02 February 2014

In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes our Lives by Steven Levy [2011]

I picked this up because I saw this really interesting presentation by Rick Klau of Google Ventures on how Google adopted a goal setting and tracking process called OKR in order to monitor progress.  Levy's book talks about OKR (Objective Key Results) planning but it is also a fascinating history of Google.  In addition to OKR, which I think is really cool, the following points remain with me:

1    How Google revolutionized server infrastructure by moving from one big expensive box to series of cheaper lower capacity boxes.  The failure rate for these individual cheap servers was much higher than for bigger more expensive ones, but they overcame this by linking them in series in a way that had apparently not been done at scale before.  

2    The company's vacillations in its approach to China and censorship.  What I found interesting was the negative reaction this approach elicited, when it seemed to me to be pretty standard form by a company trying to do the best for its shareholders.  

The interesting question is why do people expect Google - essentially an advertising company - to act in ways non-aligned with its shareholders' interests? 

Perhaps it is because there is an expectation that the cool services Google provides should somehow be generated from purely altruistic purposes and provided for free; however, one does not need to be a foaming-mouthed Ayn Rand fantasist to see that this expectation is unrealistic.

A great book that made me want to move to California.

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