Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Salesforce appoints Bret Taylor as chief product officer | TechCrunch

For some recent Quip news see Documents with Superpowers — Introducing Live Apps for Quip (Quip blog)

"Salesforce has named Bret Taylor, the former chief technology officer at Facebook and founder of Quip, as president and chief product officer.

Taylor first joined Salesforce in 2016, when Salesforce acquired word processing app Quip for $750 million. Now, Taylor is replacing Alex Dayon as the company’s CPO and Dayon is moving into the role of chief strategy officer.

As chief product officer, Taylor will be tasked with leading Salesforce’s product vision, design, development and launches."
Salesforce appoints Bret Taylor as chief product officer | TechCrunch

Uber Paid Hackers to Delete Stolen Data on 57 Million People - Bloomberg

Paying to be taken for a ride

"Hackers stole the personal data of 57 million customers and drivers from Uber Technologies Inc., a massive breach that the company concealed for more than a year. This week, the ride-hailing firm ousted its chief security officer and one of his deputies for their roles in keeping the hack under wraps, which included a $100,000 payment to the attackers.

Compromised data from the October 2016 attack included names, email addresses and phone numbers of 50 million Uber riders around the world, the company told Bloomberg on Tuesday. The personal information of about 7 million drivers was accessed as well, including some 600,000 U.S. driver’s license numbers. No Social Security numbers, credit card information, trip location details or other data were taken, Uber said."
Uber Paid Hackers to Delete Stolen Data on 57 Million People - Bloomberg

Which tech companies beat Facebook, Amazon and Netflix on the markets? - Recode

Not a bad year, so far

"Square’s stock price grew 232 percent since the start of this year, according to data from FactSet, making it one of the best performing major U.S. tech stock this year. Of course, Square is a much smaller company than other FAANG members, so growth is easier.

But Chinese companies Tencent and Alibaba are just as big and more than doubled this year at 121 and 101 percent growth respectively. Video game chipmaker Nvidia rose 101 percent this year while PayPal rose 93 percent. Salesforce inched above the FAANG stocks as well."

Which tech companies beat Facebook, Amazon and Netflix on the markets? - Recode

Google is getting pulled into a fight with Russia over RT and Sputnik - The Washington Post

Looks like RT and Sputnik will have to shift more investment to Twitter

"The Russian telecom regulator said Tuesday that it will retaliate against Google if the search giant lowers the search ranking of the Kremlin-backed news outlets RT and Sputnik, escalating a tense back and forth over Russian news coverage that has entangled American news bureaus abroad and could lead Moscow to enact further censorship rules.

The agency’s remarks come after Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google's parent company, Alphabet, said that the company would de-rank the two Russian media outlets in its search results. Speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum over the weekend, Schmidt said Google is working to curb misleading and exploitative content, as well as material that is likely to have been “weaponized” for nefarious purposes."
Google is getting pulled into a fight with Russia over RT and Sputnik - The Washington Post

Meg Whitman to Step Down as Hewlett Packard Enterprise C.E.O. - The New York Times

So pretty much "mission accomplished..."

"In a brief interview on Tuesday, Ms. Whitman said it had been a “privilege” to lead Hewlett-Packard through the challenges of recent years. The two companies that emerged, she said, are leaner, more innovative and healthy competitors in the modern technology industry. “I’m really proud of that,” Ms. Whitman said.

Her plans, she said, are not yet set. Ms. Whitman said she would take time off and go skiing, and she is the incoming chairwoman of Teach for America. Other than that, Ms. Whitman said, “I don’t know.”

She added: “I’ve been working straight for 35 years. I’m going to enjoy some downtime.”"
Meg Whitman to Step Down as Hewlett Packard Enterprise C.E.O. - The New York Times

Net Neutrality Repeal: What Could Happen and How It Could Affect You - The New York Times

Trusting "the invisible hand" rather than voters in oligopoly (and regional monopoly) markets; also see An Open Letter to the FCC from New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman detailing fraudulent identities used in the FCC's notice and comment process
"Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University who is credited with coining the phrase “net neutrality,” said the repeal plan not only rolls back the Obama-era rules, it goes further. It specifically permits broadband carriers to block media content, Mr. Wu said, an added power which was not the case during the administration of George W. Bush. 
“An allowance of blocking is really pretty shocking.” Mr. Wu said in an email.

