Industry

Tech quiz of the year 2012

Photo by nataliejohnson 2012. So much further forward than 2011, and yet not quite 2013. How will we remember it? In the tech world it had as much legal wrangling, failure and startup rollercoastering as any other recent year. Here is my tech quiz of 2012 to see how much you remember. All these articles have appeared on this site in my Delicious feed. Answers in the next blog post…

Round 1: Failure

A badge of honour among startups, but not quite like that for the rest of the world…

(Q1) In January, one telco was found to be passing users’ mobile numbers to some of its corporate customers. They fixed the issue and issued a statement that explained what happened:

Every time you browse a website (via mobile or desktop), certain technical information about the machine you are using, is passed to website owners. This happens across the internet, and enables website owners to optimise the site you see. When you browse from [REDACTED] mobile, we add the user’s mobile number to this technical information, but only with certain trusted partners. This is standard industry practice. […] In between the 10th of January and 1400 Wednesday 25th of January, in addition to the usual trusted partners, there has been the potential for disclosure of customers’ mobile phone numbers to further website owners.

Who slipped up with “standard industry practice”?

(Q2) This was reported in June, in CNET and elsewhere:

[REDACTED]’s new unified e-mail and its implementation is causing unwanted changes to users’ address books; worse, the changes have gone unnoticed by users and vital communication is being lost. […] It has now been revealed that automatic altering of users’ contacts without notification was, in fact, disturbingly actually built into Apple’s new [iOS6]. [REDACTED] for iOS will change address books without any warning.

Which is the redacted company?

(Q3) In July, Vanity Fair online wrote a piece about a Vanity Fair article in print. Kurt Eichenwald had investigated “Microsoft’s lost decade”:

Eichenwald’s conversations reveal that a management system known as [REDACTED]—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. […] “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer.

What is the name of the management system in question?

Round 2: Startups

What would we talk about without startups…?

(Q4) In June, Bobbie Johnson wrote about his first impressions of a new UK startup:

When [REDACTED] — a new “topical chat” service intended to rival Twitter, started by U.K. politician Louise [BLANK] — launched on Tuesday, I went to take a look. And almost immediately the site, which effectively allows to engage in Twitter-like conversations about pre-determined political topics, had me grinding my teeth.

What’s the site’s name?

(Q5) After Facebook bought Threadsy in August, Sarah Lacy at PandoDaily penned this:

It’s fashionable to bitch about valuations, but it’s [REDACTED]s that are quickly becoming the payday lending schemes of the startup world. […] And as I’ve written before, Facebook is better than most at sucking this talent in and repurposing it to work on necessary parts of the social network monolith. […] And what’s worse: Those [REDACTED]d employees are likely not to stick around, now that they’ve had a soft landing and a win on paper. They’ll spin right back out and do it again. Companies acquire teams because it’s easier than hiring five or twenty-five engineers on the open market.

Which nasty portmanteau word describes the redacted phenomenon (which may sound alarmingly like you’re liquidising your employees)?

(Q6) Startups are so sexy (or should that be “mainstream”?) that there’s even a TV series about them. Here’s Leslie Horn of Gizmodo talking in October about Start-Ups:

If you watch the latest promo for [REDACTED]’s Silicon Valley reality show and think, hey these entrepreneurs failed actors are just stringing together tech buzzwords, it’s because that’s exactly what they’re doing. […] Then there is a toga party. Rock climbing. Shots. Bikinis. A girl named Hermione. A man named Dwight. People writing numbers on dry erase boards. A swimming pool. The word geek is said 14 times. Lots of tears. Algorithm. A sombrero. Twitter. Google. Facebook. Apple. Disruption. This show looks awful, but we’d be lying if we said we weren’t going to watch Start-Ups and all its “fuck you disruption” with glee/horror.

Which TV channel do we applaud for this creation?

