Tech think-tank led by ‘chief technology officer’ considered by National

Coordination would help NZ build on its strengths in technology, backers of a national CTO role say.
Coordination would help NZ build on its strengths in technology, backers of a national CTO role say.

The National Party has reversed its stance on appointing a powerful new tech supremo to guide the country’s technological future.

The country now appears set to get a “chief technology officer” whatever the outcome of this week’s election, after the change of heart.

National’s economic development and communications spokesman Simon Bridges said the Government “is considering the establishment of a chief technology officer-led think tank”.

“The future form of this is still to be determined,” he said.

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An unlikely coalition that includes the Labour Party, Xero founder Rod Drury, Green Party donor Seeby Woodhouse and a “strategic insights panel” backed by consultants KPMG and ASB Bank have been among those championing the establishment of powerful national chief technology officer.

Drury said the chosen person could build on the country’s successes in the tech sector and guide future investments.

Finance Minister Steven Joyce had appeared to squash the idea in a Twitter exchange with Drury in 2014, questioning why the sector needed “another taxpayer-funded busybody telling industry how to develop”.

National economic development spokesman Simon Bridges says the country's chief technology officer would lead a new ...
National economic development spokesman Simon Bridges says the country’s chief technology officer would lead a new think-tank.

Bridges did not comment further on what the chief technology officer (CTO) role would entail under a National government.

Labour communications spokeswoman Clare Curran said appointing a CTO…

Tesla’s charging stations are turning into convenience stops, say CTO JB Straubel

Tesla’s Supercharger network is evolving quickly. Not only did Tesla recently launch their new “urban” Superchargers, but they are also working on their new type of larger Supercharger station with 40+ connectors, lounges, and restaurants.

Co-founder and CTO JB Straubel went to the Foodservice Technology Conference Trade Show (FSTEC) this week to discuss this evolution.

What is Tesla’s Chief Technology Officer doing at a food service conference you ask?

FSTEC wrote in the description of Straubel’s session at the conference:

“What can the world’s foremost expert in battery technology and energy storage share with restaurant IT experts? Learn about innovation from the ground floor, challenging mainstream processes, creating advances and solutions based on platforms from seemingly unrelated industries, and how your customers will relate to technology in the not-so-distant future.”

Straubel is often seen at conferences about energy, but this one is a first. It started to make more sense when he talked about Tesla’s Supercharger stations.

“People are coming and spending 20 to 30 minutes at these stops. They want to eat, they want to have a cup of coffee, they want to use the bathroom.”

Tesla tries to build its Supercharger stations around businesses…

Malware Embedded in CCleaner Tool Puts Millions at Risk


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Malicious code has been discovered in two versions of Piniform’s CCleaner housekeeping utility, the company disclosed on Monday. Piniform is owned by Avast, whose security products are used by more than 400 million people.

The malware infecting CCleaner could give hackers control over the devices of more than 2 million users. CCleaner is designed to rid computers and mobile phones of junk, such as unwanted applications and advertising cookies.

Two versions of the program were modified illegally before they were released to the public, Piniform said.

However, the threat has been neutralized, according to Piniform Vice President Paul Yung, who explained that the rogue server the hackers used to control the code is down, and other servers no longer are in the attackers’ control.

All users who downloaded the infected version of the program for Windows, CCleaner v5.33.6162, have received the latest version of the software. Users of CCleaner Cloud version 1.07.3191 have received an automatic update.

“In other words, to the best of our knowledge, we were able to disarm the threat before it was able to do any harm,” Yung said.

Machine Wipe Recommended

Despite those reassurances from Piniform, more drastic action may be necessary, suggested Craig Williams, the senior technical leader at Cisco Talos.

“Because the malware remains present, even after users update the CCleaner software, Talos advises all users to wipe their entire computer — remove and reinstall everything on the machine — and to restore files and data from a pre-August 15, 2017 backup, before the current version was installed,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“It is critical to remove this version of the CCleaner software and associated malware, since it’s structure means it has the ability to hide on the user’s system and call out to check for new malware updates for up to a year,” Williams explained.

Beyond the immediate threat, there may be problems with data loss, noted Morey Haber, vice president of technology at BeyondTrust.

“While the…

Facebook’s war on free will

ll the values that Silicon Valley professes are the values of the 60s. The big tech companies present themselves as platforms for personal liberation. Everyone has the right to speak their mind on social media, to fulfil their intellectual and democratic potential, to express their individuality. Where television had been a passive medium that rendered citizens inert, Facebook is participatory and empowering. It allows users to read widely, think for themselves and form their own opinions.

