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In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives Hardcover – 12 May 2011
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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
About the Author
Steven Levy is a senior writer at Wired, and was formerly senior editor and chief technology correspondent for Newsweek. He is the author of several books, including Hackers, Insanely Great, and The Perfect Thing. A native of Philadelphia, Levy lives in New York City with his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Teresa Carpenter, and their son. Visit him at StevenLevy.com.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
In the minds of its founders and most of the early employees, Google is first and foremost a technology company. The business model of online advertising came about almost as an afterthought, and one continuously gets the sense that its purpose is to pay the bills so that Google geeks can have a free reign in pursuing their latest techie interest. This attitude is an integral part of Google's DNA, and any book that aims to provide the reader with a better sense of what Google is all about needs to get this point across. Unfortunately, there have been several books in recent years that were more concerned with all the intangible aspects of life in the age of Google and had almost completely missed this point. "In The Plex," I am happy to say, did not fall in that trap.Read more ›
The book is expansive and provides a lot of additional colour around Google, some of which I found of interest as I had worked at Yahoo! competing against Google and working with some of the early darlings of the web 2.0 movement - Flickr and Delicious. There were a couple of things that surprised me such as Google's use of machine learning on areas like translation explained why grammar is still so bad in this area as it needs heuristics that lexicographers could provide similar to that offered by Crystal Semantics.
Overall it was interesting to see that as with most large organisations Google is not only fallible but run through with realpolitik and a fair bit of serendipity. This contrasts with the external perception of Google as the technological Übermensch. A classic example of this is the series of missteps Google made whilst competing in China, which are documented in the book. From staffing practices, promotional tactics and legal to technology; Google blew it's chances and Baidu did a better job.
As an aside it was interesting to note that Google used queries on rival search engines to try and work out how to comply with Chinese government regulations, which is eerily like bad practices that Google accused Bing of last February in `hiybbprqag'-gate.Read more ›
The book covers the company from the early days up until late 2010 / early 2011. The book is an excellent example of a business biography and the author has clearly received a wide and long access to senior Google staff.
If you want to read about Google, this is the one.
It’s interesting to note that Levy has enjoyed more contact with some of the key figures in the industry than most others, and this access has helped him to form a compelling manuscript that borrows from elements of good fiction writing to deliver a biography of a company which feels as exciting as the company itself does.
Levy’s writing is clear and lucid, easy to understand and straight to the point, making this one of those books that seems to just whizz by because you enjoy reading it so much that you don’t have to stop to think. The author promises to show you “how Google thinks, works and shapes our lives”, and they certainly deliver on that promise – I already knew a lot about Google, but I didn’t know everything that Levy uncovered during his research.
I mean, how could you? It’s so thorough that there’s very little that’s known about Google that Levy didn’t cover, apart from perhaps a few of their newer innovations that didn’t make it into the scope of the book. You can tell that he’s writing with a passion, and yet he manages to maintain a sort of neutrality throughout – he writes using the facts, and while he does offer up his own interpretations, it’s ultimately left to the reader to arrive at their own conclusions.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Must read: Levy is a great writer, deeply perceptive, and had unprecedented and wide-ranging access to the key players. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Timothy Bates
This book was, like most books I have read about this giant company, a fascinating read. Describing the journey of the company from an idealistic start-up to one of the largest... Read morePublished on 1 Oct. 2014 by GOTTON
Very good book about the culture of Google and will help you understand the way they work. Essential reading for anyone in online marketing if they want to understand Google. Read morePublished on 8 Sept. 2014 by Jon789
Very good audio. You need this in your collection to really understand Google. It is about 20 hours long and very well read.Published on 16 Dec. 2013 by Mr. Stephen Pitcher
What could have been a dry but informative read is a well structured narrative covering the details of technology we use every day and the people behind it.Published on 6 Dec. 2013 by Mr Matthew A Webster
Arrived quite promptly, well-wrapped and in a good condition. The book itself really eye-opening and interesting, a good read for anyone.Published on 1 Oct. 2013 by Olga
Having read the first half of the book which I found informative if not very repetitive I was shocked and appalled to read the following, "Matt Harding began posting videos of... Read morePublished on 14 Sept. 2013 by Ross
Provides a great in depth look on how Google is - what happened to make it so and some of the war stories from the early days.Published on 24 Mar. 2013 by Joel Haasnoot
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