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I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59

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“An exciting story [that] shines light on the inner workings of the fledgling Google and on the personalities of its founders.â€â€” The Daily Beast

In its infancy, Google embraced extremes—endless days fueled by unlimited free food, nonstop data-based debates, and blood-letting hockey games. The company’s fresh-from-grad-school leaders sought more than old notions of success; they wanted to make all the information in the world available to everyone—instantly. Google, like the Big Bang, was a singularity—an explosive release of raw intelligence and unequaled creative energy—and while others have described what Google accomplished, no one has explained how it felt to be a part of it. Until now.

As employee number 59, Douglas Edwards was a key part of Google’s earliest days. Experience the unnerving mix of camaraderie and competition as Larry Page and Sergey Brin create a famously nonhierarchical structure, fight against conventional wisdom, and race to implement myriad new features while coolly burying broken ideas. I’m Feeling Lucky captures the self-created culture of the world’s most transformative corporation and offers unique access to the emotions experienced by those who virtually overnight built one of the world’s best-known brands.

“Edwards does an excellent job of telling his story with a fun, outsider-insider voice. The writing is sharp.â€â€” Boston Globe

“An affectionate, compulsively readable recounting of the early years of Google.â€â€” Publishers Weekly

432 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

Douglas Edwards

11 books30 followers
From 1999 to 2005 I was director of consumer marketing and brand management for Google. Before that I was online brand manager for the San Jose Mercury News, communications director for KQED FM in San Francisco, an ad agency copywriter, an admission officer for Brown University, and the Novosibirsk correspondent for the public radio program Marketplace. During that last gig, I got involved in a drunken Saturday night brawl at a mafia-owned bar, had dinner at the home of the Novokuznetsk KGB chief and almost died a mile underground in a coal mine. None of that made it into this book however.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 322 reviews
Profile Image for Todd N.
339 reviews238 followers
June 29, 2011
I've been eagerly waiting for this book after reading about it on the ex-Googler mailing list and reading similar stories on the Xoogler blog.

I only met Mr. Edwards once during my 6 or so years at Google. It was at the end of my first week, when I was introduced along with the rest of the "Nooglers" at that week's TGIF. This was the first week that Google had the Nooglers wear beanies with propellors on them, so he ran over at the end of the meeting to see what we all thought about wearing them. I told him I thought it was pretty funny. (Actually, I found it vaguely humiliating but I didn't want to be a bad sport my first week. I usually wait a few weeks for that.)

[[[Actually-actually, now that I think about it, I might have been too freaked out to answer because Sergey stopped the TGIF meeting during my introduction to ask me about my title, which was Technical Marketing Engineer. I understand now why this was waving a red flag in front of a bull, but back then I just felt surprise and the withering attention of the entire company on me. I sort of stammered until I managed to get out that I was working in the Enterprise division, at which point Sergey seemed to lose interest and moved on to the next person.]]]

Aside from that brief meeting my only other awareness of Mr. Edwards at Google was a compilation of his writings about Google's brand that my friend Mickey forwarded to me with an exhortation to read it because this guy is hilarious and a genius. Agreed.

This book covers his time at Google from the nerve wracking interview to an ignominious meeting with a late-model Google drone that no doubt was the catalyst for his departure. It's the perfect companion to In The Plex by Stephen Levy. I'm Feeling Lucky has a much smaller scope, but I have no doubts about the veracity of anything in it.

Until the book warms up about one-fourth the way in, it can be pretty tough going. A fish-out-of-water vibe permeates the book as the author has to unlearn everything he learned in his previous jobs, decipher zen koans from L&S, and learn to completely distrust his instincts. This part is almost painful to read (partly because it's a little overwritten here). When he finally gets his bearings at Google, I couldn't help but wonder if it wasn't Stockholm syndrome kicking in.

As with In The Plex, I learned a bunch about what efforts went on before I joined. I knew most of the names in this book as legends, but I didn't really understand what their legendary feats were until now. I moved to the AdWords team right before the CPM ads were being phased out, and now I get why that was such a big deal for Google. Also, I knew that Google had a relationship with RealNames--I'm friends with the founder--but I never knew about the controversy within Google about it and who took what side.

There isn't much suspense in the book because we all know how Google turns out. Mr. Edwards clearly shows that it wasn't a sure thing or a straight line to success. This book gives the best sense I have ever read of the risk that people take joining early startups.

Throughout the book he endures stress in his family life (something most other people at Google didn't experience, though I sure did with a 4-month-old at home an hour's drive away), enormous sacrifices of time and personal life, and a culture (as described in this book, not necessarily my experience) that almost seems calculated to make people feel insecure about their contributions to the company. And in return for his perseverance and dedication, he has responsibilities slowly stripped from him, gets frozen out of important meetings, is denied access to information necessary to do his job, and has to deal with pretty dirty politics from other departments, mainly product management.

At the end we get a hint of how riches have changed his life, in both big and small ways. I can sort of relate -- though on a much smaller scale -- because the one time that I really felt rich was when I bought a second bike for myself. (I trace this to my childhood, where the "rich" kids owned two bikes.)

Definitely read this book if you are at all interested in Google history. Even if it wasn't about Google, this book is a great primer on Silicon Valley startup culture. (Hint: It has nothing to do with all these posers running around tweeting about what it's like being an entrepreneur.)
Profile Image for Mark Rice.
Author 7 books115 followers
February 15, 2012
If you were entranced watching the stratospheric rise of Google from fringe search engine to one of the largest economies on Earth, you'll enjoy many happy hours immersed in the pages of I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59. If you appreciate Google's dogged insistence on creating a search engine that actually works (rather than simply looking flashy), this book will resonate with you. If you consider the term 'computer nerd' a compliment rather than a put-down, you'll find nirvana in the pages of this book.

