As the year draws to a close it’s time for the technical fowl to look back on 2011 and tabulate the so-called “greatest hits” of the year in tech, news and hijinx.  I know it’s impossible for me to get every important story from the year in the massive realm of technology and games, but here was a lot of stuff going on that TF covered, from tech policy to security to tablet PC’s.  So here I’ve compiled what in my opinion were the biggest TF stories of 2011 in the form of a top ten:

10. Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is a fun portmanteau that refers to driving a call to action through a community or group for a specific task or goal.  While the idea is catching on in private business, it looks like even the United States Government is giving it a go, especially in defense operations.  This year technical fowl explored two such projects to solve real-world issues – the first by the Department of the Navy for an anti-piracy MMO game, and the second by the Department of Defense for an accurate submarine simulator.  Both projects turned to gamers to get collective intelligence and new ideas about both of these topics successfully.  I was very happy to have been able to take part in the first project called MMOWGLI – the Massively Multiplayer Online Wargame Leveraging the Internet.  It was a cool idea and made me want to keep playing and be involved.  Other crowdsourced projects included the XC2V and a Second Life style simulator for the Army.

Relevant TF Stories:
US DoD Turns to Gamers to Test Submarine Software
US Navy Develops Crowdsourced MMO to Sink Piracy

09. The Redner Group and Duke Nukem Forever

Jim Redner of the Redner Group, a PR firm in the gaming industry, caused a very public stir with some incendiary tweets on behalf of 2K Games and Duke Nukem Forever.  The story showed us how quickly social media can spiral a story out of control.  After it was all said and done, Jim Redner himself was cool enough to take time out of what was I can only imagine an extremely busy day to answer some of my questions and talk about the incident, Duke Nukem Forever, and the future of the Redner Group.

Relevant TF Stories:
The Redner Group, 2K Games, and Duke Nukem Forever – a Q&A  with Jim Redner

08. The HP TouchPad Fire Sale

Using their previous acquisition of Palm, Hewlett-Packard made an attempt to enter the tablet fracas with the WebOS-fueled TouchPad.  After the July launch, HP issued a fire sale a month later to unload unsold inventory (Best Buy said it could only sell 10% of their inventory at regular price).  The TouchPad’s prices were slashed by 60-75%, selling for $99 and $149, generating a ton of interest and almost immediately stocking out.  That interest fueled demand to the point that TouchPads were selling for upwards of $300 on eBay.  For at least a short while, the fire sale made us think about how much tablets are actually worth, and what prices consumers should be willing to pay for one.

Relevant TF Stories:
An Unlikely Party in HP’s TouchPad Mess – Barnes and Noble

07. Spotify

Spotify’s music service went from completely unknown to a big deal in the United States in July.  Previously only operating across the pond in Europe, Spotify was welcomed to the United States with a lawsuit as an introduction to our litigious culture.  Now having joined forces with Facebook, they are now a household name for music lovers and social media users alike, allowing the type of “frictionless sharing” championed by Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook

Relevant TF Stories:
Spotify Welcomed to the U.S. with a Patent Infringement Lawsuit

06. Amazon’s Kindle Fire

Priced right at $199 and timed right to be available during the holiday shopping season, Amazon’s Kindle Fire provided an affordable alternative from a trusted brand for folks that didn’t want to invest $499 on an iPad or even more for an Android based tablet.  Amazon decided to sell the device at a loss in order to secure sales and rely on Prime memberships and media purchases for revenue streams.  As a result Amazon enjoyed a Merry Christmas indeed, reporting sales figures in the millions of units.

Relevant TF Stories:
Amazon’s Tablet Poised to Take a Bite out of iPad Sales?

05. Sony’s PlayStation Network and SOE Hacked

Hacks and a security breach caused Sony’s PlayStation Network to close their doors for 23 days.  The security breach allowed unauthorized access to over 70 million accounts, including sensitive data like phone numbers, addresses, and birthdates.  The hacking group LulzSec claimed responsibility, a precursor to their 50-day summer hackathon targeting among others, Fox, Sony, and the United States Government.

