Golden Gobblers 2011: The Biggest Birdbrains in Tech

Thanksgiving Day is over, and in Cringeville that generally means two things: a) eating until I pass into a tryptophan-induced coma, and b) handing out my annual Golden Gobbler awards for the biggest turkeys in tech.

The Gobblers are given to individuals who've done the most over the preceding 11 months to resemble these flighty creatures. Last year's winners included Mark Zuckerberg, Eric Schmidt, Gawker publisher Nick Denton, and the National Pork Board. This year we have an equally worthy flock of T-birds ready to get stuffed. Here they are.

Tim Armstrong. So you decided it was a good idea to let Michael Arrington run an investment fund while continuing to oversee an alleged journalism site covering investment funds -- but declared it an ethical conflict for any other journalist collecting an AOL paycheck. That made a ton of sense. Then you got overruled by your own employee, freshly crowned AOL news queen Arianna Huffington. A steady exodus of TechCrunchers followed, not that anyone's likely to notice. What are the rules now?

Hey Tim: For a while there, we managed to forget how truly ridiculous AOL is. Thanks for the reminder.

Julian Assange. Like a flower that wilts outside the spotlight, Mr. WikiLeaks couldn't stand to not be the center of attention for more than five minutes.

Julian Assange
So last August, the Albino Aussie released all 250,000 U.S. State Department cables in unredacted form, endangering the lives of countless confidential sources. It remains the biggest leak in U.S. history, but it's microscopic compared to Assange's ego.

Is it time for your memoir yet? May we suggest a title: "All About Me, As Told to Me, With a Foreword by Me."

Anthony Weiner. For reasons that defy understanding, the former representative from the great state of New York thought it perfectly reasonable to send shots of his all-beef Hebrew National to various women via Twitter last May, thus giving new meaning to the term "Congressional member."

Alexandra Wallace. In March, the former UCLA undergrad decided to express her true feelings about how Asian students act in the school library. Unfortunately, she did it on YouTube. It went viral almost immediately and became an online firestorm. A few days later, she apologized for the racist rant and announced she was leaving the university after receiving death threats.

The trouble with venting on YouTube? Thirty minutes later, you're hungry to rant about something else.

Harold Camping. Despite the Family Radio evangelist's best efforts, the rapture did not occur on May 21, and the saved did not ascend into heaven sans all their earthly accoutrement. God also target="_blank">missed His (Her?) revised deadline of October 21. But Camping's Armageddon meme spread across the Net, resulting in dozens of "rapture bomb" photos and scores of snarky Twitter confessions. At least it wasn't all for naught.

Do they serve turkey in heaven? Eventually we may get to find out -- just not all at once.

Anonymous. It was fun for a while, watching you bedevil worthy targets like HB Gary and Sony. Then you went and trashed the myBART.org site, spilling the personal info of a lot of perfectly innocent folks. Now the endless parade of alleged evildoers is getting old. Who are you going to direct your anger at next -- that kid who stole your lunch money and pushed you into a puddle in fifth grade?

Anonymous protesters
Also: Retire the Guy Fawkes masks, please. They're really tired. How about Smiley Faces? Or maybe Jack from Jack in the Box? The Taco Bell chihuahua?

Linton Johnson. The former spokeshuman for Bay Area Rapid Transit apparently came up with the not-so-brilliant idea of thwarting a planned protest over a passenger's shooting by cutting off cell coverage inside BART stations. That was like trying to put out a brushfire with a gallon of gasoline. He compounded the damage by trying to recruit "loyal riders" to appear at news conferences about the protests and read material he'd scripted. That worked about as well as the cellphone scheme. After Anonymous released photos of Johnson exposing himself at a San Francisco nightclub, he was reassigned to a "new role" at BART.

Good idea. Somebody needs to clean those toilets.

Steve Ballmer
Steve Ballmer. The world's loudest CEO was MIA for most of 2011, but he resurfaced at the Web 2.0 conference in October to make dubious pronouncements about Microsoft's success, pooh-pooh social networks, and trash-talk Google phones. Also, it turns out he does a mean Charlie Sheen: Winning, winning, winning, winning, winning.

Steve, where ya been, baby? We missed ya. Welcome back.

My blogging brethren. This award goes to those who devoted the most ink -- sorry, pixels to a fictional product in the history of the InterWebs. I am talking of course about the as-yet-mythical iPhone 5, which was not announced last October by Apple, despite confident predictions from dozens of HTML-stained wretches. This award is split equally among TechCrunch, Mashable, Boy Genius Report, VentureBeat, ReadWriteWeb, and the many many others who got swept up in iHysteria and had nothing but page views to show for it.

This is what happens when you spend all day every day gobbling up Apple rumors.

Tarandeep Gill. Last July, a "Vancouver based Psychometric Consulting company" calling itself AptiQuant released a study in which it revealed that users of Internet Explorer were dumber than fence posts. That juicy bit of statistical eye candy was snapped up by the BBC, CNN, NPR, and yes, yours truly (though in my defense, I never put all that much stock in the data, I just thought it was funny). Well, it was a hoax, perpetrated by Gill to earn some cheap publicity for his shopping comparison website.

Move on over Tarandeep, I'm sitting next to you. Only instead of turkey this year we're serving crow. Now pass the giblets.

Did I miss anyone? Who's the biggest turkey in your book? Nominate your gobblers below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Golden Gobblers 2011: The biggest birdbrains in tech," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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