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!
Tim Westergren is one of those entrepreneurs who built an online company to fill a void he saw in the physical world.
His Oakland-based Pandora is the leading radio service on the Internet, which has to be satisfying for a musician who says he spent a "long time trying to make a living" in music beforehand.
In fact, Pandora, which recently filed for a $100 million IPO, now hosts a database of some 800,000 songs from more than 80,000 artists. This massive playlist is what you have to choose from in order to populate your own private music channel.
Around 80 million registered users have chosen to do just that, probably half of them via Pandora's iPhone app.
When it comes to online dating, like with all types of social media, San Francisco is at the center of the action.
“We have the most fans in San Francisco, as a percentage of the population, and probably our biggest penetration of any market,” says Sam Yagan of New York-based OK Cupid, one of the larger online matchmakers. “It’s always been one of our best markets, there are more techies, more early adopters than anywhere else.”
San Francisco is experiencing another explosion in startups, and one of the best ways to visualize that is at at the local tech community's hottest recurring event, which is the "startup mixer" held by SF Beta every other month at 111 Minna.
SF Beta is the brainchild of Christian Perry, now 26. He launched it when he first moved here from Chicago after finishing college back in 2006. Perry notes that his meetups are attracting record crowds these days.
"There is a big spike this year, up to 650-700 attendees, or more than twice as many as in the past," says Perry.
Almost all of that growth, he says, is due to the rise of social networking companies like Twitter, mobile app developers, and new advertising startups, which have catapulted San Francisco into the new center of tech innovation -- more than anyplace else, including Silicon Valley.
Since it's a cliche that men and women are as different as, say, Venus and Mars, it should come as no surprise that the genders use social media differently, including when shopping online.
And with that emotionally-loaded holiday, Valentine's Day, looming on the horizon, those differences may well have unintended consequences in the offline world as well.
A new study by Empathica, a retail consultancy, found that women are looking more for good deals online, whereas men are more likely to just be seeking information.
“Women are more intentional and thoughtful shoppers,” Empathica executive Gary Edwards told Chief Marketer.
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.
photo credit: dbking (from Wikimedia Commons)
When the news broke a few days ago that Twitter had successfully challenged a gag order in the federal government's investigation into the WikiLeaks case, it was a reminder that the Bay Area is on the front lines of the battle to protect our First Amendment rights in the digital age.
A federal grand jury in Virginia had subpoenaed user account data from Twitter about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, among others, as part of its probe into how that large trove of classified records recently became public.
Twitter has a company policy of informing users before complying with court orders such as this one, which is significant because that allows the user to exercise the legal right to challenge the subpoena in court, where it may get quashed for any number of reasons.
But since government investigators routinely request -- and get -- gag orders in these types of cases, Twitter was barred by law from telling Assange and the others involved in this particular case. So it fought back, and won what may prove to be an important legal precedent in the process.
Things move so fast in the world of technology that we can sometimes lose sight of just how new some of it still is. And sometimes that very newness can cause problems.
As I was sitting in a Cole Valley café recently, watching Craig Newmark of Craigslist demonstrate how he uses his iPad (on a tiny easel) to handle customer support issues, it struck me that only a year ago this scene never could have happened.
After all, Cupertino-based Apple only introduced the iPad, probably the most super-hyped tech product of all time, in late January 2009.
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