Quick book review: In The Plex

I finished "In The Plex" by Steven Levy over the weekend.

I wasn't expecting to try to read the book, but a comment from a long-time Googler that Steven Levy "probably knows more about Google and its history than almost any Googler" was enough to get me interested.

I was very, very pleasantly surprised. Even controlling for the fact that its the most recent book on Google, I do think its the best book ever written about the company (and there have been a bunch!)

I read a couple just before I was going to join the company nearly four years ago, and I'd assumed that my time here and my general curiosity and pokiness (I know - not a word) meant that I knew a lot about the company, its history and a lot of our businesses but I learned a lot reading Levy's book - what helps make it extremely readable are the anecdotes and the details - little nuggets like why Scott Hassan re-wrote the crawler in Python; how Eric Veach thought about the ads system, the dynamics and personalities in the early days and GPSes etc.

The things that I knew about (search, infrastructure, the ads system, YouTube, Android etc.) I enjoyed incredibly accessible explanations for and interesting anecdotes about ...and the things I knew just a little about I learned so much more about (especially China, the interactions with the government and about the Books Settlement.) Its also fun having a few people that you know or work with show up in a book.:)

There are a couple of minor errors that threw me off (like a couple of PMs being referred to as engineers and few product/name typos here and there), but hopefully those get fixed in the reprint.

If you're looking for a detailed, balanced, accessible and extremely insightful look into the company this is the book to read. What I was left with though was a portrait of some truly incredible individuals: particularly Larry, Sergey and Eric - but also many, many of the incredible people they drew into this company.

The sheer ambition, ability and vision of these people, combined with the values they have maintained left me feeling incredibly proud to work here, and just as excited about the future.


Lisa said…

Saw you were Linked with Una Pipic at the CEC. I am searching for talented developers interested in joining a startup in the healthcare space. I can share more if you think you have someone that may be interested. Looking to provide equity and they don't have to come on full time immediately. I can be reached at jeffreyweber1@comcast.net

Thanks - hope not too blunt, but wanted to be brief.
21tiger.com said…
I just finished this one, wow, what a long, but thoroughly satisfying read. I think great book like this SHOULD, in a way, make you smarter, and I've taken ideas from here, and applied them to my own business.

At the end of the day, I do believe Google is a great thing, even if I'm not an Engineer ;).

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