Yet if government is in retreat, then consumers are left to trust the behavior of the internet-access companies like Charter and AT&T. In their filings with the F.C.C., the companies have claimed that faith would be well founded. Market incentives, Charter told the F.C.C., push the companies to provide the best service to its customers, catering to consumer demand."
Net Neutrality Repeal: What Could Happen and How It Could Affect You - The New York Times

Twitter, It’s Time to End Your Anything-Goes Paradise - The New York Times

From a timely Twitter reality check

"As I’ve argued before, Twitter has become the small bowel of the American news landscape — the place where the narratives you see on prime-time cable are first digested and readied for wider consumption. It’s no accident that it is President Trump’s social network of choice. And it’s also no accident that foreign powers are attracted to Twitter. According to its recent congressional testimony, Twitter was a primary target of Russian trolls who sought to influence last year’s presidential election; collectively, trolls created millions of election-related tweets, according to the company, some of which were widely cited across the media.

It is precisely because of Twitter’s wider social importance that even nonusers should demand fixes to how it works. Besides the propaganda problem, at the moment — as Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and chief executive, recently acknowledged — Twitter is a hostile place for women, minorities and many others, who are routinely barraged by threats and hate speech."
Twitter, It’s Time to End Your Anything-Goes Paradise - The New York Times

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Apple's Swift language finds its way into Google's secret Fuchsia OS (TNW)

Don't Go there...
"Last week, a curious update to Google’s GitHub repository showed that the company had forked Swift, a programming language created by Apple for building iOS/macOS/tvOS/watchOS apps. We previously heard that the idea was for the company to contribute to the open-source language’s base, as well for Google to use it to create internal tools for iPhones and iPads. But there’s more.

Android Police noted that some of the most recent code commits made to Google’s Swift repository show that the company is working on building support for it in its own Fuchsia OS."
Apple's Swift language finds its way into Google's secret Fuchsia OS

Scoop: Bloomberg expects eight figures for new Twitter network - Axios

All the news that's fit to tweet

"Why it matters: The investment is a part of a major digital push by the company to stay competitive in an era where Google and Facebook have tightened their grip on the digital advertising market.

The details: Bloomberg is hiring around 50 people to staff the new project, which will exist as the first 24-hour social news network on Twitter.

"In this age of the Google/Facebook duopoly, a relentless focus on invention and innovation is the only way to succeed," says Bloomberg Media CEO Justin Smith. "The fruits of disruption don't and shouldn't only belong to the dominant tech (aka "Media") platforms.""
Scoop: Bloomberg expects eight figures for new Twitter network - Axios

The Education of Mark Zuckerberg - The Atlantic

From an extensive Facebook community reality check

"“To keep our society moving forward, we have a generational challenge—to not only create new jobs, but create a renewed sense of purpose,” Zuckerberg said at the Harvard commencement.

We’ll never know what they saw in those 100 million people who were in “meaningful communities.” (We asked Facebook and did not receive a reply.) But we can say that it was powerful enough to pivot the whole company, hybridizing with Zuckerberg’s preexisting ideas about the global community and the database of people.

And now, with the same move fast, know little attitude, they’ve built a road map to give people community, meaning, and purpose. Why these guys? Why this company? Why Mark Zuckerberg?"
The Education of Mark Zuckerberg - The Atlantic

Silicon Valley’s New Religion Is About As Serious As You’d Think - Bloomberg

If a super-intelligent "god" does appear sometime soon, it probably won't appreciate this scam

"I called Edward Zelinsky, a professor at Cardozo Law School and the author of Taxing the Church, to gauge how seriously we should take Levandowski’s new faith. To my surprise, Zelinsky said there was no reason to assume the would-be prophet is just after profit. While Way of the Future will enjoy a handful of tax benefits (no IRS audits, etc.) as a religious not-for-profit, Zelinsky said the modest advantages aren’t worth having to tell friends or jurors that your god is a bot. “If it is a strategy, it isn’t a very good one,” he said.
The designation could be more valuable in the unlikely event that Levandowski is charged criminally for the alleged trade secrets theft. Judges often order people convicted of computer crimes to refrain from using computers as a condition of their probation or parole, but that punishment would be hard to contemplate for the high priest of computer worship. As farfetched as this sounds, it might work, says Daniel Hemel, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. “Sincerely held but wacky beliefs still warrant protection,” Hemel says."
Silicon Valley’s New Religion Is About As Serious As You’d Think - Bloomberg

Amazon launches new cloud storage service for U.S. spy agencies - The Washington Post

Perhaps the new cloud will be idiot developer-proof

"The announcement comes at a time when Amazon’s business and government customers are under intense scrutiny over whether they are storing data securely in the cloud. Amazon’s cloud-based folders – referred to as “buckets” – have been at the center of several high-profile security incidents in recent months, in which customers inadvertently left sensitive information on an Amazon server in an unprotected format.

