ICYMI: A Look Back at Fall Tech Stories in Xconomy San Francisco

11/19/12Follow @wroush

For the last couple of years I’ve been sending out irregular e-mail updates to friends and followers via my Google Group. Usually they’re just link-filled lists of the stories I’ve been working on lately. People say they appreciate the updates, since they’re often too busy to visit Xconomy every day.

This week it hit me that regular readers might also find the list useful, so I’m posting the most recent edition publicly as an experiment. This includes highlights from my own coverage in October and November, and doesn’t include all the great stuff posted to our San Francisco page by colleagues like Luke Timmerman (our national life sciences editor) or Bernadette Tansey or Elise Craig (terrific local freelancers who’ve been writing for us lately).

—My big editorial project for the fall was a 6,000-word profile of Intuit, the personal finance giant. The operative question being: Can a big company train itself to be as innovative and nimble as a startup? Intuit is doing a lot of the right things, but it’s still unclear whether the company has figured out how to sidestep the classic “innovator’s dilemma.”

—Right before Apple officially announced the iPad mini, I wrote about why I won’t be buying one, but a lot of parents and students might. After the announcement, I talked with an e-textbook publisher who said the device is great news for the textbook industry, but perhaps not a game-changer.

—In other Apple news, I weighed in on the great skeuomorphism debate consuming the tech world. Okay, maybe not the whole tech world. But the question is whether all those semi-realistic touches in Apple’s software—the faux leather, torn pages, and dark linen—are fun and endearing, or just goofy and distracting. I lean toward minimalism in my own living arrangements, but I think user interfaces without familiar touches can seem antiseptic.

—I’m a longtime fan (though not always a faithful follower) of David Allen, the inventor of the “Getting Things Done” methodology for staying on top of your tasks and commitments. I scored an interview with Allen and had the opportunity to quiz him on whether his method still works in the era of total e-mail overload. I also wrote about Allen’s new collaboration with Seattle software genius and sometime-astronaut Charles Simonyi, whose company Intentional Software plans to build the first official GTD app.

—One of my favorite Silicon Valley startups, Evernote, joined forces with Moleskine to bring out a “smart notebook” whose pages can easily be transferred into Evernote using a new “page camera” feature of the Evernote mobile app. I reviewed the whole setup and called it “a great example of the new hybrid physical-digital experiences we can have thanks to the mobile revolution.”

—Speaking of mobile, I got an advance look at Larklife, a new wireless wristband from Mountain View startup Lark that promises to help you eat better, exercise more, reduce stress, and improve your sleep. The device will hit stores sometime before the holidays, and I predict it will turn a lot of average people into dedicated quantified-selfers.

—I profiled the four digital-cleantech companies emerging this fall from San Francisco-based startup accelerator Greenstart. Also in the accelerator department, I aso covered a project from Startup Weekend and entrepreneurship guru Steve Blank to create an online version of his Lean LaunchPad course for early-stage startups.

—In the real world, the big news events of the last month were Superstorm Sandy and the presidential election. I hit on both indirectly. I wrote a piece about a seagoing robot from Liquid Robotics that sailed unscathed through the storm, taking measurements that could help scientists build better models of future hurricanes. On the day after President Obama’s reelection, I spoke with venture investor Lisa Suennen about what’s likely happen now with healthcare reform, and what the next couple of years could look like for healthcare innovators.

—Sometimes being a journalist in Silicon Valley feels like writing for the soap opera Search For Tomorrow. I wrote profiles of search optimization startup Ginzametrics, doctor search site BetterDoctor, and local product search startup Retailigence.

—I headed down to Stanford to cover Mark Zuckerberg’s talk on Facebook’s early history at Y Combinator’s annual Startup School event.

—SharesPost, one of the companies famous for facilitating secondary trading in Facebook shares before its IPO, has an interesting new loan program designed to make it easier for employees at other pre-IPO companies to cash in on their options.

—In the Department of Shameless Plugs: If you’re free on December 4, I hope you’ll join me in Palo Alto for The Power of the Pivot, an afternoon event about that critical decision every startup faces sooner or later: whether to proceed as planned, or take a risky left turn toward building a different product, exploring a different market, or both. Founders from some of the coolest startups around Silicon Valley will be sharing their own harrowing, enlightening pivot stories. Tickets are available here.

—Finally, some belated Halloween musings: The Strange Glamor of the Zombie Apocalypse.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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