Friends, I have been lousy at updating the English blog for a while. I have just been too busy, too tired and too overwhelmed with the whole experience of taking ”The Google Code” to the market.
I have been interviewed well over thirty times in less than a month, the book and the Google story as such has been discussed all over the place. The coverage is way beyond what I could have hoped for, my publisher is excited like a kid. (He always is though…) Google pulling the plug in China was like winning the lottery – all of a sudden, all the news shows wanted comments… Very, very lucky for me.
Today, however, is a special day.
And I have had a rough night with very little sleep.
April 10th 2010 is the official release date for the book. It has been on the market for about two weeks already – selling enough for a second printing to be ordered! – but today is the day when all the big papers publish their reviews.
Five out of the six biggest papers have written large, thoughtful and by all measures very appreciative pieces about the book. Several of the smaller papers are on the ball today as well, also with generous praise.
Any negative critizism? Not really. Several critics ask for a stronger ”Google is evil”-conclusion and think that I should have been more outspokenly critical or negative. Fine, I chose not to do that. I prefer the reader drawing his or her own conclusions… Some request more analyzis, and they have a point – there are segments of the book where I wish I would have been able to reach a little deeper. On the other hand: The target audience is the average googler on the street, not the media nerds in my own phone book. I desperately wanted to avoid writing a tech-dude book.
In all, I feel relieved. And immensely grateful to all of you who helped me do this, Googlers and non-Googlers, close to a hundred people that in one way or the other took part in what has been the most exciting project in my working life. Thank you thank you thank you.
By the way, I have a cover to show you! Can’t believe I haven’t already! Here it is, courtesy of Weyler förlag and the talented designer Elsa Wohlfahrt Larsson. Google has kindly approved of it too. (We asked them, since we are messing around with the logo.)
So would you use ut? I fear I would not be able to resist should I find it!
Yes. Country music. It is very much like ketchup: It doesn’t really go well with a lot of things, but with a few things, it’s just a perfect fit.
Meaning: If I’m driving down an American interstate or more precisely the 101 between San Fran and San José, chances are I will have turned that dial to 95,7 The Wolf – why the heck they call it that I do not know. But they play that rock-flavored contemporary storytelling country music that I think is a more important source of understanding of the American culture than most people think. And did you notice it’s never about… today? It’s always about something that was or something that might be, later, when you understand that it would be wise of you to love me again.
Adding on to the bizarre end of things: They had a bacon contest the week I was there. Seriously. A bacon contest. Best recipe to win honor and immortality, long beyond those pigs. The commercials were strongly focused on shipping turkey to the people; it was the week before Thanksgiving, which is a way bigger deal in the States than Swedes in general know. And I love bacon by the way. I am like Louis C K on that whole eating meat thing…
So, in conclusion: Add ketchup to my Belgian clams and I will kick your ass. But for this meatball-and-macaroni fiesta with the kids by the kitchen table? Pour it on!
Sorry for being silent for a few weeks, it’s been analogue hell here, I shan’t bore you with the details.
Coming back to Kastrup, the Copenhagen airport that is just across the bridge from where we live and therefore often my home airport, my iPod made some interesting choices for me.
First: Danish old school pop primadonna Sanne Salomonsen. Then another Danish dish, namely the eighties duo Ray-Dee-Ohh, and their contageous version of ”Love the one you’re with”. Does that iPod have a GPS…? Well maybe, because after that I got Swedish hair metal band Treat and their classic ”Home is where your heart is”.
Did I mention that I often get bullied for my taste in music? Just you wait. I will get back to another weak spot of mine soon: Country. I shit thee not.
I just recently learned that it was a correspondent for the German magazine Stern who was the very first reporter to ever interview Larry and Sergey way back when.
Good work, mein Herr!
(Does it count as competition that I was really early to do a personal interview with Skype founder Niklas Zennström…?)
In November, I was able to visit The Googleplex in Mountain View, California, for a week.
My friend Rick – frequent commentator here – let me use his house on the Redwood Shores for all of my stay, even though he was out of town. He stocked up the fridge too, and had cooked all kinds of gourmet food for me. I will include his name in the thank you-list towards the end of the book for that alone!
At Google, I was guided by communications director David Krane, a Google oldtimer who has been there since the nineties. He was swamped with work, but made sure to set some great things up for me.
