The Curator's News Feed: Feb. 17, 2012

This week we're reading about how Google is changing the way we think about search (yes, again), how Target knows you're pregnant and just a little bit of #Linsanity. Microsoft launches msnNOW, tracking trends using data from Facebook, Twitter, Bing, GeekWire: Social media is everywhere, and is even bringing into question what qualifies as true newsworthy items. Microsoft’s MSN is launching a new site that delivers information completely based on the premise that platforms including Twitter and Facebook are delivering the news consumers want and define the hottest trending topics. Not only are social media channels increasingly becoming our one-stop-shop for delivering both consumer entertainment and breaking news, but such sites are redefining the speed at which consumers intake this content. So, will the new Microsoft MSN site gain a seat at the table when it comes to enabling consumers to obtain the news they want at the speed they want it? It’ll be interesting to watch and see! - Annie

Google moving beyond words, Mashable: The search giant is looking to change the way we think about search (again). Expanding beyond key words and statistical heuristics for their algorithms, Google is working to create a knowledge graph of “entities” with definitions, attributes and meaning. This means that instead of relying solely on semantic and syntactic rules to understand what you mean when you ask about last week’s episode of The Bachelor, Google’s AI will begin to truly understand the distinction between “a bachelor” and “The Bachelor,” drastically changing SEO and potentially helping Google’s machine army use the powerful draw of reality TV to one day enslave the human race. There’s a good chance that bit about SEO will happen first… - Matthew

Jeremy Lin And The Power Of Social Media, Forbes: OBVIOUSLY I have to give a shoutout to my boy Jeremy Lin and the #LINSANITY of the past few weeks. For those of you living under a rock, Lin went from being undrafted and almost cut to averaging over 20 points a game and leading the Knicks on a multi-game winning streak that has galvanized New York City, NBA fans, Asian-Americans, fellow Harvard alums (guilty) and anyone who loves a good story. There’s a huge social media component to the frenzy around him, too – his name trended on Twitter worldwide during several of his games, and he’s been dominating conversation on non-US sites like China’s Twitter equivalent, weibo. What I like about this article is that it dives into not only how prepared Lin was for the social media onslaught (he’s been savvy Twitter and YouTube user for years) but how the social media buzz around him has continued to drive the interest on other media channels. - Lisa

Arena Project FAQ, Seattle.gov: The big news for me this week is the arena project. Here’s the official FAQ. - Dan

I Want! Jonathan Adler. I love the way Jonathan Adler leverages the influence of such wide spanning tastemakers like Mrs. Lilian, India Hicks and Grace Bonney to inspire customers and make them feel like they are receiving product recommendations from friends, even though most people don’t know the guest contributors. It personalizes home décor, as it could anything, in a way that truly resonates. - Julia

Change Happens and Size Matters, PSFK: If you love reading about small business success, then Bi-Rite is a perfect case study. This neighborhood market in San Francisco has created national buzz with its simple, sensible approach to food. This week, PSFK has a good post on Bi-Rite’s ability to successfully create community around food. – Ann Marie

How Companies Learn Your Secrets, New York Times: This article talks about the scientific breakdown of habits and how companies are hiring statisticians to interpret customer’s current shopping trends in order to (potentially) influence their shopping habits down the road. The most interesting (read, creepy) example of this scenario is how Target is utilizing their knowledge of consumption habits and shopper’s purchase information to figure out when a woman is pregnant. They call this the ‘pregnancy-predictor model’ and it can estimate a woman’s due date to within a small window, so Target can send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy. If a woman changes her normal shopping purchases to include supplements of zinc, larger quantities of unscented lotion, hand sanitizer or cotton balls, Target is betting that she’s expecting. To some this might seem like an ingenious way to target consumers, but to others it is a gross invasion of privacy. Since this article came out (2/16), Target has had a fair bit of backlash and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle it moving forward. - Megan