We can’t entirely dismiss this rhetoric. There are parts of the world, even in the US, where Facebook emboldens citizens and enables them to organise themselves in opposition to power. But we shouldn’t accept Facebook’s self-conception as sincere, either. Facebook is a carefully managed top-down system, not a robust public square. It mimics some of the patterns of conversation, but that’s a surface trait.

In reality, Facebook is a tangle of rules and procedures for sorting information, rules devised by the corporation for the ultimate benefit of the corporation. Facebook is always surveilling users, always auditing them, using them as lab rats in its behavioural experiments. While it creates the impression that it offers choice, in truth Facebook paternalistically nudges users in the direction it deems best for them, which also happens to be the direction that gets them thoroughly addicted. It’s a phoniness that is most obvious in the compressed, historic career of Facebook’s mastermind.

Mark Zuckerberg is a good boy, but he wanted to be bad, or maybe just a little bit naughty. The heroes of his adolescence were the original hackers. These weren’t malevolent data thieves or cyberterrorists. Zuckerberg’s hacker heroes were disrespectful of authority. They were technically virtuosic, infinitely resourceful nerd cowboys, unbound by conventional thinking. In the labs of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) during the 60s and 70s, they broke any rule that interfered with building the stuff of early computing, such marvels as the first video games and word processors. With their free time, they played epic pranks, which happened to draw further attention to their own cleverness – installing a living cow on the roof of a Cambridge dorm; launching a weather balloon, which miraculously emerged from beneath the turf, emblazoned with “MIT”, in the middle of a Harvard-Yale football game.

The hackers’ archenemies were the bureaucrats who ran universities, corporations and governments. Bureaucrats talked about making the world more efficient, just like the hackers. But they were really small-minded paper-pushers who fiercely guarded the information they held, even when that information yearned to be shared. When hackers clearly engineered better ways of doing things – a box that enabled free long-distance calls, an instruction that might improve an operating system – the bureaucrats stood in their way, wagging an unbending finger. The hackers took aesthetic and comic pleasure in outwitting the men in suits.

When Zuckerberg arrived at Harvard in the fall of 2002, the heyday of the hackers had long passed. They were older guys now, the stuff of good tales, some stuck in twilight struggles against The Man. But Zuckerberg wanted to hack, too, and with that old-time indifference to norms. In high school he picked the lock that prevented outsiders from fiddling with AOL’s code and added his own improvements to its instant messaging program. As a college sophomore he hatched a site called Facemash – with the high-minded purpose of determining the hottest kid on campus. Zuckerberg asked users to compare images of two students and then determine the better-looking of the two. The winner of each pairing advanced to the next round of his hormonal tournament. To cobble this site together, Zuckerberg needed photos. He purloined those from the servers of the various Harvard houses. “One thing is certain,” he wrote on a blog as he put the finishing touches on his creation, “and it’s that I’m a jerk for making this site. Oh well.”

His brief experimentation with rebellion ended with his apologising to a Harvard disciplinary panel, as well as to campus women’s groups, and mulling strategies to redeem his soiled reputation. In the years since, he has shown that defiance really wasn’t his natural inclination. His distrust of authority was such that he sought out Don Graham, then the venerable chairman of the Washington Post company, as his mentor. After he started Facebook, he shadowed various giants of corporate America so that he could study their managerial styles up close.

Still, Zuckerberg’s juvenile fascination with hackers never died – or rather, he carried it forward into his new, more mature incarnation. When he finally had a corporate campus of his own, he procured a vanity address for it: One Hacker Way. He designed a plaza with the word “HACK” inlaid into the concrete. In the centre of his office park, he created an open meeting space called Hacker Square. This is, of course, the venue where his employees join for all-night Hackathons. As he told a group of would-be entrepreneurs, “We’ve got this whole ethos that we want to build a hacker culture.”

Plenty of companies have similarly appropriated hacker culture – hackers are the ur-disrupters – but none have gone as far as Facebook. By the time Zuckerberg began extolling the virtues of hacking, he had stripped the name of most of its original meaning and distilled it into a managerial philosophy that contains barely a hint of rebelliousness. Hackers, he told one interviewer, were “just this group of computer scientists who were trying to quickly prototype and see what was possible. That’s what I try to encourage our engineers to do here.” To hack is to be a good worker, a responsible Facebook citizen – a microcosm of the way in which the company has taken the language of radical individualism and deployed it in the service of conformism.

Zuckerberg claimed to have distilled that hacker spirit into a motivational motto: “Move fast and break things.” The truth is that Facebook moved faster than Zuckerberg could ever have imagined. His company was, as we all know, a dorm-room lark, a thing he ginned up in a Red Bull–induced fit of sleeplessness. As his creation grew, it needed to justify its new scale to its investors, to its users, to the world. It needed to grow up fast. Over the span of its short life, the company has caromed from self-description to self-description. It has called itself a tool, a utility and a platform. It has talked about openness and connectedness. And in all these attempts at defining itself, it has managed to clarify its intentions.

