taking. After it's unapologetically elitist approach to hiring, Google pampers its engineers with free food and dry cleaning, on-site doctors and masseuses, and gives them all the resources they need to succeed. Even today, with a workforce of more than 23,000, Larry Page signs off on every hire.

But has Google lost its innovative edge? It stumbled badly in China. And now, with its newest initiative, social networking, Google is chasing a successful competitor for the first time. Some employees are leaving the company for smaller, nimbler start-ups. Can the company that famously decided not to be "evil" still compete?

No other book has turned Google inside out as Levy does with In the Plex.

This edition of In the Plex includes an exclusive interview with Google's Marissa Mayer, one of the company's earliest hires and most visible executives, as well as the youngest woman to ever make Fortune's "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" list. She provides a high-level insider's perspective on the company's life story, its unique hiring practices, its new social networking initiative, and more.

©2011 Steven Levy (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"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'.... 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)

"The book, a wide-ranging history of the company from start-up to behemoth, sheds light on the biggest threats Google faces today, from the Chinese government to Facebook and privacy critics." (The New York Times)

“With a commanding voice, L.J. Ganser narrates this history and exploration of Google….Ganser’s stern voice is clear and moves through the text with determination.” (AudioFile)

What Members Say

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  •  
    CHESTER LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 11-12-14
    CHESTER LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 11-12-14 Member Since 2007

    Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.

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    "GOOGLE NATION"

    In the Plex”, is a journey into “the force” of Google nation. Like Star Wars, Steven Levy reveals good and evil inherent in “the force” as it applies to the Google federation. Levy offers an insightful history of Google’s origin, philosophy, and growth.

    Google exemplifies the “information age” by creating a search engine for all human knowledge and experience. Google endeavors to accumulate a comprehensive data base of the world’s knowledge while creating a search engine for anyone seeking information.

    Collection and search of information is as potentially evil as it is good. Google’s explosive growth as a search engine skunk works is as likely to be a tool of a Star War’s like Evil Empire as a Star War’s Federation. The metrics of Google’s growth boggles the mind; particularly when one considers the bulk of their employees (engineers) are some of the smartest people on the planet.

    Levy’s book reveals the best and worst of the Google complex. Page and Brin are among the best and brightest of the 21st century but Google’s founders and employees, like all human beings, are fallible and subject to all the sins of humankind; not the least of which is hubris and greed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Williams 10-27-14 Member Since 2014
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    "A very thorough look into Google"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. This book is ideal for anybody in the tech industry or who has a passion for tech.


    Any additional comments?

    Into the Plex covers a very comprehensive history of Google, from it's beginning at Stanford to the introduction of Google+. Unfortunately, this book was published too early to cover things like the NSA Prism debacle, but that's no fault of the author's.

    If you're looking for a thorough biography of Google, this is a wonderful choice.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Dietrich 09-04-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Don't Be Evil*"
    If you could sum up In the Plex in three words, what would they be?

    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.


    What other book might you compare In the Plex to and why?

    Barbarians at the Gate, because that book features a similar value toward large sums of money and the desire to own everything.


    What three words best describe L. J. Ganser’s voice?

    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.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    It's worse than you think.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Lea Evans 08-31-14
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    "Who Knew?"
    What made the experience of listening to In the Plex the most enjoyable?

    This book put "faces" upon the Google facade removing the veil of mystery. Understanding more about "do no evil" as a company mantra was very significant to me along with the basic thread of user services that was explored and amplified in the book. The ubiquity of Google overshadows the fact that real people are doing real work behind the scenes and the story covered that so very nicely, putting humanity first.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I honestly don't have an answer for that. Demystifying Google probably.


    What does L. J. Ganser bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The book is heavy left brain data so a narrative really enhances the experience whereas the right brain, in reading might give up totally! LOL


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Heavens no! I enjoyed it in bits and drabs while working.


    Any additional comments?

    Good expanded material and interview at the end of the book which was a surprising bonus and appreciated by this listener.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David PASADENA, CA, United States 05-27-14
    David PASADENA, CA, United States 05-27-14 Member Since 2010

    Started audiobooks years ago. Now instead of pop music on my ride to work or walk around the neighborhood I get enriched and smarter.

