Ever wondered: How did Google get started? What about what is like to work at Google from day one? How did Google build an empire in it’s first 10 years? If so then pick up a copy of In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Live.
In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives begins with Google starting as a thesis project for the Larry Paige and Sergey Brin as PhD candidate students at Stanford. The founders had great access to resources and talent while at working on the project at Stanford, but they soon realized for their search engine to grow they would have to move from a research project to company. The founders were not concerned with making money, it more was more about the cost of crawling the web and storing that data too big for a PhD project. The book covers Google from inception to 2011 about a ten year time span. During this time span Google starts out as a small start-up renting a garage focusing solely on Search at that time. In the late 90’s the Search business was not a profitable business model. Since Search was not profitable Search Engines gave poor results until Google came around. Google’s only real competition in the early years came from Excite but Excite’s growth was capped because the parent company did not believe Search would be profitable. In the end it turns out Search can be very profitable, I mean profitable in the 10’s of billions. In The Plex covers Adsense, Gmail, YouTube, and other Google technologies as well.
Are they Googly? The culture of Google is modeled around a college campus employees work as students and their manager acts more as Professor rather than a traditional manager. In a typical week an employee works 80% of the time on their project but are allowed to work the other 20% of the time on a project of their choosing. From the start the founders insisted on hiring research minded Computer Scientist from elite Computer Science Universities, this combined with the 20% rule lead to many many innovations at Google. Many innovations developed at Google were published but by the time the results were released Google already had a huge lead on their competitors.
One of the biggest innovations that came out of Google in the early years was the Map Reduce project. Map Reduce was published by Jeffrey Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat in 2004. Map Reduce basically gives Google the ability to process large data sets in a relatively short amount of time. The Map Reduce paper was the brain child behind the Open-Source Apache Hadoop technology used by Yahoo, Facebook, and many others. Any company that deals with large amounts of data is using a Map Reduce related product.
Should you read it?
Google is the pioneer in big data before it was Big Data. So much of the big data buzz today is built around those innovations and practices developed by Google. Regardless of what your job title In The Plex will be very beneficial. In The Plex enabled me to have a practical application of how big data and machine learning can benefit the user. Companies are leveraging big data analytics for multiple purposes, by reading In the Plex you can see where is all started.
Tell me what you thought of the book or maybe you have a book that is similar that you think I should read. Just post in the comments below.