Douglas Edwards's descriptions of Google's key players, especially co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, give unique insights into the people behind one of the the world's biggest brand names. Brin and Page always had a clear vision of what they wanted Google to achieve. The most readable parts of the book are its humanising portraits of the men behind the brand name. For example, one Hallowe'en Sergey Brin conducted an interview wearing a full cow suit. As a nervous young prospective Google employee stuttered and stammered his way through the interview, Brin sat back on his chair and played with his rubber udders. Many such entertaining stories are peppered throughout the book, making it a must-have item for any Google aficionados. By reducing the amount of technical data included (about server sizes, speeds, etc.), Douglas Edwards could have increased the book's readability while cutting down its length, thereby helping his book to appeal to a wider market. As it stands, the lengthy tome will appeal mainly to hardcore Googlophiles.
633 reviews32 followers
July 2, 2011
Note: Review copy provided via Netgalley.

I am going to assume that a few of the things I will mention in my review have been fixed. However, given the expedited publishing schedule (one of the downsides of epublishing, I suppose), I kind of doubt it.

First off, I'm going to fix the subtitle. "I'm Feeling Lucky: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About My Marketing Mojo and Let the Engineers Experiment." There we go, much more salacious and it even better depicts the contents of the book... which is what a subtitle is for. "Confessions" isn't bad, but it implies you are releasing information you'd rather people not actually have and/or that you somehow feel guilty about. Edwards definitely wants everyone to know about his Swagger.

Which is my second problem with the book. He consistently reminds us he has an English degree, which is fine, but if you're going to do that and be a marketing genius, it would also be awesome if you knew your audience. I happen to have several advanced degrees, but even I don't get references to ancient pagan rituals or obscure 1950's cartoons or Alexandrian legend. I just don't have that background. This in addition to the inclusion of several SAT words felt a bit like Edwards trying to impress the reader that he was just as smart as the engineers. The hammer over the head approach just doesn't work for me, and much of the book was repetitive in this manner and could have done with a little more straight reporting and less author interjected analysis and attempts at humor. I'm sure he was trying to capture the "Googley" tone in his writing, but I think the anecdotes and examples stood on their own.

Despite it's problems, I think Edwards did a great job of explaining what it must have been like to work at Google during the start-up years from the perspective of an older person, a non-engineer, and someone more familiar with traditional company bureaucracy and culture. In the beginning there was quite a bit of schadenfreude as Edwards's ideas were ignored and Google succeeded. Most of this probably had to do with the fact that he resisted the (Google) corporate culture, and it wasn't until he accepted and adapted his techniques that his advice began to have merit. The whole idea of his experience having more weight when he did not apply that experience more fluidly felt so obvious to me that the entire book sounded quite a bit like, "These darn kids won't let me do what I want to, even though I was trying to ignore the rules for the game they made up and everyone else was having fun with. And now that I'm playing by the rules, I don't understand why no one wants to play with me." This book isn't necessarily bad, and in fact it's very good at doing what it was supposed to do - convey the frustrations of learning to work in a completely new environment with a bunch of strong personalities - but it could be a little more enjoyable to read with a heavier hand at editing.

For a less "feel of the times" perspective try The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media, and Technology Success of Our Time, which I've read and covers the same period as I'm Feeling Lucky. Or I'd try In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives, which is at least more recent (note: haven't read this one yet, basing suggestion on other GR reviews).
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 8 books1 follower
July 22, 2011
I think you might need to be at least a little interested in computers in order to enjoy what this book has to offer. It is the story of the first 5 years of Google.com told from the perspective of employee no 59 – Douglas Edwards. A fascinating story it is too. I’m sure, like me, barely a day passes without seeking some help and guidance from Google – mostly these days though with irritation, as it rarely seems to bring me what I really want.

The story is told from the perspective of ‘the voice of Google’. Douglas Edwards was a newspaper marketer around the time of the .com boom in 1999. He considered himself the least qualified of Google’s employees (most of them appeared to operate around the genius level) and he was taken on in order to create the text that appears on all of Google’s pages. Though back in 1999 that was pretty much just the search engine home page.

I was fascinated by the insights into the personalities of Larry & Sergey, Google’s founders. For instance, Sergey arrived to interview Douglas wearing roller hockey gear: gym shorts, t-shirt and inline skates. That casualness, which pervaded the office environment, never touched the business side of things. But it sounded like a great place to work. Free food, cordon bleu chef, free drinks, things to play with, trips away with the whole company. This was done on the basis that if you didn’t need to go out to get these things - you’d work more hours and benefit Google. The hours were long and the work hard with the engineers frequently sleeping at the office.

I thoroughly enjoyed finding out about this search engine’s origins. Stuff like how they crammed about 10 times the density of servers into the space they were renting on the server farm – just because they were paying by the square foot and electricity was thrown in as part of the package. The ‘war’ that was waged with the other big boys, like Yahoo and AOL, in the early days and how making money was never even thought about because Larry and Sergey knew that when the time was right the ideas would emerge, And they did - adwords and adsense.

Then towards the end of that five years there were some internal battles, life became less comfortable and eventually Douglas was asked to leave – though it seems his share options made him enough to retire.

Don’t want to say more because there is so much good stuff in this book about the birth and growth of this internet monster that seems intent on taking over the world now. But I really liked Google’s core tenet – ‘do no evil’ and this guided it through many decisions in a way that meant Google was all about serving its customers in the highest way it knew how to do.

A great read.
Profile Image for Judith.
457 reviews71 followers
September 20, 2014
Everyone who has a computer knows what Google is. I use it at least once a day, and as a regular user I've often wondered how they got started, what and who, came first, how it was all put together and by whom etc. Because of this curiosity I chose to read and review what I hoped would be a light, interesting, informative and amusing tale, especially given the blurb about the book. I can only assume Mr Edwards marketing skills are better than his writing skills (not that it's badly written; it isn't) because what I got was a dry account of nearly every one of his working days at Google, and oh my, do some of those days seem long, mundane and boring! He worked there for 5 - 6 years during which time he doodled his way through many meetings; he describes some of his doodles in detail, presumably in an attempt to amuse the reader, but instead it seemed to say "aren't I clever and amusing?". What came across quite early on was the author's feeling of inadequacy, insecurity, and puzzlement, due to the way it all seemed more of a commune inhabited by happy, clappy, shiny people, rather than the type of business he was used to, with all the usual formalities and hierarchy. I got the feeling that he always felt like a fish out of water during his time at Google.

