In/Flux: Seattle spared in Zynga bloodbath. Predatory Ventures. Mercer Island doesn't tweet.

Meet In/Flux, Crosscut's (nearly) new weekly round-up of local tech news.
Meet In/Flux, Crosscut's (nearly) new weekly round-up of local tech news.

Seattle spared in Zynga bloodbath

Crosscut archive image.
Game developer Zynga probably made you consider deleting your Facebook account at one point. Maker of such games as Farmville and Mafia Wars, Zynga once unleashed a torrent of inane updates on Facebook newsfeeds, as well as near-daily personal invites to join the fun and allow the company access to your contact lists.

That’s not the case anymore. The allure of the company’s games has faded, their Facebook posts are now essentially filtered from newsfeeds, and it’s hemorrhaging users faster than a bar at closing time. This week Zynga announced layoffs of nearly 20 percent of its workforce, or over 500 jobs. A Zynga spokeswoman tells Crosscut their office in Seattle’s Pioneer Square will emerge from the pink slip spree largely unscathed. Elsewhere, they have led to a surge of insider trash talk about the company from its newly unemployed ranks.

Mercer Island doesn't tweet

Given their access to the latest gadgets, one might assume the affluent would be among the biggest social media users. Not so, at least in the case of Puget Sound. Twitter has released gorgeous “tweet density” data maps, detailing Twitter use in our region and elsewhere. One of the most striking takeaways is the distinct lack of activity in such areas as Laurelhurst, Madison Park, Madrona and Mercer Island, which may as well be invisible with regard to hashtag usage. For now, we’ll chalk this up to the fact most young people can’t afford to live in these areas. We've reached out to Twitter for more analysis on their findings.

Agoraphobes, rejoice!

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For five years, Seattle has served as the sole testing ground for Amazon Fresh, the company’s same-day grocery delivery service. Soon the company will discover whether its success here indicates national preferences, or just our city’s well-documented fondness for minimizing contact with strangers.

In their continued quest for world retail domination, Amazon has announced plans to do to Safeway what it once did to Borders. Their grocery delivery service will roll out in Los Angeles as soon as this month, and the Bay Area later this year. If that goes well, plans are to expand it to 20 cities in 2014. Soon tens of thousands more people will know the pleasures of finding toilet paper and salad dressing waiting at their door after work. Agoraphobes rejoice.

Predatory Ventures?

Puget Sound has long been a mecca for aspiring tech moguls, but it also quietly houses one of the industry’s top public enemies. Bellevue’s Intellectual Ventures (IV) has been called the world’s quintessential “patent troll,” a term for companies that scoop up patents for things they never plan to develop, then use dummy corporations to threaten lawsuits on those who do. They also amass patents on such practices as updating software via the Internet.  This conceivably opens them to sue almost any startup into submission, unless they’re paid a fee.

About two years ago IV was subject to an epic takedown by NPR’s This American Life, which made the points above in stark detail. The story was uncharacteristically hard-hitting for the program, and brought the company national infamy. This week NPR came back for seconds, revisiting its earlier report, digging deeper and doing the company zero favors in the process. Coincidentally enough, President Obama announced executive actions and legislative recommendations on Tuesday aimed at fighting patent trolls.

For the sake of balance, we note that IV has issued a statement pushing back on NPR’s charges, and the company’s inventions were featured on 60 Minutes recently for their role in fighting global disease.

Game capital of the world

Whether one is looking to create an interactive family controlled via smartphone, or a bazooka-wielding supersoldier in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, Puget Sound remains the place to be.

Seattle’s Big Fish Games released a data survey this week on the gaming industry’s best places to attend college and find a lucrative job. Redmond is the only city in America to score in both categories, with DigiPen Institute of Technology and Xbox developer Turn 10 Studios responsible for the designation.

Tech Bytes from Elsewhere

  • Mind controlled drones: Yes, they exist.
  • Google goes to the Dark Side: Wikileaks founder and professional fugitive Julian Assange takes to the New York Times to argue Google is violating its “don’t be evil” pledge.
  • Are Teslas actually that green? According to a recent report, the lifetime carbon footprint of the luxury eco-cars is arguably about the same as a Honda Civic, given our energy grid's current fuel sources.
  • The entire history of Windows in one video: A trip down memory lane that will make you remember the good times (that you spent indoors).
  

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About the Authors & Contributors

Drew Atkins

Drew Atkins

Drew Atkins is a journalist and writer in Seattle, and the recipient of numerous national and regional awards. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Seattle Times, The Oregonian, InvestigateWest, Geekwire, Seattle Magazine, and others. He also previously served as the managing editor of Crosscut. He can be contacted at drew.atkins@crosscut.com.