In late May a cybersecurity researcher found that a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor working at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency had left sensitive government information online in an AWS bucket without password protection. Booz Allen Hamilton said at the time that one of its own employees was at fault for making the information public.

A month later the same researcher found a similar leak at the Republican National Committee had left millions of voters’ personal information freely available online, also in an Amazon cloud bucket. A third incident involving the Defense Department was reported by CNN on Friday."
Amazon launches new cloud storage service for U.S. spy agencies - The Washington Post

F.C.C. Is Said to Plan Repeal of Net Neutrality Rules - The New York Times

Operation Undo Obama continues...

"Ajit Pai, the chairman of the F.C.C., plans to reveal a sweeping proposal to scrap the net neutrality rules on Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the plan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details are not public. The rules, created during the Obama administration, prohibit broadband providers from blocking, slowing down or charging more for the delivery of certain internet content. The proposal will be presented in a December meeting of F.C.C. commissioners and is expected to pass in a 3-to-2 vote along party lines.

A rollback of net neutrality regulations would represent a significant victory for broadband and telecom companies like AT&T and Comcast and would amount to a strike against consumers. When the rules were passed in 2015, they underlined the importance of high-speed internet to the lives of Americans and the need to more strongly regulate the communications service like a utility, as essential as electricity and the telephone."
F.C.C. Is Said to Plan Repeal of Net Neutrality Rules - The New York Times

Monday, November 20, 2017

Germany bans children's 'smart' watches over surveillance concerns | Technology | The Guardian

Also see Germany bans kids’ smartwatches that can be used for eavesdropping (TechCrunch)

"Germany’s telecoms regulator has banned ​the sale of “smart watches” that can be used by parents to check on their children, saying the devices violated Germany’s strict surveillance laws.

The Federal Network Agency said it had already taken action against several firms that sell the watches online but did not name them.

It urged parents to destroy the watches, which are widely available on the German market and target children between the ages of 5 to 12."
Germany bans children's 'smart' watches over surveillance concerns | Technology | The Guardian

The Greatest Computer Network You’ve Never Heard Of - Motherboard

For more details on the Lotus Notes connections, see The History of Notes and Domino (IBM [PDF])

"Some of the most popular pieces of software ever made, including Lotus Notes and Microsoft Flight Simulator, share a direct lineage with the applications produced by students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and other nearby universities more than 40 years ago. Many more, such as Reddit, Twitter, and AOL, carry clear inspiration, whether their creators know it or not. And this platform generated some of the earliest examples of digital culture, including emoticons and interactive storytelling.

Brian Dear, a onetime PLATO user at the University of Delaware, has spent roughly two decades gathering up every scrap of information available about the system for his new book, The Friendly Orange Glow (Pantheon, $40), released this week."
The Greatest Computer Network You’ve Never Heard Of - Motherboard

Pixel Buds review: OK Google, go back to the earbud drawing board | Ars Technica

For another perspective, see Google Pixel Buds review: the future shouldn't be this awkward (The Verge)

""Wait for the second generation" is common practice for any nitpicky nerd, but in the Buds' case, we have to wonder whether we'll have to wait for a third generation pair of earbuds. This one just doesn't feel like it was tested enough in the real world, and playing catch-up to the above complaints may still result in a product that feels first-gen.

In the meantime, it's time to start the betting pool for when Google drops the price on these to something that matches their current value and performance."
Pixel Buds review: OK Google, go back to the earbud drawing board | Ars Technica

As Silicon Valley Gets ‘Crazy,’ Midwest Beckons Tech Investors - The New York Times

Later in the article: "'Silicon Valley is kind of crazy now,' Mr. Kvamme said."

"The rationale for investing in the Midwest combines cost and opportunity. A top-flight software engineer who is paid $100,000 a year in the Midwest might well command $200,000 or more in the Bay Area. The Midwest, the optimists say, also has ample tech talent, with excellent engineers coming out of major state and private universities in the region.

But they also point to technology shifts. As technology transforms nontech industries like health care, agriculture, transportation, finance and manufacturing, the Midwest investors argue that being close to customers will be more important than being close to the wellspring of technology."
As Silicon Valley Gets ‘Crazy,’ Midwest Beckons Tech Investors - The New York Times

Friday, November 17, 2017

Digital media struggles to survive technology's chokehold - Axios

Check the full post for more digital disruption dynamics
"The economic strains of technology on the entire media landscape are intensifying. Weeks after Google and Facebook announced record earnings, some of the biggest players in the digital media industry are still struggling to hit revenue projections, make profit or grow.