I had hoped to come away with an insider's knowledge of what makes Google tick, but I felt I got a lot of words which didn't really say that much. I suppose what I wanted was the "human face" of Google instead of a load of jargon and technical information( some of which appears in a glossary at the end); I struggled to maintain my interest and as a result was quite disappointed. I wasn't looking for a scandalous expose filled with gossip, but something much lighter and entertaining. Maybe those who are more "geeky" than I will appreciate it more.

Thanks to Amazon for an advanced copy to review.
Profile Image for Herve.
93 reviews210 followers
December 12, 2012
I thought this might be just another book about Google. It is not. The lessons are amazing. And here are examples. A first illustration comes from a conversation between Douglas and Larry Page: “I realize that more often than not you’ve been right about things. I feel like I’m learning a lot and I appreciate your patience as I go through that process.” […] “More often than not?” [Larry] asked me. “When were we ever wrong?” he didn’t smile as he asked his question or arch an eyebrow to signify annoyance. He simply wanted to know when he had been wrong so he could feed that information into the algorithm that ran his model of the universe. [Pages ix-x]

Douglas was employee number 59 [Page xv]. He left in 2005, so his account of the Google story is extremely rich and shows how exceptional it was. “Other signs pointed to something out of the ordinary. Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins were the Montagues and Capulets of Silicon Valley venture capital firms. An intense rivalry usually kept them from investing in the same startup”. [Page 7] [This is not so true as you may see from "When Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia co-invest(ed)."]

As a marketing person, he also has an interesting vision of engineers. “Neither Larry nor Sergey had been to business school or run a large corporation, but Larry had studied more than two hundred business books to prepare for his role running Google as a competitive entity”. [Page 141]

“Impulsive and opinionated, Ray [employee #6] will always personify for me Google engineering id, a lone cowboy patrolling the electronic frontier in shocking-pink shorts, facing down the black hats and making them blink, then riding off into a sunset that was only as colorful as he was”. [Page 152]

“The ideal success rate was seventy percent, which showed we were stretching ourselves. Missing targets would not factor in performance reviews, because if they did we would take too few risks”. [Page 55] … “Starting with something that’s more ambitious will get you something that’s reasonable. But if you don’t put the goal post way out there, people are already taking fewer risks and are less ambitious about how big the idea should be. It was another reason Google valued intelligence over experience.” [Page 105] “Think big. Stay flexible. Embrace data. Be efficient and economical in the extreme. [Page 113]”

There is a funny account of MentalPlex, an April Fool that upset some people but which was apparently quite creative, an “Ante-temporal search that anticipated user requests”. [Page 97-103]

Part II is about growth and it is a change from the chaotic experimental company Google was. Not a dramatic change, but a change. The main lesson I keep from part I is that Google did many things in the opposite way that business books or experienced managers would tell you. Always doubtful, always skeptical with obvious truths. In particular anything which is not engineering or which cannot be backed by data.

“Larry’s decision to let user-created ads go live on our site without review convinced me he occupied some alternative and severely distorted reality”. [Page 185]

“There were people my age at Google when I joined and people older than me within a few months. Hardware engineer Will Whitted had been fifty-four when he started, and he saw no gap between his thought process and that of his younger colleagues. “I think that I think younger, which probably means more irresponsibly than most people do” he confessed. “There were people at Google who had the opposite problem – who were a little younger than me, but perceived by people who mattered as old-thinking. To be slow and overly-conservative, and it got them in trouble.” Those who succeeded, as I was trying to do, needed to be open to new ideas regardless of their source or seeming defiance of logic.” [Page 187]

“Would Google never tire of succeeding with big ideas that I found patently ludicrous? It was starting to make me feel like a crotchety geezer yelling at kids to get off his lawn.” [Page 190]

“What matters is whether we are doing the right thing, and if people don’t understand it now, they will eventually come to understand it.” It was a lesson that would shape Google’s attitude towards the public from that point on. Sure we had upset people with MentalPlex, but at least some us conceded their kvetching might have had cause. With Deja, we were clearly on the side of the angels. The public just did not get it. Even when we worked our asses off, spent our own cash, and tried to do something good for them, they bellowed and ranted, bitched and moaned. Since users were being so unreasonable, we could safely ignore their complaints. That suited our founders just fine – they always get with their guts anyway.
I’ve been asked if Larry and Sergey were truly brilliant. I can’t speak to their IQs but I saw with my own eyes that their vision burned so brightly it scorched anything that stands in their way. The truth was so obvious that they felt no need for the niceties of polite society when bringing their ideas to life. Why slow down to explain when the value of what they were doing was so self-evident that people would eventually see it for themselves?
That attitude was both Google strength and Achilles’ heel. From launching a better search engine in an overcrowded field to running unscreened text in Adwords, the success of controversial ideas gave momentum to the conviction that initial public opinion was often irrelevant. [Page 212]

You migh remember how shocking Sept 11 was for Americans. But Google’s reaction to Sept 11 was moderate with Alon Cohen’s looped ribbon.

[Pages 256-258] “When Google finally recognized its failure in implementing a CRM software to manage customer emails, “composing a list of CRM vendors didn’t take long. Fewer than half a dozen major players offered stable, well-tested systems. […] Larry has a college friend, David, who would advise us on desirable features and then added, by the way, he and a buddy were building a CRM product called Trakken. […] Interested? Interested in an untested CRM product still in development with one tiny client? Sure that’s just what I was looking for – another risky technology with no support and no track record behind it. I thanked David for his help and, because he was a friend of Larry, assured him we’d be happy to send him our request for proposal. [Meanwhile they analyzed established players.] I felt confident I could convince Larry and Sergey to loosen the purse strings and do it right this time: spend money for a high-quality, stable system from a respected vendor. I hoped Larry’s friend had taken the hint and forgotten about us. [He had not] I didn’t want him to complain to Larry when his hopes were dashed. I decided to head him off at the pass by talking to Larry myself. “Actually,” Larry recommended “you should hire these guys. They’re really smart. They’ll work hard to build the product and we can invest in their company. […] They’ll be very responsive.” I could say I was stunned, outraged, incredulous, but that would be an understatement. I couldn’t believe Larry was going cheap again instead of buying reliability. When I informed the other vendors, they thought I was either corrupt or an idiot. […] “If you can believe you can build an email tool like resembling ours in thirty days, you are mistaken. It has taken us four years and twelve hundred customers.” […] I’d still be cursing Larry’s decision today if not for one small thing: Larry was absolutely right. […] Within a couple of months we had the CRM system we wanted built to our specs, fully stable and intuitive to use. […] So what did I learn from all this? I learned that obvious solutions are not the only ones and “safe” choices aren’t always good choices. I had thought that due diligence meant finding the product most people relied on, then putting pressure on the vendor to cut the price. It never occurred to me to talk to Larry not to do that. We had different tolerances for risk and different ideas about what two smart people working alone could accomplish in a complex technical area – and that is why I spent seven years working in mainstream media while Larry found a partner and founded his own company. Two smart guys working on complex technical problems, it turns out, can accomplish a hell of a lot”.

