Google and Burning Man

I find this somewhat amazing and very inspiring…just cool really…no wonder google is so cool….
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Google Is Really About Money, Money and More Money: Book Review
Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) — The world is rightly fascinated by the success story that is Google Inc.
How do I get to be a 30-something multibillionaire like the company’s cofounders Sergey Brin or Larry Page? And should I buy Google at $400 a share, almost five times what the stock went for at its August 2004 initial public offering?
David A. Vise fails to answer those questions in “The Google Story” (MacMillan, 292 pages, 14.99 pounds; Delacorte, $26), though it isn’t his fault. There really isn’t much of a story to Google: Two guys built a better Internet mousetrap, and the world beat a path to their door and showered them with dollars. That’s about it.
Vise, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter, surely squeezed for inside juice. He had an assist from Mark Malseed, a researcher on two books by the Post’s Bob Woodward. A paucity of news similarly impinged on John Battelle’s look at Google, “The Search,” which put the world’s most-used search engine into a broad technological context.
“The Google Story” is a useful primer. Yet it offers no eureka moment on how Page hit on the notion that the more links a Web site has, the more important that site is. Once he and Brin turned that idea into a formula for searching the Net, Thomas Edison’s axiom kicked in: Genius is 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration. It’s hard to write an interesting book about sweat.
Uber-Geeks
The origin of the company name — a misspelling of googol, the word for the number 1 followed by 100 zeros — is well known. Less familiar is the search program’s original, rather charming, moniker, BackRub.
Vise struggles to play down the nerdiness of Brin and Page. The highlights of Page’s time at the University of Michigan seem to have been heading an honor society and having “fun working in the group’s campus doughnut stand.” On the morning of the IPO that made him a billionaire several times over, Page sits in a plateful of creme fraiche.
At Stanford University, Brin “learned to sail and developed a love for the trapeze.” He sounds like a guy who ran away from the circus to join a computing company. Brin arrives to give a presentation at an Israeli high school accompanied by “an attractive young woman.” What attracted her to the billionaire, I wonder?
In 1999, the two uber-geeks attended America’s Burning Man festival, which describes itself on its Web page as “an annual experiment in temporary community dedicated to radical self- expression and radical self-reliance.”
Clowns, Exotic Dancers
“For many people, the Burning Man experience includes heavy drinking and drugs,” Vise writes. “Not Larry and Sergey. Instead they found the energy and ingenuity intoxicating, and relished the numerous chance encounters with clowns, exotic dancers, or old friends.”
It’s surprising how people who might now view Google as a rival had a hand in its creation. Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates made a $6 million donation that enabled Stanford to build the computer- science building where Brin and Page started analyzing the Web links that drive their search engine. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com Inc., was “both an early investor and an informal adviser to Brin and Page,” we learn.
The history of Google is littered with “what ifs.” Page and Brin almost sold their PageRank system to AltaVista Co. in 1998, and probably would have been happy to walk away with $1 million. The deal fell apart when Digital Equipment Corp., which then owned AltaVista, balked. Other would-be buyers included Excite, now part of At Home Corp., and Yahoo! Inc.
`Don’t Be Evil’
The book lacks the immediacy of, say, “Barbarians at the Gate” or “Liar’s Poker.” We meet key characters, and even get a chapter on the company’s chef and “informal minister of cultural affairs,” Charley Ayers. Yet only two people have the inside skinny on why “Google is not a conventional company,” as its IPO prospectus says. Neither Brin nor Page opens up here.
Google’s philosophy of “Don’t Be Evil” has yet to be tested now that the outfit has become America’s 17th-largest publicly traded company rather than a freewheeling frat house of ideas. Naivety tends to bend under a market value of $120 billion and obligations to shareholders.
The book offers a clue about how that conflict might pan out. Stanford professor Dennis Allison is quoted as saying that Brin and Page “are really driven by a vision of how things ought to be, and not to make money.”
`Ruthlessly Efficient’
By February 2005, the priorities seemed different. “We’re going to be ruthlessly efficient about how we run our business, and we are in this to make a lot of money, but we’re not necessarily going to make money from all the things we have,” Page told equity analysts.
Google’s maps project is fantastic. Its efforts to overcome copyright disputes and make the knowledge in printed books available online are laudable. Its work in genetics might just be earth- changing, promising richer searches of databases for cures.
The story of Google, though, is ultimately a story of money, and those chapters are still evolving. There’s a more interesting Google book to be written in years to come.
To contact the writer of this review:
Mark Gilbert in London at magilbert@bloomberg.net.