Robots in the Workplace & Facebook's Ginormous Data

Time for a summary of the latest stories from Xconomy San Francisco.

- My big feature story for February was a look at Facebook's big data analytics infrastructure and how the company uses it to support innovation. See Facebook Doesn't Have Big Data. It Has Ginormous Data. (Alongside that feature, we also published a glossary of Big Data projects at Facebook.)

- My other big job this month has been organizing our upcoming April 11 forum, Robots Remake the Workplace, to be held at SRI International in Menlo Park. There's a relentless media meme arguing that robots are taking away our jobs, but at this event we'll explore the other side of the picture -- the potential for robotics to revitalize U.S. factories and offices and thus create more jobs. You can read about the event agenda here.

- I bought an iPad mini back in late January, but decided to return it the following week. This controversial article explains why.

- In a review of the much-hyped new Mailbox mobile app from Orchestra, I argued that there's only one real fix for our e-mail overload problem.

- A Silicon Valley startup called Lytro is hard at work changing the way we think about photography. Their latest innovation is Perspective Shift, which allows you to view a still image from different perspectives after it's been taken.

- A freemium strategy is a great way for a startup to attract lots of users, until it's not. I chronicled the story of Crowdbooster, a Y Combinator-backed startup that had to kill the free version of its social media dashboard system after it succeeded too well.

- Are you or have you ever been a user of's personal finance tracking app? If so, I suggest that you check out Pageonce. You might like it better; I certainly did.

- I wrote an update about Mindflash, a Palo Alto startup whose online training software is being used by more and more HR departments to onboard new employees. CEO Donna Wells thinks the day isn't far away when new employees will be told "Here's your uniform, here's your tablet, go finish these digital courses."

- The saga continues in the story of California's attempt to collect back taxes from investors who took advantage of a now-defunct tax incentive designed to encourage small-business investment.

- The National Science Foundation has decided to scale up the Innovation Corps program, an entrepreneurship training program devised to startup guru Steve Blank to better prepare university researchers to commercialize their own discoveries.

- Thanks to our genius Web developer Rob Hunter, we've got a beautiful new slide show tool at Xconomy. I've used it recently to publish slide shows about the Bay Lights Project (a startling effort to paint the San Francisco Bay Bridge with LED lights) and the Spring 2013 demo day presentations at Stanford's StartX accelerator and San Francisco's Rock Health accelerator.


Wade Roush

Science and technology journalist