Saturday, September 27, 2014

How Google Works

How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg – review

An exploration of how the internet giant is run – complete with ideological inconsistencies
Google's motto “Don’t be evil” implies that anything that is not outright evil is probably OK. Photograph: Chris Ison/PA

The enormously powerful global advertising corporation called Google gets a pretty bad rap these days. It is constantly beleaguered by European legal investigations, and pilloried for its attitude to data privacy. (Though it is at least much better than Facebook in this regard.) So you might almost suspect that this book by Eric Schmidt, the company's former CEO, and Jonathan Rosenberg, an adviser to the current CEO Larry Page, is a carefully designed PR exercise. The authors do make a point of seeing the funny side when Google is mocked, and even reproduce some examples concocted by employees. I liked the picture of a dog wearing Google's nerdy computerised spectacles, captioned: "OK Glass, show me a squirrel."
    As it turns out, How Google Works is not about the technical functioning of its search or email services, but how the company is managed. The promise is that if you too run a company (or aspire to do so), you will learn the secrets of Google's success. So, you should employ "smart creatives", because they are creative but also, you know, clever. (In one peculiar aside, Shakespeare's Othello is called a "smart creative", which I guess we are not supposed to take as an excuse for homicidal tantrums on the part of tech entrepreneurs.)

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