“Yet, once again, risk reaped rewards. The willingness to suffer a few quickly eradicated indignities opened up enormous gates to international audience growth. The world tolerated awkward translations and the occasional insult in order to access Google’s search technology. It was a reminder that perfecting the polish was not as important as giving people access to the product behind it. The results we returned and the speed with which we returned them were ultimately all that mattered. They were the essence of Google’s brand”. [Page 263]

[Pages 290-92] “The hour I spent with (Larry) and Sergey probing their vision for Google gave me my best look at their motivations and aspirations for the company. Larry wanted Google to be a force for good, which meant we would never conduct marketing stunts like sweepstakes, coupons and contests, which only worked because people were stupid. Preying on people’s stupidity, Larry declared, was evil.
We need to do good. We need to do things that matter on a large scale. When I asked for examples, he mentioned microcredit in Bangladesh (…) and talked about changing business systems to make them environmentally friendly while saving money. He also talked about distributed computing, drug discovery and making the Internet faster. And that wasn’t all.
We should be known for making stuff that people can use, he said, not just for providing information. Information is too restrictive. In fact, we shouldn’t be defined by a category but by the fact that our products work – the way you know an Apple product will look nice and a Sony product will work better but cost more. We’re a technology company. A Google product will work better.
(Then they talk about personal information, sensors, storage, cameras, and user-generated data.)
Not once did the subject of making money come up. I was probably a naïve-middle-aged dreamer, because looking back at it now, I see there was nothing truly extraordinary about what Larry described. But when I walked out of his office I believed that for the first time in my life, I had been in the presence of a true visionary. It wasn’t just the specifics of what he saw, but the passion and conviction he conveyed that made you believe Larry would actually achieve what he described. … My respect for our two capricious, obstinate, provocative and occasionally juvenile founders increased tenfold that day”.

[Page 324] “The experience confirmed the power of prototyping to give definitive answers far more quickly than theoretical discussions. Google learnt a lesson: the prototype had been put together not for a specific project but just because it was found interesting. The real value is that people will do things that everyone thinks are a waste of time. That’s where the big opportunities are. It’s an opportunity because other people don’t see it. Google itself was a canonical example. No other company had thought search was important. If they had, Microsoft or Yahoo would have invested more heavily in technology and Google would never gained such a big head start”.

Finally… “There was no longer a role at Google for what I did. I would wind things down. I picked March 4, 2005 as my last day: “Three, Four, Five.” I liked the architectural purity of it. […] I had started as a small company as a big-company guy. Now I was leaving a big company as a small-startup guy. I And I like to think that, in some small way, I helped advance the human condition. Or at least that I did more good than harm.”
33 reviews1 follower
June 11, 2020
A fun look at the early years of Google. Very informative, but it took me a while to get used to the memoir style.
16 reviews
September 18, 2023
A beautifully written book which has somehow gotten lost to the pages of history. Doug Edwards gives a spellbinding account of the early days of Google, the idiosyncrasies of the founders and what makes the company unique as a whole. Extremely engaging and really well constructed narrative.
Profile Image for Nicolemauerman.
332 reviews
October 10, 2011
A couple of months ago I finished the book Malled and wasn’t a huge fan. I just hated reading a book where a woman complained about her job the whole time. I was a little hesitant to read I Am Feeling Lucky because I didn’t want the same experience. I found I was pleasantly surprised. Edwards writes about his time spent as the brand manager for the new start-up Google. Basically a bunch of kids running a company who hate marketing, making Edward’s job really tough and stressful. One thought could sum up Edward’s experience: I offered up this suggestion from past experience, and other management shot me down. They tried things that shouldn’t have worked, but did.

Edwards was at times really funny. When he had to explain the technical aspects of a Google program I found my eyes glazing over. Computers aren’t really my thing, so I can see why some more computer adapt people found this book really enjoyable. This book seemed really long. I felt like it was a never ending book marathon. It’s over now and looking back I liked the book, just not as much as I would have hoped.
Profile Image for Vaidas.
85 reviews2 followers
March 1, 2022
I really enjoyed this book.
Author vividly describes what it was like to work for one of the biggest companies in its early days. You can almost feel the stress Douglas is under during his long hours at the office, the tension between engineers and non-engineers, and the pride when he finds his voice (googles voice) to communicate with people (I don't like the word "user"). I think you could get a lot of insight into what made a google such a success from this book, even if it's not written by the search engineer. Maybe even because of it :)

I think it also illuminates why google products are somewhat strange (personal opinion) - it's engineering first company. And good product is not about engineering (although it definitely needs good engineering), but rather about solving the challenge in such a why that it would be obvious to "regular" people.
Profile Image for Sharon Orlopp.
Author 1 book525 followers
February 14, 2020
Outstanding book about Google during their startup years! Douglas Edwards is an incredible writer as he takes readers on the wild startup roller coaster ride!

Fantastic leadership lessons, insights on hiring the best engineering talent, cultural norms, and being phenomenally resourceful.

Strongly recommend!
Profile Image for Crystal.
223 reviews43 followers
December 6, 2013
Loved this book!

