Friday, January 1, 2010

Top Stuff of 2009 by YOU!

The end of the year is always a time for magazine editors and writers to capstone their expertise by making ubiquitous "best of" lists. Rolling Stone's top songs of the 2000's is particularly disturbing, naming Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" as the #1 song of the decade (Sorry in advance if you like that song, but the best? Really?). Pitchfork's top 100 is far more nuanced and has a neat interface for their diverse and extensive lists, letting users listen to the full tracks they name as the best of 2009. Paste Magazine released a decent compilation of the best Documentaries of the decade. New York Times Magazine has a feature of notable people who died in 2009 which doesn't even mention Michael Jackson, choosing to focus on more subtle characters like columnists and Chimpanzees. even has a list of lists!

Sure, these pages have value. I was introduced to some good tunes embedded on Pitchfork's 100 best tracks of 2009. But under the surface, single-authored "best of" lists are really just the culmination of individual preferences filtered into arbitrary categories; lists of who had the strongest marketing campaigns or the most exposure. They aren't indicators of the best, or the most thoughtful, they are lists of who pushed the right buttons for the right people in power to decide that they are the best of '09 or of the decade.

So, as I did exactly one year ago on the very first post of this blog, I bring you the best of 2009 by YOU (or at least some of you...) which lie completely outside the boundaries of genres, mediums, styles, editors' picks or the profit motive. The most popular Web artifacts voted up by the nerds to submitted them. Here are the best Internet phenomena of the last 365 days crowdsourced by thousands of disparate users with the wonderfully organized chaos that is the Internet:

10. This is why I love Digg
Taking The Onion's fake, keyboardless Apple computer at the last minute, this is a brilliant example of peer produced, amateurized, remixed, Web folk art. At least EMI didn't sue them for it...yet...

9. Girlfriend's angry emails to her vacationing boyfriend
Who knows if this is true, but it's interesting that the social Web, widely regarded as a cesspool of angsty futility, can actually be used to criticize angsty futility. Also, a great example of telling a story and distributing with networked tools.

8. Mythbusters vaporize a car with a rocket sled doing 650 mph
Replaced here. Nothing to say other than Mythbusters always makes science REALLY COOL.

7. AT&T blocks 4chan!
4chan may be the dingiest, dirtiest, sketchiest back alley of the Internet, but the beauty of the thing is that it can exist at all. We should all be amazed at the /b/ community's ability to organize, and the larger Web community's aversion to threats to Net neutrality.

6. The Pirate Bay Trial The Official Verdict Guilty
Founders of the popular, Swedish bittorrent site, The Pirate Bay, was found guilty in February of illegally distributing copyrighted content via the Web. They each face up to 1 year in jail and tons of money in fines. Now, walk into any undergraduate classroom in the modern world and ask the students to raise their hands if they have ever downloaded a music track or movie for free even once in their lives. You will observe every hand raise into the air. In a liberal democratic society like America's, where the government is neutral to what is Right and Just and these boundaries are set by the culture of its citizens, why are we jailing people for things that everyone does? As Digg user tinsanta writs, "Wont change a thing, cut 4 heads off 8 more will grow." Rather than making up for its losses with futile law suits, the music industry should start to re-boost its mojo first and foremost by signing legitimate artists rather than sexy hacks, and become trusted hubs for new media rather than slimy used car salesmen.

5. WeDidn't Start the Flame War Music Video
Taking crowdsourcing to a whole new meta-level. If I could pick one video to define the last decade of the Internet, it might be this one. What video will define the next decade?

4. The Story of Prisoner F95488
An extremely well-written story of a modern-day "To Kill A Mockingbird" trial that shows that race is still very much a problem in this country. Here's the saddest part:
"Eric never blamed corruption, never called anyone a racist, never called the girl a liar. He continued to uphold American values. And he maintained faith that our justice system would see him through."
This heartbreaking sentence is followed by,
"Frimpong put that faith in an all-white jury of nine women and three men."
Where is the justice that this Ghana immigrant came to America searching for as his identity was recklessly reduced to a number? The comment section, on the other hand, is a whole different story. I'm not even sure what to say about that...

3. Digg this if you're sick of power users stealing stories
Here's a leftover from 2008, but it's still a good example of the users' ability to voice their opinion about modern companies or organizations. Digg takes its transparency seriously but this power user thing is difficult to thwart. The site did add a comment filter and voting system, which is great. I'm just wondering when we will be able to filter them by geospatial data??

2. Michael Jackson Dies
You know how you always remember where you were when crazy things happen? Well I'll always remember hearing about the death of MJ on Twitter. That the world's most famous pop star's death was so closely linked to Internet traffic isn't a surprise, but this particular spike in traffic was exciting to be a part of if not for such a sad reason.

1. Barack Obama Officialy Becomes 44th American President
A leftover from 2008, but it's still true and it's still awesome. Overall, 2009 was a pretty awful year, but by keeping this one on the list as #1 it shows that Web nerds still have faith that he can make it better.

Have a happy new year, everyone!!

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