Facebook creators Mark Zuckerberg and Chris Hughes at Harvard in May 2004. Photograph: Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty

Though Facebook will occasionally talk about the transparency of governments and corporations, what it really wants to advance is the transparency of individuals – or what it has called, at various moments, “radical transparency” or “ultimate transparency”. The theory holds that the sunshine of sharing our intimate details will disinfect the moral mess of our lives. With the looming threat that our embarrassing information will be broadcast, we’ll behave better. And perhaps the ubiquity of incriminating photos and damning revelations will prod us to become more tolerant of one another’s sins. “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly,” Zuckerberg has said. “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

The point is that Facebook has a strong, paternalistic view on what’s best for you, and it’s trying to transport you there. “To get people to this point where there’s more openness – that’s a big challenge. But I think we’ll do it,” Zuckerberg has said. He has reason to believe that he will achieve that goal. With its size, Facebook has amassed outsized powers. “In a lot of ways Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company,” Zuckerberg has said. “We have this large community of people, and more than other technology companies we’re really setting policies.”

ithout knowing it, Zuckerberg is the heir to a long political tradition. Over the last 200 years, the west has been unable to shake an abiding fantasy, a dream sequence in which we throw out the bum politicians and replace them with engineers – rule by slide rule. The French were the first to entertain this notion in the bloody, world-churning aftermath of their revolution. A coterie of the country’s most influential philosophers (notably, Henri de Saint-Simon and Auguste Comte) were genuinely torn about the course of the country. They hated all the old ancient bastions of parasitic power – the feudal lords, the priests and the warriors – but they also feared the chaos of the mob. To split the difference, they proposed a form of technocracy – engineers and assorted technicians would rule with beneficent disinterestedness. Engineers would strip the old order of its power, while governing in the spirit of science. They would impose rationality and order.

This dream has captivated intellectuals ever since, especially Americans. The great sociologist Thorstein Veblen was obsessed with installing engineers in power and, in 1921, wrote a book making his case. His vision briefly became a reality. In the aftermath of the first world war, American elites were aghast at all the irrational impulses unleashed by that conflict – the xenophobia, the racism, the urge to lynch and riot. And when the realities of economic life had grown so complicated, how could politicians possibly manage them? Americans of all persuasions began yearning for the salvific ascendance of the most famous engineer of his time: Herbert Hoover. In 1920, Franklin D Roosevelt – who would, of course, go on to replace him in 1932 – organised a movement to draft Hoover for the presidency.

The Hoover experiment, in the end, hardly realised the happy fantasies about the Engineer King. A very different version of this dream, however, has come to fruition, in the form of the CEOs of the big tech companies. We’re not ruled by engineers, not yet, but they have become the dominant force in American life – the highest, most influential tier of our elite.

There’s another way to describe this historical progression. Automation has come in waves. During the industrial revolution, machinery replaced manual workers. At first, machines required human operators. Over time, machines came to function with hardly any human intervention. For centuries, engineers automated physical labour; our new engineering elite has automated thought. They have perfected technologies that take over intellectual processes, that render the brain redundant. Or, as the former Google and Yahoo executive

Account-Based Marketing Inspires New Software, Strategies


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InsideView last week released InsideView Target with ABM, a tool for business-to-business companies that have implemented account-based marketing.

It is a fully redesigned version of InsideView Target, with the addition of ABM workflows and other enhancements, including the following capabilities:

  • Suppressing lists to created highly customized campaigns focused on increasing net new customers;
  • Finding contacts from an uploaded list of companies; and
  • Leveraging technologies used, along with compelling business events data, as targeting criteria for a list of specific companies.

“Previously, InsideView IDs were required to build a list of companies you wanted to select contacts for,” said Joe Andrews, VP of product and solution marketing at the company.

Users now can “type in any company name or upload a list of companies to search for people, technologies used, and compelling news or events within the companies uploaded,” he told CRM Buyer.

Users can exclude customers, competitors or people from new lists. They can access saved lists any time to see all the companies and people they’re targeting.

“Companies who want to [succeed] with ABM need to start with the right set of target accounts and people,” Andrews noted. “Otherwise, the best campaign tactics in the world won’t be effective.”

InsideView Target with ABM is integrated with Marketo, Eloqua and Salesforce.

InsideView “is a bit late to the game with this one, as many others offer ABM capabilities,” noted Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.

