February 4, 2010

Ken Auletta takes us behind the scenes at an extraordinary company

Googled by Ken AulettaGoogled: The End of the World As We Know It by Ken Auletta

@@@@ (4 out of 5)

Ken Auletta monitors the media for the New Yorker magazine, and his writing frequently brings new perspective our understanding of the changes that are upending the world’s information sources at an alarming rate. “Googled” brings us face to face with several of the remarkable individuals who are reshaping the media — in ways that are little understood outside of the field. Focusing on Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the two Stanford computer wizards who launched Google barely more than a decade ago, and on several of their key colleagues, notably Eric Schmidt, the company’s CEO, Auletta takes us behind the scenes at this extraordinary company. Read this book, and you’ll understand why Google’s stock price stays in the stratosphere, why media executives from newspapers to films to television are terrified by the company — and why the Chinese government recently felt it necessary to rein it in.

Like any good book, “Googled” puts its subject matter in perspective. We learn, for example, that despite the proliferation of familiar products from Google, nearly all its revenue comes from a single source: online advertising. And we come to understand that the reasons Google is able to maintain such a stranglehold on online advertising are straightforward: they had the presence of mind to buy the leading online advertising agency early enough in the game to get away with it, and they are amassing a gargantuan storehouse of consumer data that may be unmatchable by anyone else. This book is well worth reading.

This book is included in my list of 29 good books about business history.

February 3, 2010

Joseph Menn: criminals are stealing trillions of dollars through the Internet

Fatal System Error by Joseph MennFatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who Are Bringing Down the Internet by Joseph Menn

@@@@ (4 out of 5)

If you’re already worried about computer crime and identity theft, you’ll be wracked with fear if you read this troubling new account of the subject by a Los Angeles Times reporter specializing in Internet security. Joseph Menn’s “Fatal System Error” is aptly subtitled “The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who Are Bringing Down the Internet.” By focusing on two heroes of the underpowered movement to combat Internet crime, Menn brings this complex and terrifying reality into high relief. The book is largely devoted to the efforts of Barrett Lyon, a California surfer self-taught to become one of the world’s leading Internet security experts, and Andy Crocker, a courageous British policeman, and their collaborative work to identify the criminals responsible for the now all-too-familiar viruses, worms, Trojans, and denial-of-service attacks that have infiltrated millions of computers and disabled thousands of Web sites.

It’s disturbing enough to learn that criminals siphoned off $1 trillion from computer fraud in 2009 alone, and to know that a huge proportion of that money went into the pockets of the American mafia and the Russian mob. Even more disquieting, though, is to learn about how both the Russian and Chinese governments are protecting Internet criminals because they have enlisted them in building offensive cyberwar weapons. What we all learned recently about Chinese hackers’ attacks on Google and other U.S. companies invested in China is just a hint of the breadth and depth of that government’s efforts to gain ascendancy over the West by building the capacity to bring down our economies in the event of a future conflict.

 

January 28, 2010

Daniel H. Pink: what generations of managers have been doing wrong

Drive by Daniel H. PinkDrive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

@@@@@ (5 out 0f 5)

Revealing “The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” contrarian Dan Pink delves into decades of long-neglected psychological research to demonstrate what generations of corporate and nonprofit managers have been doing wrong. Pink shows how the research proves traditional carrot-and-stick incentives may work well in a world of rote learning and assembly-line production but can easily be counterproductive in a new world that demands creativity and self-reliance — the right-brain thinking about which Pink wrote so cogently in his earlier book, “A Whole New Mind.” If you lead or manage an organization of any sort, this is must reading.

If this book interests you, check out my post, Science history and science explained in 33 excellent popular books.

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