from Paul Smalera:

The platform problem in social media

The two speakers from Twitter -- Ryan Sarver and Doug Williams -- had just left the stage at Big Boulder, a data conference I'm attending in Colorado, when Twitter, the service, went down Thursday. Neither of them have anything to do with keeping the service up and running, but the restless audience probably still would've thrown the hotel-provided notepads and candies at them if they could've. Such was the level of dissatisfaction about the Twitter platform's outage yesterday -- and let's face it, any day a service we rely on goes out, even when the crowd in question doesn't consist of users and consumers of social big data, and the odd journalist.

The outage may have been poorly timed for Sarver and Williams, but the incident speaks to a larger problem the companies represented in this room are facing: building on top of social platforms.

Consider Zynga. The high flying gaming company, built primarily on top of Facebook's Open Graph, has faced record lows in its stock as investors have lost some confidence in the company's ability to continue growing. Or consider just about any other company, social or not, that is trying to reach its fans and customers in the social media world.

Get Satisfaction CEO Wendy Lea walked me through the gently sloping path to hell many of these companies are facing:

"Marketers got [their companies or brands] a Twitter handle and a Facebook Fan Page. Then they went to their interactive digital agency to make the Fan Page look like the brand. Then they went to Buddy Media or Vitrue to run a contest to get fans or followers. Then they got Radian 6 and got a [social media] listening platform. Now they say, 'I'm analyzing.' Now what? There's a huge gap to their in-house [customer database] system they spent $2 billion to create."

Swipp looks to quantify your comments

Silicon Valley start-up Swipp says it has raised $3.5 million in funding from venture firm Old Willow Partners, an early investors in Groupon. It will use the cash to develop and launch its first products sometime in late fall. On the subject of what exactly those products will be, Chief Executive and co-founder Don Thorson was cagey. But it seems like he’s aiming to create a social network where it would be easier for consumers and merchants to analyze or make money from data than on say Twitter or Facebook.

“With (so many) people connected we should be able to do so much more than just tell each other where we’re having lunch,” said the executive, adding that conversations on social networks like Facebook and Twitter are “pretty cool stuff but not meaningful data. The bigger the network gets the smarter it should get.”

A basic Twitter search of a particular hot topic like a service price increase or a new product can already give a snapshot of how people are reacting, But that’s not enough for Thorston “We think that’s just a really 1.0 way of being able to extract information,” he said. With Swipp “you’ll have quantifiable data on that topic.” For example, it could figure out what percentage of comments were complaints and what percentage were positive.

MinoMonsters releases new version, takes aim at Pokemon fans

By Mauro Whiteman

Apple iOS gamers who miss the Pokemon monster-battling adventures of their childhoods may come one step closer to fulfillment today with the release of an updated version of MinoMonsters.

While Pokemon’s console-based games aren’t available on the Apple operating system, plenty of imitators are. MinoMonsters, also the name of the company that develops the game, wants to become the clear leader of that group, says CEO Josh Buckley. So far, he’s raised more than $1 million from Andreessen Horowitz and other venture capitalists.

The updated title includes gameplay that brings it closer to the game it aimed to emulate by adding evolution of monsters, new boss encounters and more monsters. Pokemon, the wildly popular videogame franchise for Nintendo’s Game Boy and other platforms, boasts more than 600 different monsters with the challenge for gamers to “catch ‘em all.”
“Millions of gamers have been waiting for a Pokemon-like title to hit iOS, and we believe this release brings us much closer to that hit,” Buckley said. Now 20, he was the youngest graduate of Y Combinator, the Silicon Valley incubator that has spawned companies like accomodation service Airbnb and file-sharing service Dropbox.

from Paul Smalera:

Startups are big in Boulder, but where are the tech billionaires?

"I'm not interested in working on this unless it's going to be a multi-billion dollar idea. If I thought this would be a hundred million dollar company -- what's the point?" - Anonymous entreprerneur discussing his startup. Overheard in front of Ozo Coffee, Boulder, CO.

I'm in Boulder, Colorado for a few days this week to attend Big Boulder, a conference devoted to the social side of "big data." Gnip, the company hosting the conference, is one I've written about before. They're doing the plumber's work of connecting all the firehoses of raw, public user data from social media companies like Twitter and Tumblr up to clients that want to derive insights from the wisdom of these online crowds.

