BOOK REVIEW: Googled by Ken Auletta

Ken Auletta’s book “Googled” is about the birth and development of the company through 2010, when the book was published. It discusses how founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin came up with the idea of indexing the web. How Google expanded into such diverse industries as technology, advertising (AdWords and AdSense), media (YouTube), publishing (Google Books), news (Google News), and others.

My job as an SEO content writer is to cater to the whims of Google – making it so my client’s websites perform as well as possible in Google Search. As a Search Engine Marketer at a web start-up, “Googled” is a useful read.

If the internet makes information available, Google seeks to make information accessible. Connecting people to the information they need is Google’s goal. They accomplish this by gathering data about consumers as they search online. The process is refined constantly – an estimated 400 tweaks are made to Google’s algorithm each year. The intentions seem good, and the company is associated with concepts like efficiency, productivity, clarity, usability and simplicity.

Google was a pioneer practitioner of the freemium business model (offering a basic product for free and building a user base before monetizing). Google’s goal is actually to send users away from its site, and toward the information they seek.

Questions raised:

  • Is Google’s corporate culture so prosperous because the stock value is so high? Or the other way around?
  • Where is the boundary between usability and invasion of privacy?
  • Has Eric Shmidt really never taken advantage of the free massages at Googleplex?
  • “Will Google become ‘a source of content, a platform, a destination that seeks to keep people in a walled Google garden?'”

Best Snippets & Quotes:

“I’m a well-trained introvert…Being with people drains me of energy” – Marc Andreessen, Co-Author of Mosaic & Co-Founder of Netscape

“Content is how the consumer chooses to spend time.” – Herbert Allen III

“YouTube succeeded in democratizing information.” – Auletta

“Is Google’s customer the advertiser or the user?” – Auletta

“People with the right information make better decisions for themselves. People presented with the right commercial opportunities will buy things suited for them.” – Sergey Brin

  • Emotional equity = trust by consumers that companies care not only about profits but also about them – Jim Stengel

“Why would you go to work at a place where your contribution is not seen as central to the success of the organization?” – Peter Thiel, CEO of PayPal

  • The emotional power of a commercial is weakened by the informational power of the Web. – Auletta

“Instead of a company asking what’s going to change over the next 5-10 years – you should ask what isn’t going to change?” – Jeff Bezos

“If you don’t listen to your customers, someone else will” – Sam Walton

“You know you’ve won when the government stops you.” – Ted Turner

“Insecurity tends to breed fear, and at worst, paranoid. Neither emotion produces clarity.” – Auletta

New things/people/concepts to explore:

  • Irwin Gotlieb
  • “Faustian”
  • the semantic web
  • Talgam (conductor)
  • Google employees are given the opportunity to spend 20% of their time at work on “passion projects”. Marissa Meyer claims over half of Google’s products are results of the 20% time.

Further reading:

  • The Cathedral and the Bazaar” – Eric Steven Raymond, 1997, Linux developer
  • Bill Gates’ “creative capitalism” speech – 2007, Harvard graduation ; 2008 – World Economic Forum, Davos
  • The Big Switch, Nicholas Carr
  • The Design of Everyday Things, Donald Norman
  • Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman
  • DLD – Digital, Life, Design Conference in Munich
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