"In the Plex" is Steven Levy's a highly engrossing and well-written account of the the rise of Google from a garage start-up to a $30-billion colossus"In the Plex" is Steven Levy's a highly engrossing and well-written account of the the rise of Google from a garage start-up to a $30-billion colossus.
The book outlines Google from its initial conceptualization by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, examining the rise of its search capability, the advent of the advertising monster that became AdWords and AdSense (still accounting for the vast majority of Google's revenues), and the sometimes painful growth of the company from nimble start-up to Internet dominatrix.
Of particular interest is the gradual development of Google's market direction and management approaches, specifically in fostering innovation and new business opportunities. The author cites both hits and misses, delving into how Google works, thinks and acts. Levy examines the many challenges the company has faced with issues such as privacy concerns, copyright issues, the seesaw efforts in the China market, and the failure to catch the rising tide of the social media market. The book looks at the evolution of both management and corporate culture including Google's reticence for revealing much information about itself and its the famous 'Don't be evil' mantra.
Google's well-known 20% rule - whereby employees can spend up to 20% of their time working on other projects - is mentioned but is one area of the book that seems sadly under-examined in the book as is very much insight into Google's innovation approaches, beyond the interests of the founders.
Of note to anyone in management is Google's application of OKRs - Objectives and Key Results approach (something devised by Andy Grove from Intel) in planning and setting business objectives and direction across the organization. The OKR approach provided Google with a fundamental and rigorous objective planning system that was scalable across the rapidly growing organization, helping the new company in ensuring strong objective planning and a cohesive direction.
Well-written and in-depth, In the Plex is well worth your time....more
They were called The Ghost and The Darkness, two adult male African lions, that haunted the scrub brush of the Tsavo River at the turn of the century.They were called The Ghost and The Darkness, two adult male African lions, that haunted the scrub brush of the Tsavo River at the turn of the century.
In 1898, they killed more than 135 Indian and African railway workers, laboring to throw a bridge across the Tsavo River, before Lt. Col. John Patterson, in an epic and harrowing nine-month struggle, hunted the lions down and killed them.
Today the lion's are stuffed and displayed in the Field Museum in Chicago, but the question of what spawned their behavior, what drove them to become that most feared of all animals ( to us anyway) - a maneater, remains unanswered and mainly unexamined by science.
In the Ghosts of Tsavo, Phil Caputo, author of A Rumor of War, Horn of Africa, and numerous other books, examines the Tsavo lions, looking at two separate lines of scientific research that are now attempting to explain supposed behavioral and physical differences (Tsavo lions are maneless - sometimes, very aggressive, and may be a subspecies of lion that was thought to have died out 8,000 years ago) between Tsavo lions and other African lions. Journeying into the field with the scientests, Caputo offers a welcome insight into the scientific methodology in studying these animals, and brings a raw, visceral sense of the dread, fear, strength and admiration that the lions can generate.
Tsavo, in case you are interested, means "place of slaughter".
At times Caputo's writing is, by turns, chillingly effective at making the reader aware of the power of the lion and why so many of us fear the dark beyond the fire, mixed with the more clinical approach of scientific study. There is an undercurrent of Caputo's awareness of his own mortality ribboning through the story that makes the lions appear less of an animal, and more of a archetype of death, staring at you with yellowed, predatory eyes.
The book is generally engrossing but at times the abrupt shift in tone is disconcerting and uneven. As with most scientific studies, there is no real conclusive point to the lion study, or for that matter to the book. It is a good tale of a journey, but a final arrival at a destination would have also been nice.
For more about the Tsavo lions, read Col. Patterson's Maneater's of Tsavo for the definative account (and a rippin' great adventure story to boot (if a trifle Victorian in tone)). You can also download it (and many other public domain texts) free from Project Gutenberg.
There are also two Hollywood interpretations of the story, one of which, The Ghost and The Darkness, starring Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas, is now on DVD. Interestingly enough, they had to import the lions used in the filming from Canada, and, with the filmakers usual lack of attention to detail, they used two fully-maned males, rather then the sparsely maned Tsavo cats....