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Friday, August 20, 2010

Data on Demand Is an Opportunity

The real-time Web is a bit of a chaotic mess.

Each minute, hundreds, if not thousands, of tweets, links, likes, status updates and their ilk stampede through our collective feeds.

Of course, that isn’t to say there isn’t valuable and timely information embedded in that deluge – if you’re lucky to catch it. The constant churn makes it challenging to store and sift through the bits and pieces of information worth remembering.

Is there a better way to harness it?

If so, Brian Ascher, a partner at Venrock, a noted venture capital firm in Palo Alto, Calif., wants to invest in it.

“The whole point of social media is that we trust our friends, our network for answers to questions, recommendations, information needs,” he said. “Social media can contain the answer. There is value in all the stuff being shared, if you can find it.”

In short, he said, the key concept is data on demand:

“I think its going to be more appealing to a mass audience wondering why do I care where you check-in or what you’re doing. It might yield the answer to a question you have about where to go three months from now.”

For example, it’s great to read a tweet or see a status update that one of your tech-savvy friends loves his or her new digital camera. But it’d be even more handy to have that information when you’re wandering around in Best Buy looking at cameras or browsing Amazon online.

So how does one go about building such a service?

“We haven’t seen the answer yet,” admitted Mr. Ascher. “It’s a technology challenge to source those bits of information back to the user using the social graph.”

The idea was first floated before entrepreneurs at Chirp, a conference for Twitter developers, by a colleague of Mr. Ascher’s.

Though they still haven’t come across the ideal right-time upstart to invest in yet, “a bunch of people are chipping away at it,” said Mr. Ascher.

“It’s still not clear whether or not this will all be useful to people,” he said. “Even if you could individually save the good stuff, your perception of what is good changes constantly. It also puts all the work on you.”

Even so, “the challenge of matching the right information to people has gotten a lot easier,” he said. “It’s a very powerful new area of technology.”


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