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I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 (edition 2011)

by Douglas Edwards

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1351288,991 (3.61)1
Member:RustyBoone
Title:I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59
Authors:Douglas Edwards
Info:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2011), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 432 pages
Collections:Untitled collection
Rating:****
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I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 by Douglas Edwards

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Title: I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59
Author: Douglas Edwards
Pages: 390 (hardcover)
Summary: Google had a crazy path from start-up to technology giant and I’m a sucker for tech start-ups, so this book was very appealing to my inner nerd. It is told, however, from a marketing department employee who joined Google early in its development, but always seemed to be just sort of along for the ride. While Edwards certainly contributed to Google brand significantly, he approaches the story of Google’s development while he was there with an approach more similar to a fly on the wall and only sometimes talks about his own adventures.

As someone who hadn’t followed Google’s rise to power very closely and simply adored the search capability when I found it (and Gmail when I was introduced to that) it was very interesting to read about the very eccentric personalities of the original idea makers. While reading this book I was constantly intimidated by the brilliance of the people working at Google, and as someone who has seen multiple recent grads get rejected from Google’s hiring crusade, it was almost reassuring.

This book tells the tale of Google from a small 60 person start-up to a giant tech company that just went public, but I sometimes found myself lost in a see of short stories. Edwards approaches this 6 year story as a collection of short episodes and often jumps to events years before or after the current story to explain some dynamic of the current telling. This meant that I rarely knew where exactly I was in the timeline of the book, but it didn’t really worry me that much. What I enjoyed about this book was the fascinating insight into what a successful start-up model is, the very entertaining stories about some now very important people, and a better understanding of what Google’s goals really were throughout this whole development.

If you like tech at all, especially if you think the quirky but brilliant techies that are currently taking over the world are people you’d like to hang with, I’d recommend picking up this book. I found it getting a little long in the middle, but once I got past 2/3 I rushed to the end because I had finally figured out the style and was content floating along the quantum jumping timeline.

More reviews at http://www.onstarshipsanddragonwings.com/ ( )
  anyaejo | Apr 2, 2013 |
An interesting insider's look at Google. The author does not have much of a technology background (he is older than the majority of the staff, and in marketing), so he does have a true 'outsider's' perspective. Some interesting insights, but no scandals, as the 'Confessions' title implies.

A good book, but a bit light on the technical details. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
Audible audiobook, not listed in editions.

Fine so far as it goes. Edwards chronicles (often thematically rather than chronologically) his adventures as an early employee in Google's start-up phase. I found it interesting to read about Google, and interesting for a while to read about Edwards's interactions with company personnel and culture. However, the latter topic can be summed up more often than not as, "I suggested something, it was/wasn't adopted, I turned out to be wrong." The moral of the story might be "Grit your teeth, don't see your family for years, go on mandated recreational trips with bosses who act like adolescents, and hang on until the IPO, when you can cash out."

( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
More reviews at: http://www.onstarshipsanddragonwings.com/2012/04/22/tangent-time-nonfiction-2/

Title: I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59
Author: Douglas Edwards
Pages: 390 (hardcover)
Summary: Google had a crazy path from start-up to technology giant and I’m a sucker for tech start-ups, so this book was very appealing to my inner nerd. It is told, however, from a marketing department employee who joined Google early in its development, but always seemed to be just sort of along for the ride. While Edwards certainly contributed to Google brand significantly, he approaches the story of Google’s development while he was there with an approach more similar to a fly on the wall and only sometimes talks about his own adventures.
As someone who hadn’t followed Google’s rise to power very closely and simply adored the search capability when I found it (and Gmail when I was introduced to that) it was very interesting to read about the very eccentric personalities of the original idea makers. While reading this book I was constantly intimidated by the brilliance of the people working at Google, and as someone who has seen multiple recent grads get rejected from Google’s hiring crusade, it was almost reassuring.
This book tells the tale of Google from a small 60 person start-up to a giant tech company that just went public, but I sometimes found myself lost in a see of short stories. Edwards approaches this 6 year story as a collection of short episodes and often jumps to events years before or after the current story to explain some dynamic of the current telling. This meant that I rarely knew where exactly I was in the timeline of the book, but it didn’t really worry me that much. What I enjoyed about this book was the fascinating insight into what a successful start-up model is, the very entertaining stories about some now very important people, and a better understanding of what Google’s goals really were throughout this whole development.
If you like tech at all, especially if you think the quirky but brilliant techies that are currently taking over the world are people you’d like to hang with, I’d recommend picking up this book. I found it getting a little long in the middle, but once I got past 2/3 I rushed to the end because I had finally figured out the style and was content floating along the quantum jumping timeline. ( )
  anyaejo | Feb 15, 2013 |
Fun, quick read. Entertaining stories from the early days of Google, though not much insight at all into the tech side. ( )
  adrianh | Jan 24, 2013 |
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Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine.
"Cassidy" by John Barlow
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To Kristen, without whom the journey would have been impossible and the destination meaningless.
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Larry Page is an intense guy.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0547416997, Hardcover)

Comparing Google to an ordinary business is like comparing a rocket to an Edsel. No academic analysis or bystander’s account can capture it. Now Doug Edwards, Employee Number 59, offers the first inside view of Google, giving readers a chance to fully experience the bizarre mix of camaraderie and competition at this phenomenal company. Edwards, Google’s first director of marketing and brand management, describes it as it happened. We see the first, pioneering steps of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the company’s young, idiosyncratic partners; the evolution of the company’s famously nonhierarchical structure (where every employee finds a problem to tackle or a feature to create and works independently); the development of brand identity; the races to develop and implement each new feature; and the many ideas that never came to pass. Above all, Edwards—a former journalist who knows how to write—captures the “Google Experience,” the rollercoaster ride of being part of a company creating itself in a whole new universe. 

