Ladies and Gentlemen, Meine Damen und Herren, Mesdames et Messieurs, Señoras y Señores, Κυρίες και Κύριοι (and for you classicists, Nullam et Viri), welcome to the Eighth Gibbs Golden Turkey Awards!
As you, my dedicated readers, know so well, the Gibbs Golden Turkey Awards recognize those individuals, companies or entities that don't, won't, or can't come to grips with reality, maturity, ethical behavior, and or social responsibility because of their blindness, self-imposed ignorance, thinly veiled political agenda, rapaciousness and greed, or their blatant desire to return us to the Dark Ages. Or all of those faults combined.
And so, 2011 ... what a year it's been! I polled friends and colleagues, cast the runes, and examined goat entrails to divine the worst of the worst for this year's award of heaped opprobrium. We'll start with the runners-up ...
* The Federal Communications Commission: The FCC were nominated for two issues with their Net Neutrality Rules that they published in late 2010: First, for making wireless data comms exempt from the same rules as wired service, and, second, for dragging its feet for almost a year before publishing them in the Federal Register (which is how the rules become "official"). The lack of, well, cojones in delaying publishing as well as the lack of cojones in offering up rules that demonstrably satisfied a political agenda is why a TGT (Tiny Golden Turkey) is communicated to the FCC.
* The supporters of J.Res.6: J.Res.6 otherwise known as "A joint resolution disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission with respect to regulating the Internet and broadband industry practices," was an attempt by the Republicans to overturn the FCC's Net Neutrality Rules (should you feel like writing to accuse me of partisanship note that I am not, per se, a Democrat and the vote on J.Res.6 was 50 Democrats and two independents voting against and 46 Republicans voting for). The supporters of J.Res.6 are awarded a TGE (that's a "Tiny Golden Elephant").
* Hewlett Packard: HP gets nominated for its hot and cold running CEOs; for losing $12 billion in market cap when Leo Apotheker, the previous CEO, announced plans for buying Autonomy; for killing off it's WebOS-based hardware at a cost of $3.3 billion; and for having no clear strategy for cloud anything. I'd award them a TGT but they'd probably lose it.
* Netflix: For instituting price and service changes in the least sophisticated way possible and thereby alienating a huge proportion of its customer base, after which it doubled down and made itself look pretty naïve by doing an about face on the proposed Qwikster DVD rental service. Another TGT is hereby awarded to Netflix to be delivered in a bright red envelope. Keep it as long as you like Reed, we'll send you another when you're done with it.
* Research in Motion: RIM did not have a good year with its deepest trough being a service outage in October that lasted for several days. This was on top of the company's ongoing failure to release its "next generation" operating system, QNX, and a slowly declining customer base. Then there was the launch of its Playbook tablet which was generally considered to be disappointing (I would use the term "wretched") and a share price that has fallen by just over 70% this year, making RIM worthy of a shrinking TGT.
* Google: Google's "true names" policy for Google+ was truly naïve. Presumably based on the idea that forcing people to use their "real" names would make Google authoritative when it comes to establishing online identity, the policy completely ignores what users need for social and political reasons, aliases and anonymity, and ignores the fact that it is impossible to determine with significant accuracy what is and is not a real name. Google gets a TGT that we shall call "Anonymous".
* Google (again): When you're as big ... no, as insanely big ... as Google and you have lawyers by the truckload, you really shouldn't be making mistakes like Google's "unintentional" collection of private wireless data which was raised with the FCC by the Electronic Privacy Information Center back in May. Google gets a second TGT that they can collect in a drive-by.
* WiFi Users Not Using Encryption: As stupid as Google was to collect user data, any user not using secured WiFi is an idiot. Yes, I know wireless access points are usually shipped with encryption turned off, but come on, is that really an excuse given how much the topic of wireless security has been discussed? All of you naïve WiFi users get a TGT for everyone to see.
* Nokia: Betting so much on new phones which use Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 and offering no compelling features or advances in the face of the Android and iPhone markets looks like a really, really bad move. Nokia products used to be so exciting, but now with new products that could well be duds and a share price loss of almost 40%, Nokia, a TGT is calling you.
* Microsoft: Microsoft is just annoying as always. While I could point out all sorts of reasons to nominate Microsoft for a Golden Turkey nothing stands out quite as much as the company's Web browser, Internet Explorer, as being simply wrong. Why is IE so wretched? Sure, it's slow and it's not elegant, but it's the way that IE implements, or rather doesn't implement, standards that is so unforgivable. Web content using Cascading Style Sheets and HTML5 which renders perfectly under all of the other major browsers falls apart under IE and, despite endless griping from anyone who cares about cross-browser compatibility, Microsoft continues to go its own way. Microsoft gets a TGT that's misshapen and painted silver.
So, with the runners up having delivered their seemingly endless "I'd like to thank ..." teary-eyed speeches and clutching their Tiny Golden Turkeys, we move on to this year's winner of the Grand Golden Turkey.
I have the envelope here ... and surprise! This year, as last, the award goes to the sponsors of a bill in Congress. Last year the prize went to the "Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act" (COICA), which was to give the government the ability to shut down (or perhaps more accurately, censor) any Web site in the world if it was "dedicated to infringing activities." In other words, sites "suspected of piracy in some way, shape, or form without due process."
Supported and promoted by the usual suspects, including the Motion Picture Association of America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Screen Actors Guild, Viacom, and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, none of which had a clue about or concern over the unintended consequences of such legislation, the COICA bill got killed off thanks to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) just about a year ago after it had been passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Alas, the bill was re-written this year as the "Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011," otherwise called the "PROTECT IP Act", and the House version of the bill, the "Stop Online Piracy Act" or SOPA, is now grinding its way through the law making process.
SOPA has attracted a huge amount of criticism from Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, AOL, Google, and the Brookings Institute. The Business Software Alliance, which includes Microsoft, Intel, Adobe and Apple, had initially been in favor of the bill but withdrew its support Nov. 22 citing the potential for unintended consequences.
The biggest complaint about the whole nonsense is that the members of Congress supporting the bill have no real idea what the bill is about or what its consequences might be. Wikipedia notes:
CNET reported: "The techno-ignorance of Congress was on full display. Member after member admitted that they really didn't have any idea what impact SOPA's regulatory provisions would have on the DNS, online security, or much of anything else," said Adam Thierer, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center. "One by one, each witness — including a lobbyist for the Motion Picture Association of America — said "they weren't qualified to discuss...DNSSEC."
Even so, the bill could come up for a vote when Congress returns after its Thanksgiving break, and Sen. Wyden has committed to filibuster the bill if it comes to the floor.
In a rather nice PR stunt, instead of reading the phone book or the dictionary as others have done to run out the time, Sen. Wyden will read from a list of names of people who signed a petition against SOPA! (I figure that at one name per second and with 50,000 having already signed, it will take Wyden about 14 hours to run out of names; that should do the job nicely.)
To sign the petition and automatically send a letter to your own lawmakers asking them to oppose Internet censorship, go to the Stop Censorship web site.
Let us hope that next year there's not another version of this ridiculous, ill-considered, and dangerous legislation to consider for an award.
Gibbs is on the red carpet in Ventura, Calif. Your awards to email@example.com.
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