Updated: If there’s one thing that defines Marshall Kirkpatrick’s career as a technology blogger, both at ReadWriteWeb and elsewhere, it is his love of — and fascination with — data and all the various ways of collecting and sifting it for clues about interesting information and potential stories. Now, Kirkpatrick has announced that he is leaving his post as lead writer and co-editor of ReadWriteWeb to start a company based on those principles: known as Plexus Engine, the long-time blogger says that it will help companies filter the massive amounts of data that flow through the web every day by using data-mining and aggregation tools that Marshall developed while working as a web journalist.
When I asked the ReadWriteWeb blogger why he chose now to leave his job and start a company (in the interests of full disclosure, I consider Marshall a friend) he said:
There’s so much information and so many voices and so much opportunity online now that I think people miss because they don’t have the tools yet to suit the opportunity. The rise of semi-structured data + automation + strategy + design = new capabilities in listening and communication. I think that’s awesome and I want to productize it.
When I asked how long he had been thinking of starting a data-focused company, Marshall said he has been working on the ideas behind Plexus Engine for years, but the idea for a startup came about a year and a half ago when he was working on a consulting project for a large company (in addition to being a writer and editor at ReadWriteWeb, Kirkpatrick also runs a personal consulting business). Although he hasn’t provided a lot of details about the new company or what kind of services it will provide — or the funding model — he described it in his post as:
An app and data platform that discovers emerging topical information. It’s a learning-curve busting, “first mover’s advantage” as a service, technology for information workers who want to win. It’s about helping users “skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it’s been.”
Kirkpatrick is the fourth high-profile blogger to leave his position for a startup venture in the past year: TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington caused a wave of controversy earlier this year when he created a venture-capital fund while still the editor of the tech blog (which was acquired by AOL last year) and he later left that position and was joined by TechCrunch writer M.G. Siegler. Another writer for the blog, Paul Carr, is working on a digital-magazine startup, and former VentureBeat writer and editor Owen Thomas left his position there earlier this year to work for an online-media startup called The Daily Dot. (Update: Business Insider blogger Dan Frommer also left earlier this year to start his own tech-focused blog called SplatF)
Whatever the ultimate fate of Marshall’s startup is (and he noted that he would continue to blog occasionally at ReadWriteWeb) there’s no question that both individuals and companies need help sifting through the oceans of social data and other information that streams by every day, as we’ve described at GigaOM a number of times. Tools like Storify and Storyful and others have made it somewhat easier to filter that firehose, but we could always use more help in that department, and so we wish Marshall well in his new venture.