The Top Stories of 2012 from Xconomy San Francisco

It’s fun to look back at our Web traffic statistics once in a while, because the stories that prove most popular with readers aren’t always the ones we would expect. I wasn’t surprised that our series of stories this year about Google (looking at Google Transit, Google’s M&A strategy, the Google Lunar X Prize, and the Knowledge Graph) did well, since everyone wants to know what Google is up to. But I was surprised that my rant about Twitter’s crappy new iPad app took off so virally, and that our guide to Bay Area coworking spaces has become such an important resource for local startups.

Below, for your reading (or re-reading) pleasure, is an annotated list of the 20 most-viewed stories from Xconomy San Francisco this year. I’m including a few stories here that were posted to our National page but mainly pertained to events or companies in the Bay Area.

1. The Lytro Camera Is No iPhone, But It’s Revolutionary Anyway

The Lytro light field camera is utterly unlike anything that’s come before in photography. By capturing information about where light came from, it lets users refocus images after they’ve been taken, and even shift perspectives to create 3D-like scenes. In this piece, I did take issue with a Lytro investor’s assertion that the device would have an impact comparable to that of the iPhone. But that didn’t decrease my enthusiasm for the modern marvel.

2. Google Transit: A Search Giant Remaps Public Transportation

One of the hardest questions to answer in the search business turns out to be “When’s my bus coming?” But for years, Google has been working behind the scenes to build the nation’s best database of public transportation routes and schedules and, more recently, real-time location and arrival information.

3. Google Gets a Second Brain, Changing Everything About Search

This December 12 article explained the origins of the Knowledge Graph, Google’s giant new database of named entities and relationships, and looked at how it’s affecting Google’s core search business and other products.

4. Google’s Rules of Acquisition: How to Be an Android, Not an Aardvark

Based on conversations with former Google M&A head David Lawee, this piece looked at the factors behind Google’s remarkably good track record when it comes to integrating the companies it buys.

5. LinkedIn: The Missing Manual Worth Reading

This was a review of The Startup of You by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and journalist-entrepreneur Ben Casnocha. While the books is ostensibly about career strategies, I found it to be even more useful as a tactical guide to LinkedIn.

6. The Next Internet: Inside PARC’s Vision of Content-Centric Networking

The Content Centric Networking project at PARC, the Xerox-owned R&D center, aims to ease congestion challenges on the Internet by changing the way data is labeled and retrieved. In short, the CCN premise is that you should only have to care about what you want, not where it’s stored.

7. Reinventing Biotech’s Business Model: The Photos

Our biggest biotech-related event of the year in San Francisco was a gathering at Onyx Pharmaceuticals, where Xconomy’s national life sciences editor Luke Timmerman led an afternoon of discussions on current funding options for biotech firms. This slide show featured photos of speakers and attendees.

8. Genentech, Roche Find New Balance Three Years Post-Merger

This in-depth article by Arlene Weintraub, Xconomy’s former New York editor, looked at the top-to-bottom organizational overhaul at San Francisco-based biotech pioneer Genentech in the wake of its $47 billion acquisition by Roche in 2009.

9. Yahoo Challenges Apple With a Cocktail of Mobile Publishing Tools

Pre-Marissa Mayer, Yahoo was already thinking about how to shake up digital publishing, with a set of software tools designed to help mobile developers build cross-platform apps and reduce their dependence on Apple and Google.

10. Steve Blank Hands a New Owner’s Manual to Startup Founders

This was a review of The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf. Their argument is that a startup is not a business—it’s a machine built to find a viable business. The book explores the ramifications of that philosophy in an extremely granular way, making it required reading for entrepreneurs. 

11. Five Myths You’ll Hear This Week at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference

Luke Timmerman wrote this as he was gearing up to attend the giant meeting for healthcare, pharmaceutical, and biotech executives held in San Francisco each January by JP Morgan. Among the regular refrains that Luke was trying to deflate: “The biotech IPO market will pick up,” and “the FDA is going to be more supportive of innovation.”

12. Can Anyone Catch Khan Academy? The Fate of the U in the YouTube Era

Universities are scrambling to put their lectures and other content online. In this column, I asked whether they’ll be able to compete in a world where there’s a flood of compelling (and mostly free) educational video content from startups like Khan Academy, Coursera, Dabble, Skillshare, Udemy, and Udacity.

13. In Google’s Moon Race, Teams Face a Reckoning

There’s a race underway to claim Google’s $20 million prize for the first private team that can land a robot rover on the Moon, cover 500 meters of terrain, and send back high-definition video and photos. This piece asked whether any of the teams have a realistic shot at winning the prize before the Dec. 31, 2015 deadline, and why Google is supporting the competition in the first place.

14. Punching the ‘Clear Your Head’ Button: The Xconomy Q&A with David Allen

This interview with personal-productivity guru David Allen focuses on his project with Seattle-based Intentional Software to turn his “Getting Things Done” methodology into an app.

15. Twitter’s iPad App Update Provokes a Backlash

Twitter has come in for a lot of criticism this year, but one of its dumbest moves, to my mind, was replacing its awesome old Loren Bricther-designed iPad app with the current version, which is generic and boring. Many people around the interwebs agreed with me.

16. Madefire’s Comics Bring a New Visual Grammar to the iPad

Madefire’s elaborate comics, with their layered animation, sound, and music, are setting a new standard for digital storytelling.

17. Broken iPhone? Call iCracked, the Aspiring AAA of Smartphones

Nearly a third of all iPhone owners damage their phones within the first year after purchasing them. iCracked can help: it has assembled a global network of local repair technicians, and if there isn’t one nearby, they’ll mail you a DIY repair kit.

18. The Most Interesting Y Combinator Winter 2012 Startups

There are too many startups going through the Y Combinator “startup school” these days for journalists to cover them all on Demo Day. In this article I focused on just seven from the Winter 2012 class, including Ark, Flutter, 42Floors, iCracked, MatterPort, 99Dresses, and Sonalight.

19. Why WebMD is History: The Next Generation of Web-Based Medicine

This was a guest commentary from Skip Fleshman of Asset Management about the growing consumer demand for personalized, trustworthy healthcare information. It was our most-viewed guest op-ed essay of the year.

20. Bay Area Coworking Spaces: The Xconomy Guide

This story was actually published in February 2011, but it continued to be extremely popular this year as startups competed to find office space around San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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