Tech + Gadgets
One of the hottest debates inside newsrooms and media studies programs the past few years is whether journalism itself has any real future left, given the widespread disruptions sweeping through the traditional media industry, including the massive layoffs of newspaper reporters.
In light of this, the 45-year-old Knight Fellowship Program at Stanford has transformed itself from a mid-career sabbatical opportunity into an incubator of entrepreneurial ideas that just might help journalism better adapt and survive.
The current 20 Knight Fellows, 12 of whom come from overseas, presented their visions late last week at an event called "Re-Engineering Journalism."
Jigar Mehta, a video journalist affiliated with The New York Times, created a crowd-sourced, interactive documentary called "18 Days in Egypt," which encouraged Egyptians to contibute videos, photos, e-mails and tweets from their cellphones during their historic uprising earlier this year.
The same week that industrial designers and roommates Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky quit their day jobs back in 2007 to try and become entrepreneurs, the landlord of their SoMa apartment hiked their rent.
Faced with a sudden need to make some extra cash, they hit upon an idea. They knew that a major design convention was opening in town and that the hotels were fully booked. So they contacted the attendee list to offer airbeds in their apartment for people having trouble finding a place to stay.
The response was overwhelming and they quickly booked three guests, which netted them $1,000 or so, and in the process Airbnb was born, a community marketplace for people to list and find unique places to stay around the world.
Fast-forward to today, and Airbnb (which is headquartered in SoMa) is truly global in scope and has reached what Gebbia calls a "tipping point," with over 60,000 active listings in 12,663 cities in 181 countries. And just yesterday, it was announced that actor/tech fanatic Ashton Kutcher has invested a significant amount of money in the company and signed on as an advisor.
Fed up with how long it takes to get a doctor's appointment? With long waits in a room filled with sick people? With brief checkups resulting in a prescription for a marginally effective drug?
One Medical Group says there is a better way.
Founded in San Francisco by Dr. Tom X. Lee in 2007, One Medical is a radically different kind of health service, completely digital and interactive in ways that take much of the pain out of the entire experience for both doctors and patients.
"The way we look at it," says Lee, "is that we are trying to redesign the primary health care environment from the old model centered around the doctor's office to one where we work with patients in the digital realm, allowing the office to becomes simply an extension of our relationship with the patient."
Last Friday afternoon, a big, wind-driven fire broke out in the Mission, heavily damaging two houses. Like many of my neighbors, I walked over to watch the firefighters at work and snapped a few photos, which I later posted to Facebook.
There, a few people commented, but inevitably, those shots pretty much got lost in the stream. Just another little local story, partially told and easily forgotten -- one among many.
Well, Luke Stangel and his team of 10 would like to fix that. They are building a mobile photojournalism platform that may help photos like those of the fire find a more useful home -- as part of crowd-based news photo network in real time organized by geo-coded location.
The first iteration of their platform, which is called Tackable, has been around since last October in beta, including a live iPhone version for the Spartan Daily at San Jose State University, just down the road from Tackable's offices in the cavernous (and now largely empty) Mercury News building off of Highway 101 in San Jose.
The first fatal shooting ever to occur in the school's history happened earlier this spring, and students were posting photos and comments to Tackable almost immediately afterward, whereas the Mercury News was able to publish its story about the tragedy only the following morning.
A few years ago, when orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Chang was opening his Bay Area Sports Orthopaedics practice in Oakland, he tried to go "paperless."
"I figured that as a young guy, tech-savvy, and being a small practice, I could do it," he recounts. "But I was wrong."
After a number of attempts, including purchasing a $20,000 electronic records system that was so bad he had to quickly shelve it, the Stanford grad returned to the "old-fashioned way -- paper and pen" to do his work.
When you launch a company, timing can be everything, and in that respect the timing looks to be perfect for the geek team of three at Munchery, who launched their intriguing service in San Francisco on April 23rd.
The idea behind this startup is to match you with your own personal chef.
It's even better than that. Because your own personal chef will turn out to be someone who's committed to using locally grown, sustainable, seasonal ingredients to turn out high-quality, nutritious meals delivered right to your door at a total cost around $20 per person per meal.
At first glance, the two 20-somethings talking excitedly in a Mission District coffee shop may not look like renegades at the vanguard of a new food revolution, but that's exactly who they are.
Local food bloggers Katie Kwan and Valerie Luu will be taking their Vietnamese pop-up cafe, Rice Paper Scissors, to the streets for the third time this spring, on Friday night, May13th, at an as-yet undisclosed location.
In order to find out where they will break out their signature little red stools and spontaneously start serving their savory dishes, you'll have to follow them on Twitter or plug into one of local foodie blogs in the know.
When it comes to grassroots innovation in San Francisco, however, there's no better example than Rice Paper Scissors, which has no investors, angels or even a fixed office address.
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.