"Google announced a partnership with the World Bank today to make Google Map Maker data more accessible to government organizations in disaster scenarios. Google Map Maker is the tool for crowd-sourcing the editing and maintenance of Google’s world map. Its user-generated data include locations of hospitals, schools, settlements, water sources and minor roads."
"Facebook has cut a deal with political website Politico that allows the independent site machine-access to Facebook users’ messages, both public and private, when a Republican Presidential candidate is mentioned by name. The data is being collected and analyzed for sentiment by Facebook’s data team, then delivered to Politico to serve as the basis of data-driven political analysis and journalism. The move is being widely condemned in the press as a violation of privacy but if Facebook would do this right, it could be a huge win for everyone. Facebook could be the biggest, most dynamic census of human opinion and interaction in history. Unfortunately, failure to talk prominently about privacy protections, failure to make this opt-in (or even opt out!) and the inclusion of private messages are all things that put at risk any remaining shreds of trust in Facebook that could have served as the foundation of a new era of social self-awareness."
"In the past few years, companies have amassed trillions of digital bread crumbs: from credit card transactions, from people’s online wanderings on social media and search sites, from GPS devices embedded within smart phones. Last June, the market intelligence firm IDC said the amount of data produced by our ever-digitizing mass of humanity is more than doubling every two years. Companies are drowning in data. But they’re also recognizing an extraordinary opportunity, and after a series of studies of so-called big data published by research firms over the past year, many are predicting it will become a major focus of marketing executives in 2012."
"Life itself is the biggest of all big data. The amount of information contained within one leaf is staggering, but the information contained within 6.3 million plant specimens staggers. Currently, those samples are contained in two buildings of the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) in St. Louis. But soon, they will all be online. Did I say soon? I meant eventually. A team at the Garden, one of the largest repositories of botanical information in the world, is photographing and uploading the samples one leaf, seed, pod and stalk at a time. So far, after reviewing just under 4 million, they have uploaded 160,000 images."
"Goodreads, a social network that lets readers rate and review books, has launched a recommendation engine designed to help users choose what to read next. The new feature comes six months after the startup acquired Discovereads, a book recommendation engine which is something CEO Otis Chandler cited as a sought-after feature among Goodreads users. The site’s new reading recommendations are generated using a set of propriety algorithms which look at over 20 billion different data points. Perhaps most importantly, it takes into account the stated preferences of of its nearly 6 million users, for whom rating books is already a key component of using the site."
"There is so much technology coverage out there on the big topics that it’s difficult to rise above the din; the pie is bigger but our slice is smaller. That matters because few sites have the home page heft to drive massive amounts of traffic to an individual story. Maybe the New York Times, a few of the Gawker sites, Yahoo, Drudge, and some others. But everyone else is relying on the social Web to distribute their stories to the people most likely to read them, no matter where they first go for content. If you’re lucky, you capture a few of those readers as loyalists who come back time and again. But everybody still needs their stories to move virally."
"SOME facts of life are just plain counterintuitive. It can be too cold to snow. Heavy things float. Martinis have calories. Here’s another one with significantly greater import: Electronic information is tangible. The apps we use, the games on our phones, the messages we incessantly tap — all of it may seem to fly through the air and live in some cloud, but in truth, most of it lands with a thump in the earthly domain. Because electronic information seems invisible, we underestimate the resources it takes to keep it all alive. The data centers dotting the globe, colloquially known as “server farms,” are major power users with considerable carbon footprints. Such huge clusters of servers not only require power to run but must also be cooled. In the United States, it’s estimated that server farms, which house Internet, business and telecommunications systems and store the bulk of our data, consume close to 3 percent of our national power supply. Worldwide, they use more power annually than Sweden."