Why it matters: Rapid consolidation in every sector, but especially digital, shows how difficult it is for media companies to survive in an attention economy dominated by tech platforms. Tech giants, aided by decades of minimal regulation, have scaled to the point at which they are able to adjust their advertising models and adapt to consumer demands faster than most media companies can keep up with."
Digital media struggles to survive technology's chokehold - Axios

China is perfecting a new method for suppressing dissent on the internet - Vox

The future looks bright ahead

"A new study by Gary King of Harvard University, Jennifer Pan of Stanford University, and Margaret Roberts of the University of California San Diego suggests that China is the leading innovator on this front. Their paper, titled “How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, Not Engaged Argument,” shows how Beijing, with the help of a massive army of government-backed internet commentators, floods the web in China with pro-regime propaganda.

What’s different about China’s approach is the content of the propaganda. The government doesn’t refute critics or defend policies; instead, it overwhelms the population with positive news (what the researchers call “cheerleading” content) in order to eclipse bad news and divert attention away from actual problems."
China is perfecting a new method for suppressing dissent on the internet - Vox

The FCC just repealed a 42-year-old rule blocking broadcast media mergers - The Washington Post

Coincidentally, Comcast Said to Be in Talks to Buy 21st Century Fox Assets (NYT)

"Federal regulators rolled back decades-old rules on Thursday, making it far easier for media outlets to be bought and sold — potentially leading to more newspapers, radio stations and television broadcasters being owned by a handful of companies.

The regulations, eliminated in a 3-to-2 vote by the Federal Communications Commission, were first put in place in the 1970s to ensure that a diversity of voices and opinions could be heard on the air or in print. But now those rules represent a threat to small outlets that are struggling to survive in a vastly different media world, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. With the rise of blogs, websites and podcasts, Pai said, traditional media outlets now face more competition than ever — and rules that once enforced a diversity of viewpoints are no longer needed."
The FCC just repealed a 42-year-old rule blocking broadcast media mergers - The Washington Post

Elon Musk unveils Tesla electric truck – and a surprise new sports car | Technology | The Guardian

Featuring "'thermonuclear explosion-proof glass' in the windshield;" also see Tesla Unveils an Electric Rival to Semi Trucks (NYT)
"Elon Musk unveiled Tesla’s first electric semi-truck on Thursday evening at an event in Los Angeles that also included the surprise reveal of a new Tesla sports car.

The new Roadster, which has the same name as the first electric vehicle produced by Tesla from 2008 to 2012, emerged from the back of one of the trucks at the end of a presentation that focused largely on the economic and performance needs of truck drivers. 
“The point of doing this is just to give a hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars,” Musk said. “Driving a gasoline sports car is going to feel like a steam engine with a side of quiche.”"
Elon Musk unveils Tesla electric truck – and a surprise new sports car | Technology | The Guardian

Who Filters Your News? Why we built gobo.social | … My heart’s in Accra

Check the full post for more Gobo details and The Case for a Taxpayer-Supported Version of Facebook for some broader context-setting (thanks to Dan Gillmor for the reference)
"Why don’t social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter give users powerful tools to filter their own feeds? Right now, the algorithms control what we see, but we can’t control them. As the internet maxim goes, “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold”. Both Twitter and Facebook offer powerful filtering tools that allow advertisers to target exactly who they want their ads to reach. You can pay money and advertise to women of color between 40-60 in Seattle, but you can’t choose to read perspectives from those women. While we’ve seen great innovation from projects like BlockTogether, which lets users who experience harassment share Twitter blocklists, we’ve seen surprisingly little innovation on user-controllable filters from the platforms themselves. And unless we see something like public-service social media platforms, it’s unlikely that we will see platforms give users much more control over what they see.

