It's that time of year again. Time to look back and offer my 2009 awards for the most malicious, obnoxious, offensive, or nonsensical behavior in technology. The 10 winners this year include some of the best known companies on the planet, as well as some obscure but worthy candidates.
This year's Moonie awards come with a special commemorative statuette depicting Steve Ballmer and Carol Bartz making the search engine with two backs.
Without further ado, here are the 2009 winners. I can't imagine a more deserving bunch.
1. War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength award:
Goes to Jeff Bezos and the crew at Amazon, after they reached out and deleted copies of "1984" and "Animal Farm" from customers' Kindles. Apparently, they also deleted the entry for "irony" from the Kindle's built-in dictionary.
2. The "I'm not a laywer, I just play one on TV" award:
Goes to Charles Nesson, a Harvard Law professor who advised his client, admitted file swapper Joel Tenenbaum, to admit he swapped files on the stand - whereupon the judge declared him guilty, ultimately costing Joel $675,000 in damages. We really liked the bit where Nesson crumbled up styrofoam to show how MP3 files get broken into bits and distributed across the Net. We hear he'd have used paper and scissors, only he's not allowed to handle sharp instruments.
3. Surest sign the apocalypse is upon us (No. 27 in a series) award:
Goes to Hollywood production companies Revielle and Brillstein Entertainment, which came up with an idea for a reality TV series based on Twitter. Because this is apparently what reality TV really needs: updates about people's cats.
4. Best use of vomit as a promotional tool award:
Goes to Microsoft, for its ever so charming TV ad for Internet Explorer 8's InPrivate browsing feature, in which a woman accidentally sees what sites her husband has been visiting and immediately begins projectile vomiting all over the kitchen. Interestingly, that's also how most Microsoft products make me feel.
5. Epic failures in punctuation award:
Is a tie between the country of Sweden and Google. Back in October, Sweden's 9 million residents were booted off the Net when a piece of DNS-updating software left out a period before the country's domain name (.se), causing all sites using that domain to go dark for about 90 minutes. Similarly, for about 40 minutes last January 31, anyone clicking on any Google search result got a "Warning! This site might harm your computer" message. The culprit? Some employee updating Google's StopBadware database accidentally added the URL "/" to the list of dangerous sites, which in IP-speak means "all sites." In other words, a single slash can bring the Net to its knees. See, your English teacher always told you punctuation was important.
6. Worst excuse given for surfing porn award:
Goes to Richard Cole and Timothy Cheney, the Northwest Airlines pilots who missed their intended landing strip by 150 miles after being "distracted" by an impromptu "online tutoring session" about the airline's new scheduling system. Yeah, that's what I call it too.
7. "We'll accept your money but none of the blame" award:
Goes to the Rocky Mountain Bank of Wyoming, which sued Google to obtain the name of one of its Gmail users after the bank accidentally emailed that person confidential financial info for 1,325 of its customers. The bank also tried to keep those 1,325 customers (and the rest of the world) from finding out about the data leak by asking the court to seal the case records. Because that's how you want your bank to act: blame the person who received the information, not the idiot bank employee who sent it to him, and then try to cover it up. We gave them bailout money for this?
8. The "not now honey, I've got a bad case of the vapors" award:
Goes to TechCrunch's Michael Arrington, whose CrunchPad got taken away from him by the people who actually built it, later emerging as the stupidly named "JooJoo." Seems fitting enough, after years of tooting his horn about "scoops" that turned out not to be true, Arrington spent 18 months flogging a device that turned out not to be his.
9. Can't take a joke (or a choke) award:
Goes to AT&T, which got its knickers in a knot over some snarky Verizon ads, then reacted with an equal lack of levity after Fake Steve Jobs satirically suggested overloading the telecom's data networks via "operation chokehold." Next thing you know, they'll be retroactively suing Lily Tomlin and "Laugh-In" for those Ernestine the Operator sketches.
10. The "Danger, danger Will Robinson" award:
Goes, naturally, to Microsoft and Danger, after a massive outage of their backend data servers left T-Mobile Sidekick owners without their data, or an explanation, for more than a week. It's nice to know in a world that constantly changes, Microsoft continues to be one of the tech community's greatest asshats.