A very interesting inside look at the early growth of Google.

I particularly appreciate Doug's perspective as he transitions from a traditional business culture to Google's very nontraditional corporate culture.
Profile Image for Lord Nouda.
179 reviews21 followers
August 23, 2012
4.5 Stars.

I'm Feeling Lucky' is the story of the marketing director who led the charge to humanize what was otherwise a faceless search company that eventually grew to become the foremost industry leader. Google as perceived by the public, with its oft-repeated mantra; 'Don't Be Evil' was due to the effort of one man, who strived to shape user perception through sheer word of mouth, partly because the Google Founders Larry and Sergey were too cheap to spend millions on marketing firms and partly to legitimize the public perception of Google as a "good" company who genuinely cares about its users. What better way to help spread that "natural branding" than through crowd sourcing and word of mouth?

I'm Feeling Lucky' starts from Douglas Edwards' experience joining Google in 1999 and ends when he finally leaves shortly after Google's IPO, when he finds that the company he helped shape no longer needed him. It's a truly profound and insightful look into the journey of the Search Giant from its early days cobbling together hundreds of cheap, disposable servers to power its search, to its eventual dominance because of its superior search algorithms that actually helped the user find what they were looking for, instead of trying to jack up advertisers' paid ads into the results like Overture (formerly known as GoTo) and Inktomi were doing. In fact, those two former juggernauts were eventually driven extinct because they could not compete with Google which continuously strived to bring relevant results to its search. Larry and Sergey fought the entire time against paid ads, which they saw as being "evil" due to its misleading nature. They believed that if not done right, it could lead to Google selling out their soul and becoming "evil". They did not want to create another Microsoft.

Larry and Sergey were major topics in the book, not only because of their brilliance and farsighted vision of the future (so much so that they pretty much rejected any suggestion that went against their vision, and which later circumstances and success verified the validity of their foresight) but due to the fact that they rejected much of our narrator, Douglas Edwards' suggestions on how to shape the public image of Google. Douglas came from a creative background, a rare individual in a company full of technical engineers. He was also a lot older than the engineers in their twenties that populated the company, who had never worked a day in their life prior to joining the startup. This, along with their brilliance (most of them were Stanford Graduates) was what led them to consider new and untested ideas that made industry veterans like Douglas cringe and cry, "But it's too risky! It goes against everything we've been taught". This built-in mentality through decades of work experience was not an asset, rather than a detriment for a Googler. Douglas had to relearn everything just to fit in at the company and the early pages of the book were full of his complaints that nobody was doing or following his suggestions, and in fact they usually did the opposite. He eventually got over that phase once he learned to move at their speed rather than the old outdated mode of thinking that he brought from his old job. Larry and Sergey, along with their engineer cohorts were naive visionaries. They had no concept of failure or of something being out of bounds for not conforming to the tried-and-tested norm. They dared to dream, and dream big. Even though the Search Market was cornered by Inktomi at the time, they believed that their budding search engine had what it took to beat out the rest. They believed in helping users find information. They believed that everything should be done as efficiently as possible and that Search would help bring about that ideal.

"Efficiency, Frugality, Integrity. I would suppose if you had stitched that onto a flag, most Googlers would have saluted."

That phrase pretty much sums it all up. That's what they stood for in the early days when Douglas was still at the company. It's what made them so successful early on, that, and the tenacity to keep churning out great products that actually had value and were useful instead of the crap you see nowadays with purely intangible e-products that are time-wasters instead of efficiency-boosters. It's why their stock value jumped into the hundreds instead of plummeting to the ground after the IPO like a certain social media giant with all its hype and no substance.

I can't recall how many times I use Google a day, but it's probably the most visited and by far the most useful site on the internet. It's where I go to find stuff I need, articles to read up on and answers to my questions when I need them and nobody else around can give me the info I need. My email goes through Gmail, I write up essays and articles just like this one every day on Google Docs or host them there as backups on Google Drive. Aside from Microsoft, Google is most useful to me for boosting productivity and getting things done.

Facebook, Twitter, Zynga and all that lame crap? They're black holes of productivity. It's gotten to a point where their founders and chief engineers have gotten together to discuss the negative effects of spending so much time using their products. Yes, you've read that right. After making billions off of their users, they've finally decided to slow down and look at the bad, bad things they've done to millions of people who are addicted to their products. They've got money in the bank so maybe it's time to reflect? Naaah. It's probably just a PR stunt. They're still evil.

If you're looking for an amazing insider's view of how Google came to be, including all the ups and downs and the pressure of working inside one of the world's top companies, while still being accessible to the masses, this is the book for you. It's an incredible insight on how dreaming big, incredible planning and vision can help bring about the rise of one of a Giant.
Profile Image for Amie.
1 review
October 9, 2017
I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 is a great read about the beginning of Google from an internal marketing perspective and the personal perspective of Douglass Edwards, also known as Google Employee Number 59. For anyone who is interested in how Google started or anyone like me who has been using Google as long as they can remember it is a fascinating read. Although I think anyone who wanted to read this book would enjoy it, I think the 30 and 40 somethings that have a family and a career already established would be able to identify with Edwards best as he moves through his family and career struggles in his years at Google.
In this book Edwards gives a personal chronological account of what it was like working at Google during a time when it went from a small privately funded upstart .com company to a multi-million dollar publicly traded company. Edwards perspective is that of a seasoned marketing professional coming into the world of .com where he must relearn everything he thinks he knows about marketing. In addition, to telling the story of Google he shares a bit about his struggles with this shift in his career and the toll it took on his family. His hopes that making it at Google in order provide financial stability for him and his family is an underlying theme in the book which keeps you rooting for him throughout even though we all know what happens with Google in the end. Throughout the story Edwards touches on many of the pivotal milestones and defeats that Google had during his time there and he shares a lot about what the founders and key stakeholders had in mind and why they made the decisions that they did. Often, he shares that he did not agree with what they had decided to do and what he learned from these crazy wins that Google had when in his opinion it should have made them crash and burn or vice versa.
I really enjoyed reading about Google’s history from Douglas Edwards’ perspective. It was exciting to hear what the thinking was behind the evolution of Google. As I read I would find myself thinking, I remember when that happened or they did that? Edwards was funny and made even the most technical ideas understandable and interesting. I felt like I understood the internet so much more after reading this book. I also found myself surprised that Google had some features that I didn’t even know about! One of the most interesting parts that I enjoyed was reading about the reason behind the small things that make Google who they are like why the page is so minimal and why they change out the little pictures on the Google name. I also enjoyed how he recalled how Google dealt internally with the 911 events and the ethical choices they had to make. Often times I found myself feeling like I was inside the walls of Google seeing it all for myself.
Overall, I feel like this book was totally worth reading. If I had to give any cons about it the only thing I could think of is that some of the technical descriptions could get a bit long but honestly, that didn’t bother me as I love to learn about anything so I felt like it was teaching me something as well as entertaining. I don’t think that should stop anyone from reading this book though. Edwards does a fantastic job of telling his story without making anyone look bad or saying negative things about people. I would completely recommend this book!
Profile Image for Chouba Nabil.
159 reviews4 followers
September 22, 2019
When product lacks behind competition, that’s when branding becomes useful

