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Book Review: In The Plex

By - April 20, 2011

Last night I had the pleasure of interviewing Steven Levy, and old colleague from Wired, on the subject of his new book: In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives. The venue was the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, and I think they’ll have the audio link up soon.

Steven’s interview was a lot like his book – full of previously untold anecdotes and stories that rounded out pieces of Google’s history that many of us only dreamt of knowing about. When I was reporting my book,The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture, I had limited access to folks at Google, and *really* limited access to Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Levy had the opposite, spending more than two years inside the company and seeing any number of things that journalists would have killed to see in years past.

The result is a lively and very detailed piece of reporting about the inner workings of Google. But I was a bit disappointed with the book in that Steven didn’t take all that new knowledge and pull back to give us his own analysis of what it all meant. I asked him about this, and he said he made the conscious decision to not editorialize, but rather lay it all out there and let the reader draw his or her own conclusions. I respect that, but I also know Steven has really informed opinions, and I wish he’d give them to us.

What I took away from In the Plex was a renewed respect for the awesome size and scope of Google’s infrastructure, as well as its ambition. Sometimes we forget that Google is more likely than not the largest manufacturer of computers in the world, and runs the largest single instance of computing power in the world. It’s also one of the largest collectors and analyzers of data in the world. All of this has drawn serious scrutiny, but I don’t think even the regulators really grok how significant Google’s assets are. They should all read Steven’s book.

Levy only grazes the surface of Google’s social blindness, unfortunately, and due to timing could only mention Page’s ascendancy to CEO in his epilogue. But his reporting on how the China issue played out is captivating, as are the many details he fills out in Google’s early history. If you’re fascinated by Google, you’ve got to add this one to your library.

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5 thoughts on “Book Review: In The Plex

  1. kingkan says:

    This book seems worth reading

  2. Levy’s rather unfortunate if the opinion that only graze the surface of Google’s social blindness, unfortunately, and because time can only mention the increase in Page for the CEO in his epilogue. In stark contrast to the reporting premises about how the problems China is playing is captivating, as did many of the details he filled in the early history of Google. and definitely one thing is I’m very interested in Google, of course I will menambahkanhal this to your library….

  3. Seo says:

    It is almost incomprhensible to think what Google has put together in such a short time…acquititions, structure, technology, staff, literally, an entire industry. It blows my mind even thinking about it let alone seeing it all!

  4. Nice review, Google is bigger than most countries in terms of shear income. Plus it’s stream has been in growth phase for many years now, they are huge.

  5. Wow. Thanks for this review.. that book has been recommended by a bunch of techies, and I definitely want to absorb some of that ‘genius’.. even if I’m not the typical Google fanboy type. Cool blog, too, BTW!