Tech + Gadgets
This week the city's board of supervisors is slated to finalize its decision to grant a tax break to Twitter and other startup companies in return for their agreement to stay in the city rather than fleeing to the suburbs.
What's at stake is San Francisco's future as a center of innovation.
Granted, it is a tough time for city government. Ongoing state and federal budget cuts have created relentless pressure on the city's ability to provide many essential services.
Furthermore, recent news out of Sacramento and Washington, D.C., indicates that this funding problem won't be going away any time soon.
But, it's also never easy being a startup company. It's strictly a high-risk business, where the overwhelming majority fail, and only a tiny number survive. They all have to keep costs down and attract the best talent for any hope of future success.
The key employees of startups earn far less than they would in an established company. In return, they often are granted stock options, essentially a promise of a future return on their present "sweat equity."
Did you know that for $50, you can turn your iPhone into a mobile microscope with 60x zoom and LED light display?
Or that a bug in Apple's FaceTime video chat feature suggests that it can take and store pictures without you even knowing it?
The place to find stories like these is San Francisco's Ubergizmo, where geeks explain technology in language that non-geeks can easily understand.
The perfect antidote to the gibberish typically found in user manuals.
Ubergizmo was was co-founded by designer Eliane Fiolet and software engineer Hubert Nguyen, both native French speakers, as a small blog in September 2004.
"We never thought it would be successful," says Fiolet. "Back then we both had day jobs."
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.
Next Monday, The New York Times will finally do what for over a year it has been promising to do -- erect a paywall around its content on the web. But as details of the plan have emerged this past week, it looks to be one of the strangest, and leakiest, paywalls in the history of online content.
In fact, you might call this a voluntary paywall, because it will apparently be so easy to circumvent there is no reason any moderately tech-savvy consumer should ever have to pay anything at all.
Locally-Developed "Emergency Network" App Life360 Used by More than 1,600 Families During Japanese Quake
Often when it's the most crucial to get in touch with family and friends, our phone service fails us. Local family-safety and "emergency network" company Life360 has answered that need — more than 1,600 Japanese families used the app to reunite after Friday's devastating earthquake. Life360 tells you the location of up to 6 family members when they "check in" or press the "panic" button.
While the panic button is to be used during times of emergency (it tells people exactly where you are and that you're in trouble), the "check in" feature is more for tab-keeping (say, if someone's traveling internationally and you want to make sure they've gotten to their destinations safely). Both alerts automatically send an email, text and phone call to loved ones in your network.
If you've been debating whether to buy a Kindle for yourself or for a loved one, you may just want to hold off until November.
That's because by then, just in time for the holiday sales push, the price of a Kindle, according to a number of technology experts, will be...zero.
That's right. Though it now goes for $139, it appears that Amazon's industry-leading book-reading device may soon be free.
First, to the evidence.
Within an hour of announcing the launch of his new philanthropic support network on Facebook this morning, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark already had over 250 "likes" from people all over the world.
Called Craigconnects, the new service seeks to build upon the success of the world's top classified ad site to forge a new network devoted to the "common good." On the new site, Craig explained his motivation for trying to raise the profile of worthy nonprofits and other organizations working to improve things on a number of fronts.
"This is the biggest thing in my life, and I’d like a little help from you," Craig announced on the site. "Together, we can work together from the grassroots up to make things better for everyone. I want us to use the Internet to connect and protect organizations that are doing good stuff."
How big is the current technology boom that is centered in and around San Francisco?
Big enough that New York-based Bloomberg Television has hired 65 reporters and editors to cover it, as well as launched a new daily program that is broadcast live at 3 pm every day from the company's base at Pier 3 on the San Francisco waterfront.
Journalism is fundamentally about good story-telling. Which is why San Francisco-based Storify looks to be a journalist's dream come true.
This little company has built a revolutionary new platform for publishing and distributing stories. More than any other tool out there, it makes it easy for you, the writer, to add content from Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and other social media sites to your story with a simple "drop and drag" function.
So if you find a Tweet from someone on a topic you are covering -- say, the uprising in Libya -- you can grab it and also ping that person back, telling them you are quoting them in your story.They will then more than likely reTweet your story, and help it go viral.
In every neighborhood where tech startups are located, you’ll see them – small groups of bright young men, mainly engineers, going out to lunch together. Very occasionally, there will be a woman who is part of the group, but that’s an exception that proves the rule.
It’s an odd phenomenon, this gender segregation, especially because virtually none of these young men fit the old-fashioned stereotype of sexists; by contrast, their generation supports equality between men and women more than any in the past.
And as these companies grow, they hire plenty of women. At Twitter, for example, a recent estimate has women accounting for around a quarter of the workforce.
But where the paucity of women is most striking is on the boards of directors of Web 2.0 companies. In a piece last December for the Wall Street Journal, Kara Swisher documented that none of the leading companies in this sector – Twitter (9 members), Facebook (5), Zynga (5), Groupon (9) and Foursquare (3)-- had a single woman on their board!