Someone join from Oracle : asking is ok to implement standards and not reinvent le wheel, Sergey absolutely not, we want to be completely different: optimise, best work place, function over forms.

You need to stop worrying about future obstacles, and should figure-out how get things done.

Debates are done only if they are backed with numbers.

Best way evaluate a person and see his true colours coming out : is to play with them sport and see if he give his best and if he is ruthless

Google : with right amount of pressure employee will work absurd hours, for the objective to be able to consider themselves as successful.

Lunch first, iterate later ...

It’s not worth discussing => just do it
We can discuss this for longtime or we can just go ahead and go it
Let’s do prose and cone and move one, it’s time to move on

If you start with old solutions, this mean you are less ambitious and you will not disturb the worldzx

Larry rules of order :
- Don’t delegate to it by your own to go faster
- Don’t get in the way of you not adding value
- Let the people doing the work : talk to each other’s, while you do something else don’t be bureaucrat
- Idea are more important that age
- Worst is to say No to solution, you have help them to find a different way of doing it.

What is costing most : is the opportunity lost, the product that are not lunched.

Smart people: are flexible, get things done.
What you have studied at school or did at your old job is not important.

If you prise: mean you are surprise they done it, mean they are not good enough

Take responsibility: do something

When you propose and work on your own initiatives, you are more to do it

Spend time doing not deciding

How we can outperform the old system and make it laughable

When you go one order of magnitude, you need different solutions

Larry Page : my mind is money and that kills neurones ( he don’t drink alcohol )

Fire all PM as they don’t see need to manage people who knows more, purpose is to remove layer of protection made by PM : what matter is technical leadership, they just rebooted the system, kill bureaucracy ( goole size at that time 100 engineer, Larry was not able to give order and probe the engineer as they are protected by PM )

Brand management is knowing when to say no.

Hire Strategy : Geek chic ( google )

Google Strategy: Under promise and over deliver
Microsoft Strategy: over promise (viper ware) and deliver late or never, keep competitor away as they are afraid of big Microsoft resources.

Stupid Hack, reuse porn filter to put advisements on gmail ( continent targeted, 2003 publicly lunched )
Power of a prototype : experiencing something is much more powerful that just theoretically talking about it
From this experiment come the ripoff 20% side project as it was done against PM who asked him to focus ( those ing are not focused and need to be managed )
form there Company shifted overnight

Once you squeeze a toothpaste out, you will never be able to put it back

Microsoft to Google: We will buy you or barely you

Standard company find gap in the market and consumers needs, google look to the world form the inside to outside, from what their engineers needs

Profile Image for June Ding.
177 reviews5 followers
February 2, 2022
This is the second book I read about google and 4 years after the first book. Google stories continue to inspire me. The first book “In the plex” covered a longer time span and gave higher level account of google by one of the best technology writers of today. This book was written by an early employee at its start. It gave detailed insider account of how google worked, its growth in the first 5 years from a few persons start up to a publicly traded company that employed thousands of employees. As a marketing manager for a company who believes in great products, not traditional marketing, the author went through his own growing up and transformation with Google. The book tells the same message as the other book, but uses personal stories and angles. Google was different from other companies from the start. Engineers were the kings in the company. Larry Page’s page ranking was innovative, but its initial code was only good for lab. The brilliant and brainy engineers who shares their passion and vision made the product the true market leader. After the initial innovation from the founders, the innovations have never stopped and continued coming from the engineers. But it can be argued that they can only do it in a company like google because of the culture and vision that Google’s founders brought to the company. Its founders decision making were unbiasedly based on data, willing to test out ideas quickly, and changed their decisions with no qualms if the data showed they were wrong. They were not bounded by traditional way of thinking but driven by their love of technology and desire to do good. The book also provides a unique perspective as what is like working in google. It is, in a word, life changing.
Profile Image for Kent Winward.
1,700 reviews49 followers
February 25, 2013
This book was a perfect, personalized counter-point to Levy's In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives -- Edwards also brings the journalist, English major viewpoint of the engineering-centric Google culture, which fit perfectly with my own English major form of geekiness.

