Hello friends. It's been a busy month at Xconomy San Francisco. Some of my favorite stories included:
- An in-depth profile of Menlo Ventures and its decision to start investing more aggressively in consumer startups
- A visit with John Tayman, founder of the innovative long-form digital publishing company Byliner
- An update on California's crazy retroactive tax on investors (the short version: it's on hold)
- A video report from the debut of the amazing Bay Lights LED installation on the Bay Bridge
- A detailed analysis of a Craiglist app that sets a new standard in iOS design
- A profile of Gracenote. the company you probably know for supplying the track and artist names when you rip CDs in iTunes (it does a lot more than that these days)
- A report on Upstart, an investing fund / loan agency / talent bank started by a group of ex-Googlers, and finally
- A column on my shrinking menagerie of gadgets, with before and after photos from 2005 and 2013.
Behind the scenes, I've been getting ready for our big spring robotics forum, Robots Remake the Workplace, at SRI International on April 11; I hope you can join us!
And most exciting of all, I've been working to bring a new editorial product into the Xconomy family of sites. I'll be able to tell you more about it soon. Check Xconomy on March 28 to see what I'm talking about.
As part of that transition, I'm retiring my old weekly column, World Wide Wade, which we've published almost every Friday since April 4, 2008. I'll be replacing it with something new -- so keep an eye out.
To mark the end of the old column, I wrote up a long, link-filled retrospective, which we published yesterday as the 228th and final edition. I've pasted in the full text below for your reading pleasure. Thanks and I'll see you again in a few weeks!
Saying Farewell to World Wide Wade
They say it’s better to quit while you’re ahead, and I believe them. It’s easy to see what happens when you don’t. Remember season 7 of The West Wing? The second term of Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency? All of the Star Wars prequels?
With precedents like that in mind, I’m shutting down World Wide Wade. This is my final column under that intentionally goofy title. If you are a follower, don’t worry---I’ll be back next week with a new column under a new name. (In fact, next week will be full of surprises here at Xconomy, so stay tuned.) But after five years and 228 columns, it’s time to shake things up a bit.
I started the column for a simple reason. As I wrote back in April 2008, when Xconomy was still focused solely on Boston:
Every week I come across news items, tech trends, and useful gadgets and services that I know Xconomy’s readers would find interesting, but that don’t fit with our usual lineup of hyperlocal news stories about Boston’s innovation scene. To create an outlet for such random finds…we’ve decided to carve out a bit of space for articles that don’t necessarily relate to New England.
Even as Xconomy has expanded far beyond the Northeast, I’ve continued to use this space every Friday to investigate obscure technologies, raise questions no one else seems to be asking, or light up under-appreciated subjects or companies, with a heavy emphasis on the “random.”
To cap things off and provide a map of sorts for interested readers, I thought I’d try to organize the best columns into some clearly labeled buckets. Click around in the lists below, and you’ll get a pretty good sense of the themes I've been most obsessed with over the last few years.
Diagnosing Big Trends
I've argued that the Internet encourages introversion (not that there's anything wrong with that) and written about how the accelerating pace of modern life is actually a good thing. Sometimes the hardware or software we buy keeps getting better even after we bought it; I called that consumer surplus. On the other side of the ledger, I wrote about how technology is taking jobs away. I started a directory of food-tech startups---a category that's now booming---and wrote about how Internet video is endangering the traditional university.
The Future of Television
I've written about how to turn your HDTV into a digital art canvas. I've asked whether it makes sense to cut the cord and live without cable TV, and pointed out how the networks and cable companies are holding back innovation. I've spent a lot of time with streaming devices like the Roku Player and Apple TV. I've covered companies like Dijit Media that hope to change the way people find shows to watch and asked what if your next TV is a tablet? I've even reviewed a couple of tech-related TV shows, including The Last Enemy and Fringe.
Desktop, Web, and Mobile Mapping
I've covered censorship on Google Maps, and showed how to use online maps to locate abandoned highways. Google Earth has come up several times in the column---I've written about the effort to populate it with 3D buildings, tools for contributing your own 3D structures, and how its layers of historical photos can help solve modern-day detective stories. I've also written about the sport of geocaching and how you can use your iPhone or your iPad to make it more fun.
I panned the first Kindle and talked about what Amazon could do to improve it, then talked about why you shouldn't buy a Kindle at all, and then promptly bought one myself and fell in love with it. I've complained about high e-book prices and talked about how I published my first Kindle e-book (a compendium of World Wide Wade columns called Pixel Nation) and why it's dumb for authors to keep their e-books off Amazon. I covered Vook's multimedia e-books. I've talked about how some e-books make poor use of the iPad and others look fantastic. I've written about the e-textbook wars in education circles and speculated that schools are Apple's real target with the iPad mini.
Media for Learning
I've waxed elegaic about the golden age of multimedia CD-ROMs in the 1990s, the bounty of free course material at iTunes U, and several cool educational tools from Microsoft, including Project Tuva and the World Wide Telescope. I've written several times about TouchPress, a UK-based publisher of iPad apps that may yet bring back the golden age.
