The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture by John Battelle; New York, Portfolio Penguin Group Publishing, 2005; 311 pp.
John Battelle is the founder of The Industry Standard as well as a co-founding editor of Wired. He writes a regular column for Business 2.0. Mr. Battelle’s personal blog dedicated to “search” is one of the more informative ones currently available in cyberspace. His blog can be found at www.battellemedia.com.
The bulk of this book is a historical perspective of Google, pre-IPO. Battelle has gone to great length in his investigation of early Google, with informative interviews with all the key Google players. The insights gained from talking with the venture capitalist who funded Google in the beginning, to discussions with the triumvirate (Page, Brin, and Schmidt) offer the business community a glimpse into the birth of a darling company.
What do you learn from this book about search? First, there is the pre-Google search. Search was around before Google existed, and it will be around long after Google fades out of the picture. To be sure, you also learn about the unique organizational culture of Google: how they hire employees, the free gourmet meals, and how employees are given 10-20 percent of their time to focus on dreaming up new pie-in-the-sky projects that might not fit in the traditional modus operandi. Perhaps more importantly though, the reader gains insight on how a fast-moving technology company grows at incredible speed. One chapter discusses how Google went from zero to $3 billion in five years.
To illustrate how spot on Battelle is: As I write this review (late January 2006) the current scuttle on Google is censorship in China. Just this past week Sergey Brin has been defending their practices in China on self-censorship. What is interesting is Battelle has a whole chapter dedicated to this issue titled “Search, Privacy, Government, and Evil,” and he wrote on this a year ago! What does it mean when Google’s corporate philosophy is “Don’t Be Evil”? Apparently, that means different things to different people and, as the company grows and matures, different things to Google.
I believe Google, more than any other organization on earth (including the likes of IBM, the U.S. government or the Roman Catholic Church, to name a few), is in a position to understand the current state of the human race. Google has the pulse of mankind, and Mr. Battelle has the pulse of Google. This is an informative, well written, easy-to-read book providing great insight into what is sure to be one of the most interesting and influential, company of our times.
Reviewed by Ryan C. LaBrie
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Kwik Kian Gie earned his doctorandus from the Netherlands School of Economics, Rotterdam in 1963. Kwik was the coordinating minister of economics, finance, and industry under former Indonesian President Abdurrachman Wahid. He was also state minister of Bappenas under former President Megawati Sukarnoputri. Kwik is the founder of the Institute Bisnis dan Informatika Indonesia (IBII). He was also a member of Parliament and deputy speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly.
In this little book, Kwik identifies the significant cost of corruption for Indonesia through careful economic analysis and strong opinions. He goes beyond what is wrong to the recommendation of reform. In his radical conclusion, he asks the question of whether Indonesia is really ready for democracy: “Isn’t it time for us to have the courage to be honest to ourselves and ask whether the democracy that is imposed by other nations is really suitable for our nation of which the majority of the people has not yet have adequate education nor the level of knowledge for adopting the democracy of advanced countries?” (p. 36)
This book is a rather crude English translation as indicated by the previous quote. It is brutally frank as indicated by the section titled, “The Nation’s Elite Has Become Imbecile.” And it is probably very difficult to find a copy of this book in the West. Then why review it?
There is a huge challenge in taking business ethics to countries with corrupt governments. This book does a wonderful job of capturing the enormity of the task. It is not great literature, but it offers great insight.
Reviewed by Al Erisman