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.
According to Klout, I am influential in the topic of “Hurricanes,” which is funny because I don’t remember getting my degree in meteorology or ever experiencing a hurricane in my life. I assumed it was because I tweeted once about Hurricane Irene when it gently breezed through New York City , but I wasn’t sure because Klout doesn’t tell anyone how it gets its scores.
Another thing I’m influential in? KFC! If you ever see a man eating a bucket of Extra Crispy Chicken in the middle of a raging hurricane, you’ll know to come over and say hello. Seriously though, one tweet about a story I did on KFC giving away a Twitter scholarship and now I’m the authority on the Colonel and his chicken empire (that would actually be TIME food guru Josh Ozersky, who is currently writing a biography of Colonel Sanders).
Thanks to a few retweets, my Klout score has risen to 43.62, which is what…good? I don’t know because Klout doesn’t give you context, meaning I have no idea whether everyone and their mother has a score above 40 or if I’m, like, the homecoming king of the Internet.
None of this would matter if some people weren’t buying into the hype, but like insecure 7th graders at a slumber party, members of the media line up to praise and be judged by Klout. Maybe they want badges, like the “Klout Addict” badge I received after signing on to the site a grand total of three times.
Judging a person’s influence on the web isn’t a bad idea. Maybe if Klout would explain why I’m ranked the way I am and why it matters, I would actually buy into the hype.
What’s the deal with this stuff?
Groupon and Other Deals Sites
For consumers, Groupon is great. You get to save money on Italian food and teeth whitening and Krav Maga and whatever else the kids are into these days. For restaurants and other businesses, Groupon isn’t so great. Perhaps I’m biased because I have several friends in the restaurant industry, but when the most common reaction to doing business with you is “Never again!”, perhaps your business model is flawed.
The problem is that Joe Groupon isn’t looking to become a restaurant’s new loyal customer. He’s looking to save money on a particular deal before moving onto the next one. And so the deal-hungry swarm sweeps across cities looking for free appetizers, leaving restaurants with no more customers than they had before and Groupon walking out the back door with a hefty cut of each sale.
Let’s hope Groupon figures out a way to satisfy merchants as much as it does consumers before businesses stop playing ball.
Five Time-Wasters I’m Grateful For This Year
Bad Lip Reading: I can’t explain why it’s so funny to watch Rick Perry says things like “Hot yellow Kool-Aid and save a pretzel for the gas jets!” It just is. Sure, footage of politicians muttering non-sensical gibberish to swelling patriotic music is hardly rare, but this takes it to a whole new level.
Star Trek: Voyager: I have to admit, when I was a kid, I never watched Voyager even though I loved The Next Generation. Now that Netflix is streaming it, however, I can see what I was missing. The stern but fair Captain Kathryn Janeway! The lovable Talaxian gourmet Neelix! The cranky hologram doctor with a heart of gold! I hope they never make it out of the Delta Quadrant.
Tom Haverfoods: Thanks to Aziz Ansari’s character Tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation, I now call every chicken parm I eat a chicky-chicky parm-parm. This website just makes the Haverfordization of different foods even easier.
Videos of Animals and Babies Confused By Touchscreens: I will never not laugh at this. A lizard’s futile attempts to slap virtual ants with its tongue, a cat eagerly pouncing on non-existent mice, a baby trying to turn a print magazine’s pages like an iPad—all comedy gold. Dear people with pets and children, never stop cruelly tricking them with your advanced technology, thank you.
Facebook Timeline: While I still used Facebook to share links and communicate with friends, its days as a time-sucking source of voyeurism seemed over. Then came Timeline. Now I can see every embarrassing status update and party photo my friends have ever put up, making mindlessly perusing people’s profiles fun again. Thanks Facebook!