In The Plex

The full title of Steven Levy’s book is In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives. When I finished it I was pooped and a little depressed but I’m not sure I can explain either. Read the book and we’ll talk. [Good review in the Washington Post]

Looking back at some of the other books I’ve read about the Internet and technology, I think this might be my favorite. Up there with The Facebook Effect, Cluetrain Manifesto, and Cognitive Surplus.

David Kirkpatrick’s Facebook Effect was much kinder to Mark Zuckerberg than The Social Network but that story didn’t move me the way In the Plex did. And I’m sort of dreading the biography of Steve Jobs, though I can’t say why.

I used up some highlighter on this one and will add those passages here in a day or so.

“The Net is the new TV & radio”

“Smartphones and other portable Net-connected devices are now the closest things we have to universal receivers and transmitters of live news. Not many of us carry radios in our pockets any more. Small portable TVs became passé decades ago. Smartphones and tablets are replacing radios and TVs in our pockets, purses and carry-bags.”

“Television has also become almost entirely an entertainment system, rather than a news one. News matters to TV networks, but it’s gravy. Mostly they’re entertainment businesses that also do news.”

“…emergencies such as wars and earthquakes demonstrate a simple and permanent fact of media life: that the Net is the new TV and the new radio, because it has subsumed both. It would be best for both TV and radio to normalize to the Net and quit protecting their old distribution systems.”

— From a post by Doc Searls, co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto.

David Weinberger to liberals: “Chill”

Dr. David Weinberger –co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto– advises liberals to chill out:

“I’m a liberal. Free the whales, tax the rich, I swear to you that not only do I drive a Prius, I turned in our Volvo for it. If you know any one of my political positions, you know them all. That’s how embarrassingly stereotyped I am. So pardon me if I take a moment to give some advice to my fellow liberals and progressives: Chill out, will you?”

If you read the full post at you’ll understand why many of us are so high on BHO

“Our longing for the Web

“Our longing for the Web is rooted in the deep resentment we feel toward being managed.” — David Weinberger, The Cluetrain Manifesto. I’m not sure why this feels so true but it does. I’m rereading Cluetrain and find it more…relevant than the first time. You’re going to have to wade through more quotes (that I might have posted the first time).

“Life is too short because we die”

A recurring theme here at is how quickly time –and life– passes. This XBox ad might be the last thing anyone needs to say on the subject. But I also like what Christopher Locke wrote in The Cluetrain Manifesto (I’m rereading for the third time):

“Life is too short for office politics, for busywork and pointless paper chases, for jumping through hoops and covering our asses, for trying to please, to not offend, for constantly struggling to achieve some ever-receding definition of success. Too short as well for worrying whether we bought the right suit, the right breakfast cereal, the right laptop computer, the right brand of underarm deodorant. Life is too short because we die.”

Looking for a clue

“…thanks to conversations taking place on Web sites and message boards, and in e-mail and chat rooms, employees and customers alike have found voices that undermine the traditional command-and-control hierarchy that organizes most corporate marketing groups.” It’s time to go back an re-read The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual.

Just as there are a lot more smokers than we think there are, there are a lot of managers who secretly wish “this Internet thing” would go away. It’s just too darned easy for the worker bees to talk to each other and compare notes.

“Org charts worked in an older economy where plans could be fully understood from atop steep management pyramids and detailed work orders could be handed down from on high.
Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.”

They long for the days when information could be controlled and managed. They quickly learn, as did Joseph Goebbels, that you can control the people if you can control the information. Now, this is a very un-cool view, so they all pay lip service to the value of the Net. But they’re like people that don’t really like dogs. They sort of lean back while reaching down to almost pet the animal. “Oh, what a nice doggie.” People that really love dogs almost always drop to the floor and let the dog lick their face. People who embrace and believe in the Internet are just as easy to spot. I’m betting the Net can route around clueless managers just like it routes around other obstacles.

Everybody on the Web is famous to 15 people

In an interview on Tom Peters’ website, David Weinberger, author of Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web and coauthor of The Cluetrain Manifesto, offers the following on Weblogs:

“If you browse randomly through these 500,000 to a million Weblogs, most of them that you come across will be uninteresting to you. But, so what? It’s not that everybody on the Web is famous for 15 minutes. It’s that everybody on the Web is famous to 15 people.”

We are immune to advertising. Just forget it

“The only advertising that was ever really effective was word of mouth, which is nothing more than conversation.” Just read The Cluetrain Manifesto. Oh my. I don’t know where to begin. Maybe a few more quotes.

“The memo is dead. Long live e-mail.” At our company, senior management insists on emailing company-wide memos as Word attachments. Search me.

“Suppose you removed the table from your conference room and replaced the seats with armchairs. Suppose you turned it into a living room. How much would this affect your meetings? That’s how much your meetings are about power, not communication.”

“How will we be smart in a world where it’s easier to look something up than to know it?”

The last management book I read was The Dilbert Principle. I thought it was the last I’d need. But that’s misleading. Cluetrain is not a management book. It’s… well, it’s about the Web. “Our longing for the Web is rooted in the deep resentment we feel toward being managed. However much we long for the Web is how much we hate our job.”