I've explored the new vogue for camera phone photography, the rise of HDR photography, and how you can use your consumer point-and-shoot camera to make gigapixel images. I chronicled the fascinating early days of Microsoft's Photosynth app, and have kept tabs on the best photo apps for tablets. I've worried about what might happen if Flickr died (thankfully, it looks like it won't). I covered the debut of the revolutionary Lytro light-field camera and wrote about how Lytro may change the way we think about 3D imaging.
The Rebirth of Radio
I explained how to use Twitter back before everyone was on it and wrote about how I finally learned to love Facebook, despite its periodic privacy disasters. I incorrectly predicted that Facebook would kill Foursquare. I've tried to explain why Facebook's new Graph Search feature is so important and recently confessed that Facebook killed my blog.
Grooving with Gadgets and Apps
I've written about the devices I can't live without and how the number of indisposable devices in my life is actually shrinking, not growing. I was an iPad believer even before I'd seen one, and even more of a believer after it hit stores. I've compared the iPad and the Kindle as reading devices. Microsoft's Kin phone was short-lived but I actually thought it was kind of cool. I wrote about how Apple's iMovie for the iPad makes video editing fun again and have reviewed awesome apps like Letter M Press, Garageband, and MyPad. I published a gadget gift guide in 2010 and followed that up with holiday app guides in 2011 and 2012.
The iPhone came out two days after we launched Xconomy in June 2007, and Apple is obviously the defining technology company of the last half-decade. I've asked how a company that's so closed can be so innovative and criticized Apple for loading too many functions into iTunes (a trend the company has now begun to reverse). I shared my painful experience migrating from iOS 4 to iOS 5 and my hopes for iCloud, and tried to offer an antidote to the Steve Jobs hagiography after his death in 2011. I've defended skeuomorphism in Apple apps and talked about why I hated the iPad mini.
The E-mail Plague
I've written about how to declare e-mail bankruptcy and what to do next. I've looked at software that turn e-mails into to-do items. My contention is that Gmail's Priority Inbox feature is terrible at helping you prioritize your e-mail but that Sanebox is far better at the same thing. I've looked at ways to gamify getting through your e-mail, ways we can work together to restore e-mail sanity, and why no single app will fix your e-mail troubles.
Apps for Notetaking and Personal Archiving
As an inveterate note-taker, I'm always looking for new ways to capture, store, and save my notes. I've asked whether Evernote can help you think like Leonardo da Vinci, and profiled Springpad, which continues to be an interesting alternative to Evernote. In 2010 I compared Evernote and Springpad head-to-head. I've spent a lot of time trying out tablet-based note-taking apps like Paper from FiftyThree and Bamboo from Wacom and I've written about the peanut-butter-meets-chocolate moment when Evernote got together with Moleskine.
The Evolution of Media
I was disappointed by the first generation of digital magazines and hopeful about Rupert Murdoch's The Daily as a standard-bearer for the second generation (wrongly, it turned out). I reported from an Arizona conference on the future of news and wrote about the return of long-form journalism on the Web. I've also examined the new crop of news reader apps like Flipboard and Zite and Trapit.
I've written about great travel apps. In 2010, I drove from Boston to San Francisco with my friend Graham and we made a series of videos chronicling the trip---see "World Wide Wade Goes West" Episodes I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and VII (plus the inevitable "making of" video).
Technology and Health
I'm intrigued by companies that aim to use the Web or mobile apps to help people make better choices about their health. In that vein, I've covered the Larklife wristband, my experiences using running apps like Runkeeper and Runmeter, HealthRally's neuroscience-based behavior change programs, and efforts at WellnessFX to get companies to pay for comprehensive blood panels for their employees.
Sometimes I've used my Friday column simply to write about cool companies and organizations, including Xtranormal, Plinky, Hunch, Fitnesskeeper (and its rival Abvio), Quick Hit, Spreadshirt, Audioboo, Shareaholic, Rockmelt, Anybots, the Kauffman Foundation (twice), Intuit, OpenAppMkt, Fotopedia, Keas, Klip, Chomp, Mobileworks, WeVideo, Kullect, CoffeeTable, AllTrails, WikiHow, Greenstart, SportStream, Blurb, and Pageonce.
I've called for the abolition of meat, football, and driving. I've written about how the Challenger disaster changed my life and argued against Nicholas Carr's contention that Google is making us stupid.
I've railed against California's Proposition 8, and talked about why the 2008 settlement between Google and the Authors Guild was bad for readers. I've attacked TechCrunch (partly for the way it perverted the embargo system) and written about why it wouldn't be so terrible if the Boston Globe folded.
I called for an end to decay porn in Detroit and explained why that city is an important laboratory for innovation. I've argued that there are too many startup accelerators and shared my experiences as a juror in a month-long medical malpractice trial. I've even written about mythical creatures such as the tree octopus and zombies.
After all that, what's left to write about? Come back next week and see.