I’m Feeling Lucky captures for the first time the unique, self-invented, yet profoundly important culture of the world’s most transformative corporation.

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Douglas Edwards

Q: Why is I’m Feeling Lucky different from other books about Google?

A: There have been many fine books written about Google and its impact on the world, but all have been told from an outsider’s perspective. I’m Feeling Lucky is a personal accounting of what it felt like to be part of the company as it grew from sixty people to tens of thousands. I was a forty-one-year-old middle manager thrust into an unfamiliar world ruled by two brilliant founders with a unique management style, and the book details how difficult it was for me to make the adjustment.

Personal anecdotes are interspersed with an explanation of the key events in Google’s technical development, largely told in the words of those who actually built the systems that made Google work as fast and well as it does. Many of these individuals have remained anonymous until now.

I’m Feeling Lucky is really aimed at those who are interested both in what Google did to ensure success during its formative years and how it felt to be an ill-prepared participant dropped into the heart of an exploding startup.

Q: What is it really like to work with co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin?

A: On a personal level, I found them to be pretty easy-going and approachable. Sergey has a wicked sense of humor and Larry always struck me as very sincere. They liked to surround themselves with intelligent, open minded, curious, and energetic people, who were not afraid to challenge their ideas. They always wanted people to think on a grander scale than they typically did and they didn't like people saying "no" rather than "here's a better way to do that." They didn't get hung up on titles, academic pedigree, or tenure at the company if an idea was a good one.

Q: What is the Google workplace like compared to other companies'?

A: Compared to every other place I had worked, it was pretty wonderful. We had free meals every day that were as good as any served by the finest local restaurants, great workout facilities, massage therapists and doctors on staff, and an annual ski trip for all employees. On the other hand, the stress and demands were constant and intense. I went through a couple of weeks at the Mercury News during a newspaper circulation war that really challenged me. At Google, it was like that every day for my five years at the company. We were expected to be available every hour of every day and lots of key decisions were made after midnight. If I wasn’t there for the discussion, the decision was made without my input.

Q: In the book, you relay some very heated discussions about how Google dealt with user privacy issues. What were the most significant problems, and how did you handle them as one of the chief marketing executives?

A: The biggest privacy issue during my time at Google related to the launch of Gmail and the fact that it scanned mail to insert content-related ads in users’ inboxes. That created a firestorm that engulfed the company and was very hard to extinguish. There were many contributing factors, but at its heart was the fact that engineers knew no person was reading user mail to insert ads and so insisted that there was NO privacy issue. While technically correct, this perspective denied the concerns of users who did not share the same trust and confidence in Google that its engineering staff did. The founders’ insistence on not acknowledging users’ fears made it difficult to respond to them in a sensitive manner. Eventually, we were able to get enough Gmail accounts out to journalists and opinion leaders to begin turning the tide, but the process was painful and damaging to Google’s brand.

Q: What was it really like behind the scenes of the Google-AOL deal?

A: The negotiations with AOL were challenging and unpleasant for those involved from the Google side. AOL had little interest in Google initially, other than as a weapon to wield against Overture—the leading supplier of search-related advertising at the time. Overture and Google fought a pitched battle to win the account, which was worth more than a billion dollars in revenue, and threw everything they could at each other as AOL stood above the fray, egging them on.

Even as AOL became aware that Google’s technology and ad relevance were superior to those of its competitor, and Google’s potential for revenue generation was greater, they demanded more and more in terms of outrageous payment guarantees and access to the company’s proprietary algorithms. When AOL ultimately signed the contract with Google, Overture tried one last desperate ploy to sabotage the deal.

AOL’s enormous traffic guaranteed the success of Google’s ad network, but as my book details, taking them on as a client was a high risk gamble that could easily have destroyed Google and driven it into bankruptcy.

Q: What do you regard as your most significant accomplishment while at Google?

A: From a marketing perspective, I would say it was creating and enforcing a brand architecture that put all of our emphasis on Google itself, instead of on innumerable individual sub-brands. Because of that, the Google name has not been diluted by competing with its own products. The only two exceptions during my time at the company were the social networking experiment orkut and the product search service Froogle. I argued against the latter name and lost, but ultimately Google recognized its mistake and changed the branding to "Google product search," which is what I had recommended.

Other areas I was proud to be part of included the company’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the formulation of Google’s corporate credo ("Ten things we’ve found to be true"), writing Google’s April Fools jokes, and launching a highly visible engineering recruitment campaign.

Q: What should people know about Google that they don’t already know?

A: People who only know Google as an omnipresent, omniscient online service should realize that the company began as a small group of well-intentioned geeks who truly wanted to make the world a better place. Along the way, the company was forced to confront the reality that the world didn’t always see things from the same perspective, but the strength of their convictions led Google’s executives to forge ahead regardless. The founders simply didn’t have the patience to wait for the rest of the world to figure out that they were right. This hubris was present from the very beginning and is the source of many of Google’s current conflicts. I’m Feeling Lucky helps readers to understand how that attitude was formed and forged by specific events that occurred early in the company’s history. That background will help readers better grasp why Google does things the way it does today.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:12 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Comparing Google to an ordinary business is like comparing a rocket to an Edsel. Edwards, Employee Number 59, offers the first inside view of Google, giving readers a chance to fully experience the bizarre mix of camaraderie and competition at this phenomenal company. Edwards, Google's first director of marketing and brand management, describes it as it happened. We see the first, pioneering steps of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the company's young, idiosyncratic partners; the evolution of the company's famously nonhierarchical structure (where every employee finds a problem to tackle or a feature to create and works independently); the development of brand identity; the races to develop and implement each new feature; and the many ideas that never came to pass.… (more)

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» see all 4 descriptions

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