2006: The elephant in the hard drive
Before we take the file folder labeled "2006" off our desktop and bury it deep within a server archive, or perhaps let one of the new businesses of the year -- ReputationDefender.com -- wipe it from the online history books altogether -- let's review some of the top things Digital Slobs learned about the world around us each month:
January: We learned that MySpace is the Studio 54 of online social networking, minus the doorman who kept the ugly people out. You can bump into anyone, from Jon Lovitz to 14,567,311 girls who look just like Jessica Simpson.
February: We learned that the Oxford Dictionary named "podcast" the word of the year, joining a long line of fashionable, buzz-worthy terms -- not quite as white-hot as "zoot suit" in 1942 or "The Pill" in 1957, but let's just say if you've got all three in 2006, you were probably the life of the party.
March: We learned through a SonicWALL survey that 10 percent of telecommuters work in the nude and less than half take showers every day, meaning that if all remote and mobile workers suddenly materialized into their downtown offices, they would make Casual Friday look like a regency ball from a Jane Austen novel.
April: We learned that one state was toying with the idea of throwing cold water on cold beer sales in an effort to delay gratification en route to the fridge. Tempratech.com fought back with the I. C. Can, a prototype beer can capable of cooling a brew 30 degrees in three minutes -- more than fast enough to get the job done at the Quik Mart, especially if there's someone ahead of you in line paying with exact change (isn't there always?).
May: We learned, through a daylong test-drive, that enjoying the video content of smartphones and iPods while walking around on city streets has its limits. Conclusion: Enjoying portable media requires users to be in a passive transport system (bus, train), an office with a gullible boss or ("Playing Tetris is part of my sales training!") or, optimally, inside any federal building (I broke every video-game record I had standing in line at the post office).
June: We learned about Second Life, an addictive, subscription-based, hyper-real 3D virtual-reality habitat for users to meet and greet via avatars on the Internet. Being in Second Life is like playing FlightSimulator, and then deplaning in Vegas to visit a cathouse. It's like getting advice on what laptop to buy from a dragon wearing a tuxedo on the steps of a cloud city. Well, not so much "like" that last thing -- it "is" that last thing -- Eric the FireBreather persuaded me to get a MacBook.
July: We learned about "Web 2.0," the latest term designed to persuade venture capitalists to sign on the dotted-line, just like "e-solutions," "e-commerce" and "e-open bar." The old "Web 1.0" business model was about all of us using Web sites to buy or sell stuff, from our original Barbies on eBay to our common sense to spammers from Nigeria. Web 2.0, however, is about selling us, and everything we do on the Internet, to corporate interests. The Web was "appointments and transactions" -- now it's "hanging out and hooking up." Web 1.0 was a flea market -- Web 2.0 is a meat market.
August: We learned that, despite the trends, TV still has one advantage over online content: It's easy. "According to Jim" may not be Shakespeare, but at least it's on a network that doesn't have compatibility issues with Firefox.
September: We learned of the Snore Stopper, a wristwatch-looking device that straps to your arm at bedtime, detects your REM-induced snorts and sends a "mild, harmless electric signal" (known less euphemistically as a shock) through your body, causing you to turn over and, theoretically, stop snoring -- or at least have vivid recurring nightmares about being on death row.
October: We learned of a new social phenomenon: Digital Slobs carsitting in Wal-Mart parking lots watching video iPods while their significant others shop the night away. Whatever damage iTunes does to the giant retailer's CD and DVD sales, it more than makes up for by eliminating our temper tantrums in Garden & Patio because we're missing "Battlestar Gallactica."
November: We learned that services like wirecracker.com and celltradeusa.com can quietly make that cellphone contract ball and chain of yours just go away, no questions asked. In general, if you're impatient about upgrading to a new model, be ye Digital Slob or Donald Trump, you have to accept that early termination fees are going to be part of the art of the deal. But these services pass the legit test, even if they sound like the kind of businesses Tony Soprano might hide in a file cabinet to diversify his portfolio.
December: We discovered that I had been named Time magazine's Person of the Year (along with everyone else who created or consumed user-created content on the Internet). Still, I'm pretty sure I'm the first one to add it to my list of "honors and awards" on my resume at monster.com, so I call dibs.
Happy New Year from your friendly neighborhood Digital Slob.