Algorithmic filters optimize platforms for user retention and engagement, keeping our eyes firmly on the site so that our attention can be sold to advertisers. We thought it was time that we all had a tool that let us filter social media the ways we choose. What if we could choose to challenge ourselves one day, encountering perspectives from outside our normal orbits, and relax another day, filtering for what’s funniest and most viral. So we built Gobo."
Who Filters Your News? Why we built gobo.social | … My heart’s in Accra

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Inside Artificial Intelligence's First Church | WIRED

Worship different

"Levandowski expects that a super-intelligence would do a better job of looking after the planet than humans are doing, and that it would favor individuals who had facilitated its path to power. Although he cautions against taking the analogy too far, Levandowski sees a hint of how a superhuman intelligence might treat humanity in our current relationships with animals. “Do you want to be a pet or livestock?” he asks. “We give pets medical attention, food, grooming, and entertainment. But an animal that’s biting you, attacking you, barking and being annoying? I don’t want to go there.”

Enter Way of the Future. The church’s role is to smooth the inevitable ascension of our machine deity, both technologically and culturally. In its bylaws, WOTF states that it will undertake programs of research, including the study of how machines perceive their environment and exhibit cognitive functions such as learning and problem solving."
Inside Artificial Intelligence's First Church | WIRED

Elon Musk: Inventor's Plans for Outer Space, Cars, Finding Love - Rolling Stone

Excerpt from an extensive profile

""I try to do useful things," he explains. "That's a nice aspiration. And useful means it is of value to the rest of society. Are they useful things that work and make people's lives better, make the future seem better, and actually are better, too? I think we should try to make the future better."

When asked to define "better," Musk elaborates, "It would be better if we mitigated the effects of global warming and had cleaner air in our cities and weren't drilling for vast amounts of coal, oil and gas in parts of the world that are problematic and will run out anyway.

"And if we were a multiplanetary species, that would reduce the possibility of some single event, man-made or natural, taking out civilization as we know it, as it did the dinosaurs. There have been five mass-extinction events in the fossil record. People have no comprehension of these things. Unless you're a cockroach or a mushroom – or a sponge – you're fucked." He laughs sharply. "It's insurance of life as we know it, and it makes the future far more inspiring if we are out there among the stars and you could move to another planet if you wanted to.""
Elon Musk: Inventor's Plans for Outer Space, Cars, Finding Love - Rolling Stone

Do the Koch Brothers want their own media empire? - Recode

If you think there's a remote chance this would be a "purely economic bet," consider this Crooked Conversations podcast: How dangerous is dark money?

"So it’s possible the Kochs are making a purely economic bet here, and they believe a version of the pitch Time Inc.’s management has been making for years: We’re going to use our declining print business to build a new digital business. (Time Inc.’s digital ad revenues passed $500 million last year — a number that Time Inc. execs like to compare to BuzzFeed, which did about half of that in the same time frame.)

On the other hand, there are lots of rich, powerful men in the U.S. But there are only a handful of big, powerful media companies. If you’re trying to get your messages across to a lot of people, even a declining one might seem attractive."
Do the Koch Brothers want their own media empire? - Recode

Bitcoin's Rivals Multiply Amid Battle for Crypto Dominance - Bloomberg

What could possibly go wrong?...

"New iterations of the cryptocurrency are multiplying as disagreements over bitcoin’s design persist and opportunities for making a quick buck prove hard to pass up.

The biggest offshoot, called bitcoin cash, appeared in August after a so-called hard fork in the bitcoin blockchain. That spinoff, currently valued at $18 billion, was followed by a less successful fork to create bitcoin gold in October, and now several other planned splits are in the works.

There’s bitcoin diamond, bitcoin silver, bitcoin unlimited and super bitcoin -- the latest proposal to emerge. The website advertising super bitcoin says the offshoot is backed by Chinese cryptocurrency entrepreneur Li Xiaolai. It promises to “make bitcoin great again” by, among other things, increasing the size of blocks on which transactions are processed -- a move that would reduce confirmation times and fees."
Bitcoin's Rivals Multiply Amid Battle for Crypto Dominance - Bloomberg

Inside Google's Struggle to Filter Lies from Breaking News - Bloomberg

Searching for better information integrity

"They're exploiting a weakness that cuts to the core of Google's main proposition: Delivering trusted information online. That flaw emerged as Google rewired its search engine and giant video platform to prioritize immediate and timely content to become a destination for news.

"The purveyors of misinformation are really using these methods to complicate our systems,” Nayak said.

To combat the problem, Google is revamping the place where most people first see web results with breaking news, carefully curating the carousels that list “Top Stories” and featured posts Google pulls from Twitter in a way it hasn't before. Nayak said the company is working on methods to limit false content around news events, but declined to offer specifics. Google is also overhauling video search, limiting results around news events on YouTube to verified outlets and placing more algorithmic emphasis on these sources more broadly."
Inside Google's Struggle to Filter Lies from Breaking News - Bloomberg