A quick note on the definition of "big data." Generally speaking, it's the sort of data set that's so huge, even running a simple report on it won't tell you anything interesting. For example, if you could ask the IRS for a list of all the 25-30 year olds in the U.S. that paid taxes last year, you'd get back a list, alright. But what would be useful about it? On the other hand, if you could filter that list by several other factors: did they pay capital gains, did they owe over six figures in taxes, what is their self-reported job title, and so on, you might end up with a list highly correlated to young, dot-com millionaires and billionaires, like Mark Zuckerberg. And you might cross reference that list against all the other data sets you can find on them: where they live, where they shop, where they travel, what they watch, eat and listen to. It's all out there.

Scratching the Surface: When is a tablet not a tablet?

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

Microsoft’s huge announcement Monday that it was going into the consumer computer business is a turning point for the Redmond giant – a real gloves-off, damn-the-torpedoes moment. It’s also perhaps a grudging nod to Apple and Steve Jobs’s view that hardware and software need to develop together to get it right. Until now Microsoft has ceded hardware issues to other companies – Dell, HP, Acer, Samsung, etc. Now it will compete with them.

But the notion that “The Surface” – Microsoft’s new tablet PC unveiled Monday but not expected on the market until the end of the year – will take on Apple’s iPad is misguided.

Lyor Cohen to rivals: ‘Why can’t we all get along?’

Lyor Cohen (right) with hip hop artist Kanye West last year.

Lyor Cohen, Warner Music’s chief executive for recorded music, thinks the long-suffering and depleted music business would do a lot better if it could just stop the bitter in-fighting and back-stabbing particularly among the major label owner rivals Universal Music Group, Sony Music and EMI.

“We should root for one another,” said Cohen speaking at the New Music Seminar in New York earlier this week. “We can all come together and support each other. That’s hugely missing from our business.”

Referring to an industry which hopes it has now hit rock bottom and is finally turning things around:

Journalist gets up close and personal with killer-quintet

Radio journalist Nancy Mullane has gone behind the walls of California’s infamous San Quentin state prison to chronicle how life unfolds for five inmates convicted of murder.

Andreessen Horowitz Partner Margit Wennmachers introducing Don Cronk, Jesse Reed, Ed Ramirez and author Nancy Mullane

The five-year investigative effort by the freelance reporter and producer who does a lot of work for NPR is now chronicled in her book,  Life After Murder

Pao made needlessly “scurrilous” claims: Kleiner

When are facts just the facts– and when do they become scurrilous?

That’s the question created by venture-capital fund Kleiner Perkins in its bid to arbitrate partner Ellen Pao’s discrimination lawsuit against the firm — a turn of events which would sink the proceedings out of public view.

In a memo filed Tuesday in California state court Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers argues that in her May complaint, Pao included “provocative facts– many unnecessary to the pleading of her claims”. The firm gave the example of her relationship with Ajit Nazre, a former partner who left the firm earlier this year. Pao said he pressured her to sleep with him.

“These allegations were simply unnecessary to the retaliation cause of action that was pled,” the firm said in its memo (see  a page from the memo paomemo), adding it believed Pao’s goals were met when the allegations created a “media firestorm.”

Xerox’s Burns fires at Masters’ no-women policy

Xerox CEO Ursula Burns has some strong opinions on Augusta National Golf Club’s policy of not admitting women as members.

“It’s ridiculous, it’s just absolutely ridiculous,” said Burns at the Reuters Global Media and Technology Summit in New York on Thursday.

Burns was responding to a question about the controversy that erupted in April over whether the all-male club would invite IBM CEO Virginia Rometty, who is both Burns’ corporate acquaintance and competitor, to become its first female member. IBM, along with AT&T and Exxon Mobil, are the three major sponsors of the Masters golf tournament, and while the past four male CEOs of the technology company have been offered membership at Augusta, the same courtesy has not yet been extended to Rometty.

Kleiner Perkins and gender discrimination plaintiff wrangle over love poems episode

The “Book of Longing”: spiritual screed or salacious smut?

A 2006 tract of love poems by Sixties crooner Leonard Cohen, of all things, has emerged as a key point of contention in the high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit that’s sent Silicon Valley into a tizzy.

When Ellen Pao, a junior partner at vaunted venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers sued the firm last month, one of the juicier nuggets tucked in the complaint described senior partner Randy Komisar’s alleged overtures: On Valentine’s Day in 2007, the suit alleged, Komisar gave Pao a copy of the “Book of Longing” — featuring “many sexual drawings and poems with strong sexual content” – and proceeded to ask her out to dinner while his wife was out of town.

On Wednesday, the VC firm hit back in a 7-page response (attached below) with an age-old defense: Pao took it the wrong way.