Relevant TF Stories:
Welcome Back? Sony’s Answer to the PSN Fiasco
First PSN, Now SOE: Sony, WTF?

04. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs: 2011 saw the passing of Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple, to the sorrow of many.  As the father of the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Jobs’ influence in computing in general and consumer electronics is still apparent in the American lifestyle and around the globe.  Colleagues, peers, customers and fans, including President Barack Obama, spoke highly of Jobs and his contributions to technology.

Relevant TF Stories:
Remembering Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

03. RSA and SecurID Hacked

The hacking spree that 2011 saw spared no one, not even security firm RSA.  In March they announced a breach related to their SecurID products that would not allow hackers to actually attack SecurID users, but later retracted that statement when the popular two-factor security token was unable to protect customers like Lockheed Martin, L-3 and Northrop Grumman.  The attacks sparked speculation on whether or not they were sponsored by a foreign state, and ended up with RSA offering to replace almost every SecurID token used by their customers.

Relevant TF Stories:
Hacking, Social Engineering and RSA

02. Carrier IQ

With the advent of personal technology exploding with the use of smartphones and other mobile devices, the issue of user security and privacy come to the forefront.  As such, the technology community was appalled when a researcher discovered a mandatory, un-opt-outable service called Carrier IQ on mobile devices that collected certain information on the user’s device for the carriers, including to some extent keylogging.  Senator Al Franken was able to get some information out of Carrier IQ and service providers, but organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation are still reverse-engineering the software to see what exactly it collects.  The main issue with the Carrier IQ story is that even if it doesn’t send as much information as we think to carriers and OEM’s, it still has the power to, and that can be abused.

Relevant TF Stories:
Smartphone Spy – Mobile Carriers Caught Secretly Skimming Android User Info

01. SOPA

Late 2011 saw legislation introduced in the House and Senate (SOPA and Protect IP) aimed at protecting United States interests against online piracy.  As good-intentioned as the bills may be, they began drawing huge criticism (specifically SOPA), not only from congressional opponents, citizens and private business, but technology experts up to and including the founding fathers of the internet.  Hearings were held in the House Judiciary Committee this month to discuss markup and a Manager’s Amendment, but it soon became clear that most of the Committee members discussing it didn’t know an IP address from a hole in the ground.  The bill is highly controversial and may potentially bring sweeping changes to the web and an end to the free and open internet.  It will be back on the table when the House reconvenes in 2012.

Relevant TF Stories:
The House Judiciary Hearing on SOPA was a Messy Show
December SOPA Update: GoDaddy.com

Honorable Mention: Ubisoft/Wii’s We Dare
This story was absolutely unimportant.  It was a frivolous post I wrote because I was amused by Ubisoft’s game We Dare for the Nintendo Wii.  The game focuses on couples doing naughty things with a wiimote to control their Mii’s on-screen to do things.  While I give them all the credit in the world for originality for how to employ a Wiimote to control on-screen activity, it’s still petty ridiculous.  So why on Earth am I giving it an honorable mention?  Two reasons: (1) It was the only thing I’ve ever written that I’ve legitimately been able to tag with “sexy party” and (2) the pure comedy it has given me while running through my traffic and analytics reports every now and then.  As it turns out, every week at least 2-3 people get to my blog by searching for combinations of the following words and phrases: “wii,” “adult,” “party,” “games,” “consensual” and “swinger.”  So the real question becomes, how do I not give this an honorable mention?

Relevant TF Stories:
Wii Party Games for Consenting Adults: Ubisoft and Wii Dare with We Dare

So there you have it, the top 10 stories TF has covered in 2011.  I hope I’ve been able to give you some interesting stuff to read in 2011, and here’s to a whole new year of news, tech and hijinx in 2012.

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About Tushar

Author and creator of Technical Fowl. IT/Tech hero. Jiu Jitsu purple belt. Enjoying the venn diagram intersection of tech, gaming, business, and politics.

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