Molly Wood, CNET's Executive Editor, and the host of a daily web show covering technology, posted to her blog last week under the headline: "Welcome to the age of data. Watch your back!"
In a conversation with 7x7, she said that the current "information boom" sweeping through the Bay Area can be summed up by one word -- data.
"The startups have this in common. They harvest data, use it to make connections, to advertise to you, or to use the web as a giant recommendation engine. Essentially, they are forming a kind of supercomputer made of users and their data."
She notes the "dark side" of all this. "The level of information out there about you and me is staggering. They can sell this data. So the cost of 'free' has never been higher."
After the recent controversy caused by revelations that Apple has been using its customers' iPods, iPhones, and iPads to collect location data about nearby cell towers and Wi-Fi hot spots, the Cupertino-based company moved quickly to claim that a bug was responsible and that it soon will be fixed.
Invariably, the way this story was perceived by much of the population was as another example of sinister, surreptitious data collection by modern technology in ways that could further compromise our dwindling sense of privacy.
Therefore, it triggered new calls for restrictive legislation in Congress and overseas.
What tends to get lost in the news cycles that originate with revelations like these is that virtually every tool or service we have grown to depend on in modern communications technology is storing data about how we use them 24-7.
Yesterday, Mozilla, the developer of the popular Firefox browser, became the latest tech sector star to announce that it will soon be opening an office in San Francisco.
So it's probably time to state the obvious, and that is that around here, the rush is on. Yep, we've got another full-fledged tech boom on our hands.
Over at CNET headquarters in Soma yesterday, I was marveling at the array of top-notch correspondents and bloggers they employ, which easily rivals Bloomberg TV's growing team down on The Embarcadero, which I profiled here recently.
The journalists at CNET, Bloomberg, and elsewhere I've spoken with all say that the pace of innovation occurring here in the city easily matches what they witnessed in the mid-90s during the original Internet boom, and that it may well soon surpass it.
I've been throwing around the word "La Lengua" to describe my neighborhood for several months now—ever since I read it on local blog Burrito Justice—and I never fail to get quizzical looks. Never heard of it? Well, it's a new 'hood classification that you'll be hearing a lot more about in the not-so-distant future. La Lengua is characterized as the flat section of the Mission between 24th and 30th Streets, stretching from Mission Street to Guerrero. Most people think of it as Bernal Heights, or, even more bafflingly, the "Outer Mission."
When a federal judge threw out the class-action settlement in the Google Books case last week, he brought an end, at least for now, to one of the boldest initiatives the search giant has ever undertaken.
Back when he was still a grad student at Stanford in the late '90s, co-founder Larry Page began planning a "library to last forever," filled with digital versions of virtually every book ever published.
By 2005, when he and Sergey Brin had built Google up into the most successful company on the planet, Page began to put his plan into motion. Google made deals with leading academic libraries to begin scanning books, including many rare and out of print books, at a rapid pace -- to the point that today they have scanned a total of some 15 million books.
If this is the first time you've heard the name Darian Shirazi, it's a good bet it won't be the last.
The 24-year-old UC Berkeley dropout heads up a Soma-based operation called Fwix, which is an early leader in what he calls the "fourth wave" of the Internet -- local search -- or "what's nearby, right now."
Under this formulation, the first three Internet waves were directory, search, and social media. Shirazi's tiny company (19 employees) appears to have opened an early technological lead on corporations that are trying to catch the same local search wave like AOL’s "Patch" and Google’s "Places," among others.
The idea, essentially, is to bring you the hyperlocal - the best information about what is happening right around you in as close to real time as possible. It depends on identifying content that has been accurately geo-coded. That presents an extremely difficult technical challenge.
First, let's back up a second.
Welcome to "Transported," our new weekly series about getting places in San Francisco, whether you take the bus or the BART, bike or drive. Come here to find the skinny on secret parking spots, the new bike lanes and how to get across town on Muni without losing your mind.
Is it a new way to exercise indoors? A better biking experience during these apocalyptically wintry days? An underground pastime for tipsy tech/bike nerds? Google Bike, invented by the folks behind instructables.com, is like a teleportation device into the virtual environs of Google Earth using the Streets view to navigate your way around town.
Q: I met a guy on OKCupid. We’ve IMed, and he’s asked me out, which is all fine. But I can’t Google him, and he’s not on Facebook or even on LinkedIn. I notice I feel uncomfortable about going out with him. Am I crazy? I don’t think he’s a serial killer or anything but even my 76-year-old Cincinnati grandmother shows up on a Google search these days!
Well, never again.