However, its core strength, “pulling together contextual information on contacts and…

CTO appreciates traffic wardens

CTO appreciates traffic wardens

LAHORE – Chief Traffic Officer SSP Rai Ijaz Ahmad on Friday appreciated the traffic officers and wardens for excellently performing their duties during the cricket series.

In a press statement, the officer said that traffic officers and wardens set an excellent example of love and peace by giving warm welcome to the cricket fan. The wardens also welcomed citizens by distributing flowers and gifts among them.

He also lauded the services of wardens…

YourMechanic Announces New Chief Technology Officer

Russ Muzzolini
Russ Muzzolini

YourMechanic, the leading national mobile car repair network, recently welcomed Russ Muzzolini as Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

“I am passionate about the opportunity to build a business that our mechanics and customers love to use,” said Muzzolini. “This is an exciting time to join the team. YourMechanic is changing the auto repair industry by building a new category in the automotive service market.”

Muzzolini is an experienced leader in software development, agile business scaling, and talent acquisition and retention. As CTO, Muzzolini leads YourMechanic’s engineering team, where he is responsible for daily operations, recruitment, and execution of strategic initiatives to create technology-based solutions that deliver best-in-class service.

Prior to joining YourMechanic, Muzzolini served as CTO at Spire Global, Inc., a satellite-powered data company. Under his leadership Spire designed, manufactured, and launched 30 nano-satellites operating in low-earth orbit. This initiative included creating systems to…

New Checklist Guides B2B Marketing Automation Platform Purchases


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Four Quadrant this week released its Marketing Automation Buyer’s Checklist for companies seeking to purchase a B2B marketing automation platform, or MAP.

The checklist has eight major categories for evaluation and more than 35 subcategories. It lists more than 100 questions buyers should ask to make an informed assessment of MAP vendors’ offerings.

The checklist covers expected business outcomes from MAPs, who and what the MAP should support, the integration capabilities the MAP should have, and what APIs the MAP should offer out of the box.

The checklist also covers the following must-have MAP capabilities:

  • Demand generation and account-based marketing
  • Personalization
  • E-commerce
  • Email
  • Social media
  • UI/UX
  • Reporting
  • Analytics

The MAP checklist lets businesses establish a predictable model that documents the following:

  • Each stage of the parking and sales funnel
  • Lead sources
  • Quantities and values at each state
  • Movement between stages
  • Velocity of movement between stages
  • Contribution of marketing at each stage in the sales cycle

Companies of any size can use the checklist, because they “all have the same problem,” said Peter Buscemi, founder of Four Quadrant.

“The only difference is scale,” he told CRM Buyer. “There is at least one person in any organization performing some or all of these tasks, but usually not efficiently, effectively or in a scalable manner.”

Breaking It Down

The section on who and what the MAP supports has more than 20 questions to ensure…

Liberty CTO Nair: 5G a ‘game changer,’ but not a wireline replacement

AMSTERDAM — Liberty Global CTO Balan Nair said 5G will be a “game-changer” in its superior ability to transfer data, but the technology will not replace fixed-network broadband services anytime soon.

“The economics just aren’t there,” Nair said on a Friday panel full of media and telecom CTOs at the IBC Show. “You’re talking about buying hundreds of towers and all of that spectrum. And on the residential end, putting a device outside the window and wiring it back into the home. It’s a question of business model and if you plan on making any money….

INSIGHTS The Vision Thing


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Salesforce earlier this year introduced its Einstein Vision capability, an idea with a lot of promise but not a great deal of precedent. Who had applications that could see, and how would this be used?

For decades, we’ve been content with scanning documents and analyzing them with optical character recognition tools, or we’ve used bar codes and QR codes — but it all came down to recognizing simple symbols.

Suddenly there was something much closer to human reading that needed explaining. Visual Search, introduced with Einstein Vision, gives customers the ability to photograph things and use them in searches for products and services. Vendors can use it to identify things in processes that didn’t have analogs before.

For instance, with Einstein Vision, marketers can quickly can analyze photos for presence of brand images and understand how brands are perceived and used. With a picture, you don’t have to rely on your gut or your experience, however faulty they might be.

Vision services also can be used in product identification to give service reps a way to evaluate possible service issues before dispatch, so that the right resources can be sent.

Marketplace Diffusion

All of this leverages existing customer technologies, mostly in handheld devices. This is important, because it reduces the time it takes to diffuse the solution throughout the marketplace.

If, for instance, these vision solutions required special cameras or a wired connection, it would take far longer to diffuse the solution through a customer base. Or maybe the solution, however useful it is, might never make it to market.

The Einstein Vision announcement whetted appetites with its ability to recognize photos and logos, and Salesforce anticipated it would be able to provide applications to support visual search, brand detection and product ID in short order — which…