Round 3: Twitter

Obligatory Twitter round…

(Q7) This, from the media world in June, as one company’s ad campaign got banned by the Advertising Standards Authority:

[REDACTED] has become the first UK company to have a Twitter campaign banned, after the advertising watchdog decided that its use of the personal accounts of footballers Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere broke rules for not clearly telling the public their tweets were ads.

Which company were Rooney and Wilshere promoting?

(Q8) Also in June, one country came to the world’s attention for giving perhaps too much Twitter freedom to its citizens. The Wall Street Journal reported it like this:

Two days after the [REDACTED] government’s innovative Twitter program gained widespread attention, the experiment took a unexpected turn when the woman currently in charge of the account used it to make comments about Jewish and gay people. [REDACTED] hands over the keys to its Twitter account, @[REDACTED], to a new citizen each week.

Which forward-thinking nation?

(Q9) In July, Deadspin reported this during the London Olympics:

Guy Adams is [REDACTED]’s Los Angeles bureau chief. During the Olympics so far, he has carved out a nice spot on the how-much-NBC’s-coverage-sucks beat. Now his Twitter account has been suspended—supposedly because NBC had it cut off…

Twitter had a commercial arrangement with NBC. Which UK publication was Guy Adams reporting for?

Round 4: Leavers and joiners. And leavers

Career ups, downs, and round-and-rounds…

(Q10) In February, John Browett joined Apple from which UK company? Here’s Tim Cook endorsing his appointment:

I talked to many people and John was the best by far. I think you will be as pleased as I am. His role isn’t to bring [REDACTED] to Apple, [it’s] to bring Apple to an even higher level of customer service and satisfaction.

And yes, he was fired in October.

(Q11) July: Which Google executive took over at Yahoo!? Here’s the news from the Guardian:

[REDACTED], one of Google’s top executives and its first female engineer, will be the next chief executive officer of Yahoo, making her one of the most prominent women in Silicon Valley and in corporate America.

(Q12) This, from PandoDaily in September:

Launches aren’t everything, but [REDACTED] could not have had a worse one. Nguyen articulated a huge vision that swayed some journalists into a wait-and-see attitude but the vision wasn’t reflected anywhere in the actual product. What it put out there was one of a million photosharing sites with a horrible UI.

Which company was it that Bill Nguyen left?

Round 5: Legal

If you want to follow the money, follow the lawyers…

(Q13) In March, Fox News reported that Wikileaks might relocate its servers in a small oil rig “nation” in the North Sea. But Ars Technica reported that this has been tried before, by a company called HavenCo:

HavenCo’s failure—and make no mistake about it, HavenCo did fail—shows how hard it is to get out from under government’s thumb. HavenCo built it, but no one came. For a host of reasons, ranging from its physical vulnerability to the fact that The Man doesn’t care where you store your data if he can get his hands on you, [REDACTED] was never able to offer the kind of immunity from law that digital rebels sought. And, paradoxically, by seeking to avoid government, HavenCo made itself exquisitely vulnerable to one government in particular: [REDACTED]’s. It found that out the hard way in 2003 when [REDACTED] “nationalized” the company.

What is the name of the redacted place?

(Q14) There was lots about Apple vs Samsung of course. In August the Freakonomics site was one of many to pick up on this aspect:

With respect to at least one of Apple’s patents, Samsung has a point. A patent at the heart of the dispute. Design Patent 504,889 — which lists Steve Jobs and Apple design guru Jonathan Ive, among others, as the “inventors” — is a claim for a rectangular electronic device with rounded corners. That’s right, Apple is claiming control over rectangles.

How many lines did Apple use to describe this, er, innovation?

(Q15) Mashable reported this in November:

The [REDACTED] clock in question was originally designed in the 1940s by Hans Hilfiker and is considered a symbol of the company and the country. Initially, [REDACTED] threatened to push for legal action, but within a few weeks, Apple seemed to give into pressure and agreed to license the clock’s design.

To which organisation did Apple pay $21m to use its clock design on the iPad’s iOS6?

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