With Marissa Mayer's telecommute ban was interesting, because Edwards' conflict with Mayer is the primary conflict in the book. Mayer apparently had that ability to piss people off at Google too.
Profile Image for Nikolay.
99 reviews81 followers
May 24, 2015
The early Google story from the point of view of one of their first marketing people. I remember three key points:

* high pressure for performance, often not sustainable for long periods of time for mortals
* an organization built around outstanding engineering is totally different than one built around other values, some trade-offs started showing in recent years
* a ton of luck, even though they earned most of it; they would've been successful otherwise, too, just an order of magnitude less

14 reviews
November 23, 2011
This was a really fun read that gave a vivid description of what life was like inside Google in the time prior to going public. Great description of the evolution of the advertising models that drove Google's growth.
Profile Image for Lain.
Author 13 books123 followers
March 1, 2013
Really enjoyed this sneak peek behind the scenes at Google. I lived through this era in Silicon Valley, so it was fun to see what was really going on at the Googleplex. There were also some good lessons for a growing entrepreneur like me. I took several pages of notes to use for my business plans.
Profile Image for Ulf Valentin.
2 reviews
September 1, 2013
Es fängt sehr spannend an und es macht Spaß sich die Google-Welt genauer an zu schauen. Leider wiederholt sich der Autor nach der Hälfte nur noch und es nervt. Habe das Buch nach 3/4 weggelegt - das passiert selten.
Profile Image for Tim.
1 review
October 14, 2018
I’m Feeling lucky is autobiographical book about a Brand marketing manager during an early 6 years in the life of Google.com. He writes his memories of the corporate atmosphere, and the personnel that helped grow and develop one of the fastest growing technology company. The book is written in the view not directly involved in the computer science engineering of Google and is not filled down with technical details of how the technical company works.

Edwards was hired in 1999 as a brand manager in a small marketing department. The founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were computer engineers that placed the same computer programming principles to running a company as they did creating the computer code that is Google.com. They did not want to do the same marketing that every company has done in the past. Edwards had to forget everything he had learned in corporate marketing and create a brand using new and unproven processes.

Many times, during the book Edwards is at odds with the founders, but the company kept growing at phenomenal speeds. “If we can’t win by quality,” Larry said quietly, “we shouldn’t win at all.” (pg. 47) This was one of the first times a marketing idea was dismissed during his career, and it portrays a presiding attitude in the early culture of Google. We can do anything our self and do it better. This attitude does harm them a couple of times.

Google wasn’t like any other company that succeeded. Edwards describes massage rooms, free meals, video game sessions, and weekly meetings that shared every financial detail of the company with every employee of the company. The early management style was a free-for-all of ideas and projects. You were hired and told to find a problem and fix it. Share your results with everyone and move on to the next project.

His stories are first person memories of the people he met and worked with, and the near collapses of the company that used quality in one sentence, the buys 2000 cheap computers hoping 60% of them work.

I enjoyed his writing style. Edwards effectively created a culture you could relate with. I worried for his job in parts, then worried that his family would fall apart because he was always working. The first part of the book I had the impression he hated the job because of the pressures and insecurities. The second and third parts describes how he worked so hard to help create a success that he worked himself right out of his job.

I am glad he included a linear timeline in the book. His chapters was not always in a straight timeline.. The projects described often overlapped so one chapter it is 2002, the back to 2000 the jump forward to 2004.

I have read many books about the development of corporations, this one is slightly different. It seems like a tell all by a disgruntled employee, but one who still loves and respects the company and the people in it.
Profile Image for Harry Harman.
644 reviews14 followers
June 21, 2023
"I explained to Urs before I left, 'Here's what we've done. Here's how it's running. Here are the things to look at. Here's what's going to go wrong if it goes wrong, and here are ten steps you need to do to turn it off.'

"In search," Urs believed, "the discussion was really, How can we outdistance our current system and make it look laughable? That's the best definition of success

brand strategy and listing our guiding principles:
- PR and word of mouth work better than ads.
- Paid ads work against our brand. Focus on the "joy of discovery."*
- We'll grow faster getting current users to search more than by mass marketing.
- All our promotions must include a way to measure success.
- Product interaction is, and must remain, the primary branding experience.
- User retention efforts should center on improving UI and user support.

Trados, the industry standard translation— management software

Ten Things We've Found to Be True:
1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.
2. It's best to do one thing really, really well.
3. Fast is better than slow.
4. Democracy on the web works.
5. You don't need to be at your desk to need an answer.
6. You can make money without doing evil.
7. There's always more information out there.
8. The need for information crosses all borders.
9. You don't need a suit to be serious.
10. Great just isn't good enough.

AdWords ads got up to fourteen times the clickthrough rate of untargeted banner display ads, but we only let sales reps tell clients they were three times better. We wanted to sound realistic to potential customers and keep our true performance hidden from competitors. If we delivered double or triple what we promised, who would complain?

That may have been true for CPM ads, but the underlying economics for CPC ads were far different. Advertisers paid only for the clicks they received, so the return on investment was almost always positive—search-targeted ads paid for themselves. Therefore the market for our ads was limited only by the advertiser's product inventory and production capabilities.

The new goal would be to bring the reporting ratio down to thirty-five to one. Senior managers would be hired primarily for their technical skills, not their managerial ability. These new directors would recognize technical talent when they saw it and, when needed, could lend a hand rather than just encouragement.

Google's hiring guidelines explicitly stated we should only add people smarter than we were.

Within a week, engineers Daniel Dulitz and Jen McGrath had come up with a solution. Any time a DMCA notice necessitated the removal of a search result, we explained that a result had been deleted and provided a link to a copy of the complaint on a website run by ChillingEffects.org.

sowing FUD (fear,uncertainty, and doubt)

Scaling by adding staff instead of algorithms and hardware would bea mistake.
Profile Image for Jileen.
452 reviews2 followers
August 31, 2017
I figure there are three main points of interest for this book...if you have a basic knowledge of MARKETING (I do have a few years work experience in so I got that part) ENGINEERING (most words seemed like many foreign languages all mixed together), and/or BUSINESS ORGANIZATION (major snoozefest to me) then you might enjoy it too. I would love an engineer to read this book and tell me their thoughts on it!

It is fascinating to read the jouney of a startup Silicon Valley search company that literally became a verb in the dictionary. I remember the dot.com explosion and, soon after, the decimation of them. I remember Yahoo and Ask Jeeves... but I had no idea what technology and engineering went into such things. Honestly, I still don't. It's hard to remember back to a day when we had a question about something and we had to look it up in (hopefully) the most recent encyclopedia. Now we just click a few buttons on the keyboard and we have answers to all our questions and more.

The author uses the word "Googley" to descibe the actions/attitudes/performances of people that are in line with being employed at Google. If you think outside of the way other businesses do stuff; if you deliver explanations in clever, funny ways; if your business cares about providing healthy foods, free massages, and street hockey games to de-stress; if you give time for your employees to work on their own projects... then you might be doing it the "Googley" way. I was impressed with those ideas for business structure. Who wouldn't want to work in that kind of environment??