Still, I realize that a Swedish reporter out to publish something in Swedish just can’t be a high Google priority. Ten million language speakers? Out of which perhaps ten thousand might read the book if I’m lucky? Larry Page and Sergey Brin are obsessed with time management. It just doesn’t make sense for them to talk to such a small audience.
For some of my walking around, I was accompanied by Emily Wood from David Krane’s crew. I have met a zillion press representatives in what soon is twenty years in journalism – but rarely someone as professional and no-nonsense as Emily Wood. Believe me, I know the difference. Hats off. (Same thing goes for Jamie Yood, who assisted in making my visit to Cameroon happen.)
So was I given ”big access”? Yes and no. I didn’t speak to a lot of big executives. On the other hand, I didn’t really request that either. I asked to speak to people who actually work in the midst of it all, and who by their skills and their presence build the Google culture. I had to work pretty hard to make some things happen myself. It’s not like you can just enter Google’s corporate site and get clear direction on who to talk to about what. A lot of e-mails went unanswered, and honestly, there have been times when I have smiled, but rather felt like hitting something, when someone just weren’t respecting my time frames or even answering a simple e-mail question. But that got gradually better as we got to know each other.
Overall impression of Google California? Overwhelming. Friendly. Mostly professional. Intellectually very mature. Emotionally still young.
”The Google Code” or ”Google-koden” as it would be in Swedish, is not likely to be translated to another language. At least not English. Market filled. (But if anyone who speaks both languages volunteers to translate the book for free, starting by using Google Translate, and then editing, I will happily surrender the text!)
If I’m lucky, a Danish or Norwegian publisher might pick it up, but more likely, there will be someone in Denmark and Norway who, like me, wants to create an original work and include certain national implications of the subject. There is plenty of Sweden in ”Google-koden”, and intentionally so. Google is huge here. Well over 90 percent of the market share on search.
However, on language: My third book, ”The Universe of Lund”, is translated into English. But that is more of a coffee table style photo book, that I have written six separate texts for, and the topic is the university in my home town, which is one of Sweden’s largest and most prestigeous. In other words, if you haven’t been a student or a researcher at the university here, I really can’t recommend it. (But the pictures, taken by Per Lindström, professor of photography, are marvellous!)
I try to be a modern Swedish dad. Meaning that I intend to take on half of the workload and responsibilities that come with having a family. I have been on paternity leave for two great sessions of eight months each (yes, fairly well covered financially by the government, and yes, we pay a lot in taxes) and I think I can safely say that I know the needs of my daughters and our family just as well as my wife does. We have both worked a little less than full time since we had the kids, which allows a little extra space to move around the week, without the little ones having to spend more than six hours per day in pre-school.
October, November and December of 2009 just weren’t… any of that. We agreed on it as I signed the book deal: This is one of those rare moments when going all-in really is the only option. (It rarely is.) At a later point, when Lisa wants to do the same, I will cover for her like she for all of the fall has covered for me. (I married the Energizer Rabbit. The strongest, toughest and all-in-all best person I think I have ever met. Her stamina leaves me in awe.)
But I still don’t feel good about not being there for my fifty percent this fall. I just don’t. The girls do notice. My big one is five later this year, she answered the phone one day, a friend of the family was on the line. He got the full scoop, and I overheard it:
”Dad is travelling a LOT and is working SO MUCH with his book, but then sometimes he’s at home with us and soon I think he will be done and then he’ll be home all the time…”
I get teary-eyed just writing that now. Sorry for being such a sap. It’s just that very soon, she will move out. It’s fifteen years but likely to feel like fifteen minutes. Which means that no matter how much I loved writing this book, I won’t be doing a shift like these past months anytime soon again. If ever. Sorry. No can do.
The readership of this page is picking up right away! I would suppose that some of my regulars on andreasekstrom.se are popping in occasionally. Thanks for spreading the word and adding me to your Google and other readers. I might as well assign you all a small task:
I thought I’d offer a small and carefully selected bunch of Google-related links here, when the book is out. Just to encourage book buyers to stop by here too.
Please contribute with your best Google links! Some of their own corporate blogs will be a given, as well as Matt Cutts’s immensely popular Twitter feed. What else?