PINTEREST READY TO DECIPHER BIG DATA: Pinteresthas acquired an image recognition and visual search startup calledVisualGraph. With the acquisition, Pinterest reveals that it is working on big data problems — probably in order to improve content relevancy and to better understand its users for advertisers.
VisualGraph also brings two experienced and talented deep learning experts from the field of big data to Pinterest. VisualGraph CEO Kevin Jing helped build Google’s first machine vision application to improve the company’s image search. VisualGraph employee David Liu has worked at Google, Facebook, and Palantir.
Pinterest isn’t the only social Web company that is building out its data science team. Facebook recently hired deep learning expert Yann LeCun to run its dedicated artificial intelligence lab. We’ve heard from a source who is close to LeCun that he was hired specifically to work on image recognition.
Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, have been developing machine learning systems for years to help them improve search and other products. However, now that major social Web properties are building out their own data science teams, the demand for big data experts is more competitive than ever.
In other news …
NEW TWITTER FEATURE HINTS AT AD STRATEGY: Twitter recently announced that it began testing a new feature called “Nearby,” which surfaces local tweets around a user. While the feature is compelling from a user experience perspective, Twitter’s real motive is likely to go after location-based ad dollars. In doing so, Twitter would become an even greater competitor to Foursquare, Yelp, and Google. (Digiday)
FACEBOOK RESPONDS TO CONTROVERSIAL RESEARCH PAPER: A Facebook spokesperson now says that “Facebook does not collect or track any content that people have chosen not to post.” The statement comes after a Facebook data scientist published a paper that delved into the topic of “self-censorship” on Facebook. Specifically, the paper outlined how often users type out a post or comment, but then delete it before publishing to their network of connections. (Mashable)
COMPARING SPIEGEL TO ZUCKERBERG: Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg appear to have strikingly similar personalities and stories when it comes to starting a company. For starters, both were brought up in relatively privileged families, were visionaries in understanding how people communicate via technology, and both were (Spiegel still is) tied up in legal disputes over the rights to the company they helped launch. It’s worth noting, because Zuckerberg proved that with the right people around him, a 20-something year-old can build a multibillion dollar tech company. (Forbes)
SNAPCHAT HIRES FIRST LOBBYIST: Snapchat has hired Heather Podesta + Partners, LLC — a Washington D.C. lobbying firm. Although Snapchat has come under scrutiny lately for allowing hackers to expose the phone numbers of millions of users, the company has been meeting with the lobbying firm since November, so the two events seem unconnected. What it does signal is that Snapchat has ambitions to turn into a true business, and therefore management wants policymakers to better understand how the app operates. (The Hill)
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