There were some dry spots (about 3/4 in) when the author is taking about all the product managers, product marketing managers, assistant product managers and blah, blah, blah....It was too much to keep it all straight and honestly I really didn't care that much.

Overall, the author has an incredible way with words. For many years he was the voice and tone of Google. It is evident that he used that voice to help create what Google is seen as today. And this book is continuing evidence that his talent lives on.
Profile Image for Jodi.
1,658 reviews62 followers
November 12, 2018
This was a fascinating look at Google from startup through IPO through the eyes of one of its original employees. Doug Edwards gave up a solid career at the Mercury News to join a start-up that barely had a mission statement much less a business plan. But Edwards knew marketing and he believed he could help them change all that. He didn't know Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Under the adage that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks Edwards had to unlearn and rethink everything he knew about marketing in order to truly find his place at Google. There was all sorts of interesting name dropping for those that didn't know Google's history. Marissa Mayer was a critical player but most know her name because she took over at Yahoo and made some odd decisions. Although Edwards respected her, I do not think he liked he and I do't think I would have liked her at Google or Yahoo. Sheryl Sandberg, best known for her role in Facebook was another critical early Googler. There are wonderful perks at Google, food, massages, games. But it is also a 24x7x365 operating structure and even Edwards admitted that he never saw his kids. Sure the job made him millions but there are things worth more than money. However, he is a very entertaining writer and an entertaining reader. He knows his strong suits and his weak suits and he isn't afraid to admit either which made his story pretty trustworthy. If you like tech history particularly from a non-technical perspective, this is the book for you. (I also loved his chapter and sub-chapter titles. In the one non-fiction book I contributed to I had the same type of titles. They were all nixed. Probably by my company's own marketing department. What can I say, I like cheap entertainment.)
Profile Image for Hannah Monise.
184 reviews2 followers
February 21, 2023
Terminei a leitura deste livro surpreendentemente tendo feito-a com prazer. Não achei que iria apreciá-la tanto, principalmente por ser um livro que foge mais para o termo técnico.

Estou Com Sorte é narrado por Douglas Edwards, o funcionário número 59 do Google, que conta suas experiências entre 1999 e 2005 numa das maiores empresas de tecnologia do mundo.

Ótimo para quem adora tecnologia, este é um livro muito interessante e informativo, tanto histórico como tecnicamente.

No começo a leitura me pareceu um pouco maçante, com muitas expressões e palavras técnicas da informática ela acaba se tornando chata para quem não é muito fã deste tipo de livro. A partir da segunda parte, quando lemos mais especificamente sobre o crescimento do Google, ela passa a ser mais gostosa e apreciável.

Dividido em 4 partes, vamos acompanhando importantes passos e fatos da empresa, como a criação do Google, o Blogger, o Orkut, entre outros produtos, além da forma de trabalho e os famosos lazeres entre os funcionários. Ao final encontra-se uma “Cronologia dos acontecimentos do Google” e um “Glossário”, que resume a história toda e ajuda na compreensão. Douglas Edwards soube escrever de modo com que sejam despertos no leitor o interesse e a curiosidade.

Este livro é recomendado para quem gosta de tecnologia, estuda algo na área de TI (Tecnologia da Informação) ou marketing ou, simplesmente, tem curiosidade sobre uma startup que se tornou a grande e famosa Google.

Não poderia deixar de terminar essa resenha sem isso: Quer saber mais sobre o livro ou o que é startup? www.google.com.

"Nada a dizer agora. Fique com suas palavras. Estou satisfeito com as minhas." – "Cassidy", de John Barlow (Frase introdutória do livro)
Profile Image for Mehmet Sucu.
19 reviews
October 13, 2022
This is the first book I started and finished as Audiobook. So my comments might be affected by this.

First of all, this is a book form a marketing guy perspective. There are limited technical details if you are expecting more.

There are many small anecdotes and stories but I feel that most are disconnected and couldn't grab the chapter organization. But again it might be the audiobook thing.

I was more interested in the technical development of Google but since he is a marketing guy, there weren't many. Nevertheless, still interesting and worth to read for learning how a startup developed from nothing to a giant in less than 5 years.

There were many punch points in the last chapter. I've already listen it two times and I believe I'll go back and listen again. I'm also thinking to read the last chapter to grasp more.
Profile Image for Mina.
5 reviews
October 14, 2020
The book reveals the early years of Google indeed but I find it very badly written. It is not about marketing, management, technology nor even about the people who started the company. It touches on many facts of the company life but somehow the threads that keep the story together are few and not so interesting. At times it goes into long citations of names or events with no apparent value to the reader. The interesting parts on the other hand could have been elaborated and explored better - the lack of strategy, the organisation, the transformation, the making of the products or even the interpersonal relations. Each one of those are touched upon yet leaving the reader with more questions than learning some new or interesting.
Profile Image for Nadirah.
669 reviews6 followers
July 16, 2021
Thoroughly enjoyed the insights of how Google started and ended up where they were 5 years later. Edwards had been one of the earliest employees when Google first started up, and this amusing recount of Google's meteoric rise is a recommended read for anyone who has ever wondered how Google and many of its services came to be.

I may not always agree with Google's assertion that they would "Do no evil" (I still have privacy issues to take up with Google and question the sustainability of all these information servers the company has amassed and stacked up), but at the heart of the book, it shows that most of the people who started out working at this Silicon Valley start-up company had started with the best of intentions. Only time would tell if that would remain true.
63 reviews4 followers
January 25, 2019
I've learned that I don't really go in for memoirs, but for whatever reason this one appealed to me. It was written by one of Google's first marketing people. It's a wild story that covers a lot of ground with Google: multiple offices, expansion after expansion, and plenty of internal political battles. The author is a great writer, and he does own up to at least one mistake. He also clearly had no love lost for Marissa Mayer. The only reason this isn't a four-star for me is because I prefer business books with data-backed insights and lessons over retrospectives. If memoirs are your thing, then this would be an interesting read into the early days of Google.
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