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Best in Business

Amazon.com has named In the Plex as the top 2011 pick of all books in Business and Investing.

Audible also named it best business audiobook of 2011.

It was named Best Business Book by the San Francisco Book Festival.

It won the prestigious Excellence in Financial Journalism award from the New York State Society of CPA’s.



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Power House

When I wrote In the Plex, I had a punch list of stuff I wanted to do at Google.  I did almost all of them.  One I did not do was go inside a Google Data Center.  No journalist had done this.  (I am talking about the big ones they began building in the mid-2000s.)   So I was delighted when Google asked me in 2012 if I wanted to write about the company’s massive infrastructure, with a view from inside.  I was on the server floor in Lenoir, North Carolina, and also learned many previously untold aspects of Google’s network of servers, fiber, and people.

A Spreadsheet Way of Knowledge

Harper’s, November 1984
I wrote this story over twenty years on the rise of the spreadsheet, maybe one of the most important consequences of the early PC revolution. I tried to show how the electronic interactive spreadsheet not only made a formerly onerous task very easy, but made it possible to envision business strategies and concoct new business models in a way that changed commerce itself. I also noted some social and ethical downsides to this approach. Harper’s never put this online, but some folks at NYU scanned it a few years ago and I gave them the OK to make it public.

Crypto Rebels

Wired, February 1993
The first full-length article on the cypherpunks, proponents of “crypto anarchy” and fighters for the free spread of strong encryption. This was my first article on the cryptography controversy and put me on a path to the book Crypto.

The Clipper Chip Controversy

New York Times Magazine June 12, 1994
The article that put Whit Diffie, the co-inventor of public key cryptography, on the cover of the Times mag. Also where Mike Nelson, White House pointman on Clipper, calls crypto “The Bosnia of telecommunications.” There is a Clipper Chip archive run by Electronic Privacy Information Center; another activist group involved in Crypto Wars was the EFF.

Prophet of Privacy

Wired November 1994
This time, a profile of Diffie. Great illustration, now hanging in the home of Whit Diffie his own self.

E-Money (That’s What I Want)

Wired December 1994
An early look at how age of digital money is fast approaching, with a particular look at David Chaum, the inventor of anonymous digital cash.

The Man Who Cracked the Code to Everything

Wired, June 2002

This is the first in a series of profiles I’ve been writing for Wired in the past few years. I first wrote about Stephen Wolfram in the mid-1980s, for a Rolling Stone story that never made it to the magazine. I later repackaged the material as a story in the Whole Earth Review about cellular automata. As Wolfram wrote his amazing book, A New Kind of Science, he provided me with drafts, and I was delighted to get his cooperation for this lengthy look at an unique and brilliant scientist.

Lawrence Lessig’s Supreme Showdown

Wired, October 2002
I was lucky enough to hang out with the maestro of cyberlaw on the eve of his arguing a crucial case before the Supreme Court. If you ever have a chance to hear Professor Lessig speak, I urge you do so.

The Trend Spotter

Wired, October 2005

A profile of Tim O’Reilly, computer book publisher, Internet guru, and far-seer. It was a lot of fun hanging out with Tim for this, but my only regret was that I did not get to publish (as I included in the original) his recipe for scones. So here it is, in Tim’s own words:

1 stick of butter
2 1/2 – 3 cups flour (experiment to see which you like better)
3 Tbsp sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 – 1 1/2 cup currants
1/2 – 1 cup milk (or substitute soy milk if you prefer; goat milk is also

Preheat oven to 450, and lightly grease a baking sheet. (You can just rub it with the butter paper.) Cut butter into flour with a pastry blender. (That’s one of those little things that looks like a chopper, but has four blades.) You can also do it
with two crossed knives. When done, the butter and four should look like small crumbs. Add in sugar, baking powder and salt, and stir well. Put currants (or raisins if you prefer) into a well in the middle, and pour some of the milk in. Stir around with a knife till you get just shy of a gooey consistency. (That is, it should hang together, but if it gets very sticky, you’ve put in a bit too much milk. You could add a bit more flour if you’ve gone in with less flour to begin with. But better to bake them sticky than add more than a total of three cups. The stickiness is just a problem for shaping them, since it sticks too much to your fingers.) Shape into small lumps spaced evenly on the baking sheet. Depending on how big you make them, this amount should produce 12-14 scones. You probably need to wash your hands part way through to get the sticky dough off. As it accumulates, the rest gets harder to handle. Check at ten minutes to see if the tops are browned. If not, leave another minute or two. Serve with jam, and if you’re feeling piggy, with devonshire cream (whipped cream works too, from one of those aerosol cans, so you can just put a spot of it on.)