Welcome, once again, to the Gibbs Golden Turkey Awards.
This is our tenth year of pointing the digit of disdain at 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 sins combined.
Last year we had a bumper crop of nominations and this year is much the same with a diverse and ugly field of those competing for the un-coveted "Золотой индейки" as the Russians would have it (pronounced "Zolotoy indeyki" ... at least according to Google Translate).
Where to start? Here are the nominees in no particular order ...
Blockbuster Packrats: Founded in 1985, Blockbuster became huge boasting 9,000 stores and over 60,000 employees at its peak but management never saw the freight train of the Internet bearing down on them. The chain was sold to Dish Network for $320 million in 2011. Exactly what Dish thought it was doing buying Blockbuster is hard to fathom. The company's last consumer rentals were made in early November this year followed by a fire sale wherein the company bargain-basemented its inventory of physical media.
While Blockbuster and Dish deserve awards, it's the consumers who deserve a reward for packratting all those thrashed DVDs and video tapes into their houses when the likes of iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon can provide whatever you want for a fraction of the price.
Blackberry (AKA Research in Motion): Like Blockbuster and Dish, Research In Motion, which had a share price of over $230 in 2007, completely failed to see the writing on the wall and collapsed like a flan in a cupboard over the last few years to the point where today's price is $6.25 and the company is being acquired by a consortium that will take the company private.
The list of technology mis-steps that lead to RIM's demise were numerous and while there are still fanboys (and girls) the company's main value to investors is its patent portfolio with an estimated value of around $3 billion.
AT&T and Verizon: Perennial favorites, AT&T and Verizon, have been in the running with bad customer service and poor service value since the very beginning of the Gibbs Golden Turkey Awards and this year is no exception. Indeed, the failures of these companies are so well-covered just about everywhere that justification for their nomination is not required.
Facebook and Twitter: Their relentless erosion of privacy and desperate questing for advertising dollars is obnoxious. 'Nuff said.
The US Department of Justice: By ignoring the demand of the World Treaty Organization to de-criminalize Internet gambling the DoJ has put the rights and compensation of US copyright holders in clear jeopardy. Now the Caribbean state of Antigua and Barbuda, which suffered economically due to the US decision and raised a complaint with the WTO, will get to sell $21 million dollars of US copyrighted works annually as they please simply because the USA ignored the judgement. If they price this content at a cent on the dollar it could cost US copyright holders and their agents $2.1 billion!
Common Application, Inc., and Hobsons: The Common Application, the software that students applying for places at 517 colleges and universities and which was developed by Hobsons, became a huge FAIL in August when the latest version was rolled out and immediately crashed then exhibited a whole spectrum of problems making an already stressful process into a nail-biting, slough of despond.
Healthcare.gov: Absolutely no explanation required.
James Clapper, Senator Ron Wyden, and Congress: The first for lying to Congress about NSA surveillance, the second for forcing him to lie, and the last for not doing anything about the lie which should have earned Clapper a serious penalty ("contempt of Congress" is a federal misdemeanor carrying a maximum $100,000 fine and a maximum one-year sentence in federal prison). This shameful political theater remains unpunished. Your tax dollars at work, folks.
And now for the runner-up ...
Steve Jobs, Lucasfilm, Intuit, Pixar, Adobe, Apple, Google and Intel: It's somewhat unfashionable to speak ill of Steve Jobs, one of the most iconic CEOs in the history of the tech industry, but it's got to be done; Jobs was obviously not above illegality as demonstrated by his scheme to drive down Silicon Valley salaries by colluding with other tech firms - specifically Lucasfilm, Intuit, Pixar, Adobe, Apple, Google and Intel. These firms agreed to refrain from "cold calling" each other's employees - in other words, no poaching which meant no up-bidding on salaries to gain talent.
As a result a judge recently approved a $20 million settlement between three of the defendants - Intuit, Lucasfilm, and Pixar - and about 50,000 workers. The judge also declared the other four defendants - Adobe, Apple, Google and Intel, all of which failed to reach a settlement - will remain "jointly and severally liable for all damages caused by the conspiracy, including damages from the settling defendants' conduct." If this case does go to trial it could cost these companies dearly. As a friend of mine pointed out, the lost opportunity cost for interviewees, contractors, and employees who were affected by this collusion is incalculable. "I hope it costs these companies billions," he added.
Finally, we're at the point where this year's outright winner of this, the Tenth Gibbs Golden Turkey Awards, can be announced ... and the winner is ...
All those people who are so outraged by the NSA's over-reaching surveillance: People, get a grip! The NSA was set up to do exactly what they do do. They are a signals intelligence organization and data in gargantuan, detailed, to-be-digested-later chunks is their lifeblood. Come on! We knew (in general) what they were up to five years ago so there's no excuse for your surprise.
Sure, it took Snowden to shine a spotlight on just how broad their surveillance has become but the fact you weren't paying attention doesn't mean anything. The NSA overreached because they were allowed to. Layers upon layers of political decisions were made with no one looking at the big picture mostly because 9/11 "justified" an "aggressive posture" or whatever bureaucratic yuck-speak is appropriate. We created this beast as a key element in our "war on terror" and there's no turning back the clock.
What's needed are sound privacy laws that encompass not just what industry can do with our data but what the government can do with our data. Unfortunately, we apparently don't care that much. Sure, we all moan and wring our hands but where's the million citizen march on Washington to demand change and accountability? Where's the getting rid of the pols who pretend to care about our privacy while playing "the game"?
This, my friends, is a well-deserved Gibbs Golden Turkey Award. To quote Steven Wright: If you're not the solution, you're the precipitate.