Today is officially the first day of Festivus. Bring down the aluminum pole from the garage and prepare for the final day of the Airing of Grievances. Here I shall name all of the things in the tech world that annoyed me before Doug, Graeme, Jared, Matt and I engage in hand-to-hand combat for the Feats of Strength.
Stodgy Television Networks and Archaic Content Distribution Systems
Conan O’Brien used to have a sketch where he would click through the channels received by the GE Building’s “new satellite dish,” feigning surprise at such absurd offerings as the Cat Accountants Network and the Older Women Watching 60 Minutes Channel. Hilarious, yes, but it also points out a common frustration: There are just too many damn channels out there.
We want to pay only for what we watch, when we want to watch it, on whatever platform we want to watch it on. I’m not saying that all cable providers should stop bundling and offer a la carte pricing (in fact, that would probably be disastrous to everyone involved), just that some of us want other options.
Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu represent a step in the right direction. Still, there are problems. It’s too fragmented, with movies on Netflix, recent shows on Hulu, and live programming and sports scattered throughout the web. There isn’t enough content. And the picture quality is decent, but nowhere near the crystal clear standard for modern cable.
Someone needs to streamline all of this, putting everything we want to watch in one, beautiful HD place with flexible pricing and the option to shift everything to your laptop, tablet or mobile phone. The ball is in your court, Apple TV!
Do you know that there are people who, to this very day, are putting #winning at the end of their tweets? What kind of world do we live in where lame Charlie Sheen jokes can fester forever in the undiscriminating ether of the Internet? I am hereby mandating a two-week limit on jokey hashtags (okay, three weeks if they’re actually funny).
Crackdowns on Internet Freedom
Gravitas break! It’s been inspiring to watch TIME‘s person of the year—the protester—use social media to fight back against brutal dictatorships. Less inspiring are the Internet crackdowns by several repressive regimes that came in the wake of the Arab Spring. From jailed bloggers to Internet blackouts to increased censorship, governments from Cairo to Bangkok spent much of 2011 freaking out about how to silence people who were speaking up on sites such as YouTube and Twitter.
The most famous case was the imprisonment of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Despite the fact that he helped design the famous Bird Nest’s stadium in Beijing, Chinese officials have always been wary of Ai, mostly because he’s been so good at using the Internet to champion his causes.
I actually had to unfollow his Twitter feed because he tweets so often (and in Chinese). When he started asking questions about the deaths of children in collapsed schools during the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, the government finally had enough and threw him in jail. He’s since been released but that doesn’t mean this government—and the governments of all liberal democracies—shouldn’t keep asking questions about how they interact with countries that censor and jail people for expressing themselves online.