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    "I want to quit my job and work for Google"
    What made the experience of listening to In the Plex the most enjoyable?

    The story s complex, and the timelines of different chapters overlap, but Levy stayed on topic while keeping the story in order. We get insight into the people, machines, ideas, and principles that make for a one of a kind complex organization.


    What other book might you compare In the Plex to and why?

    Outliers. The whole company is an extrodinary example of what exceptional people can do when they work hard and get lucky.


    Which character – as performed by L. J. Ganser – was your favorite?

    He does no characters, just reads the story. But he does a great job at that.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The chapter on China. The company prided itself on is morals which up that point were pretty easy to follow. They had to change from "Don't be evil" to pickiing the most beneficial choice. As the chapter unfolds this balancing act get more and more complicated.


    Any additional comments?

    If anyone at Google reads this and wants to hire a trauma surgeon, please call...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Kazuhiko TUXEDO PARK, NY, United States 05-26-14
    Kazuhiko TUXEDO PARK, NY, United States 05-26-14
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    "The guys who helped shape the data-driven world"

    Since the advent of the Internet, it was probably a matter of time that the society became more data-driven. But the two founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, definitely pushed this process forward like no other people could. As mentioned in the book, this probably had to do with the fact that both guys happened to be educated in Montessori schools (which encourage students to question the authority and follow one's own quest) earlier in their lives. The book provides a fair assessment of how they evolved as Google became a big company, and yet they tried to retain their original goals. Google tends to be criticized for their invasion of privacies, and I admit that I also always felt nervous about what data they were collecting and how they were using them. But after listening to this book, at least I understand their original intentions and appreciate what they have done to a large extent. I thought the book was a bit too long (nearly 20 hours) - perhaps the author could have delivered the same information with a 2/3 of the length. The narrator was very good.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Steven Calgary, Alberta, Canada 04-25-14
    Steven Calgary, Alberta, Canada 04-25-14 Member Since 2005
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    "20 hours! What was I thinking?"

    OK, I finished it. 20 hours of info that I really don't need. I'm not a geek, nerd, hacker or computer scientist but I'm probably a dweeb for using a credit on this book. Some parts, maybe 6 hours, were interesting which leaves 13 hours of way too much information for the average person. If 2.5 stars was an option, I'd have gone with that but the narrator was OK so a very generous 3 stars it is.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jon Crawfurd ST PETERSBURG, FL USA 03-31-14
    Jon Crawfurd ST PETERSBURG, FL USA 03-31-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Important book on an important company"

    No one can argue either the phenomenal success of Google, or the fact that it's a little weird. This book gets you behind the scenes to explain how Google became so important to our lives, and to expose a little dirty laundry. Great read!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leslie West Roxbury, MA, United States 03-04-14
    Leslie West Roxbury, MA, United States 03-04-14 Member Since 2004

    Like mainly mystery and suspense with a bit of chick lit and non-fiction thrown in. Severe addiction going on 10 years to Audiobooks.

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    "The company everyone wishes they worked for"
    Any additional comments?

    This was a great insider's look into Google. Everyone pretty much knows about Google and its founders, but this really steps you through the company's evolution. There were times I laughed out loud, and times I shook my head in disbelief at some of the stories. It went at a great pace and I didn't want it to end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nicholas Woolwich Township, NJ, United States 03-02-14
    Nicholas Woolwich Township, NJ, United States 03-02-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Wow-who knew"
    What made the experience of listening to In the Plex the most enjoyable?

    I was extremely enamored with this book. It was amazing how google came to be and the path they took to grow as successful as they did. The wins, losses, and overall decisions that shaped google make this a great read and and quite frankly, a book I never expected to really enjoy.


    Have you listened to any of L. J. Ganser’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    no


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Gisele
    Ottawa, ON, Canada
    6/11/11
    Overall
    "iLike"

    Like peeling off the roof of Google and getting a SimCity view inside as googlers work. I feel I can see behind the Google.com search box facade. I like what I see.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • vj14
    Newark, NJ, United States
    8/30/12
    Overall
    "Great!!"

    Awesome book!! Really enjoyed it

    Excellent narrator and story. Totally worth your money. +1 +1

    Steven is reallty good

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 31-32 of 32 results PREVIOUS134NEXT

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