Let us reminisce now, in these joyous final hours of the waning year, about the Harlem Shake.
Do you remember the Harlem Shake? Sure you do. It was what the kids call a viral video – a series of them, in fact; thousands, a full-blown epidemic.
Like most viral outbreaks, the Harlem Shake started small, but quickly got out of hand. Soon, the Miami Heat were doing it, as were NASA staff, the employees at every tech startup in the world and even the Muslim Brotherhood.
Sun News host Ezra Levant tried to get in on the act, and missed the point completely.
There is no better example of Internet-based ephemera than the Harlem Shake. For about two months in 2013, millions of people were entranced by this nonsense – then the whole phenomenon fell off a cliff, as our collective attention turned to the next digital diversion.
This time last year, we put together the inaugural Internet Ephemera Awards, celebrating the best and worst of 2012’s impermanent digital culture.
This year, we once again recount the people, places and things that made the Internet such a special place in 2013, focusing exclusively on the sort of stuff absolutely nobody will remember this time next year.
PART I – The Year In Fail
Worst Data Visualization
There’s no shortage of amazing visual and data-based journalism on the Internet these days. Reporters and web developers around the world are putting together amazing charts and infographics every day, as they discover new ways to tell stories.
And then, on the other end of the spectrum, there’s this thing.
The CBC’s graphic illustrating a story about drinking ages in Canada is so monumentally unnecessary, it’s kind of beautiful. I mean, just look at that Y-axis, which shows ages in increments of 0.6 years, for some reason. Look at the explanatory note at the bottom, complete with a missing word that makes it sound like something the Incredible Hulk might say (“in Alberta and Manitoba, the drinking age 18.” Drinking age 18!). Surely, there is no better way to express the drinking ages in Canada’s provinces... except maybe with a single line of text, or any other way.
Most ‘Ailarious’ Act of Internet-Based Futility
In May, a guy named Dave started a Twitter account to vote for Martin Brodeur as the cover-star of the upcoming hockey video game NHL 14. He got it wrong in every possible way.
The Inhuman Resources Award for Tech Industry Workplace Insanity (Amateur Division)
Being an intern, it ain’t often fun. Long hours, menial tasks, non-existent job security, constantly getting the evil eye from the one guy that management is desperately trying to force into early retirement – these are all occupational hazards the modern intern is routinely expected to face.
But at LinkedIn, the online networking site you may know from the thousands of unread invite e-mails sitting in your inbox, interns are subjected to yet another burden. It’s called the company all-hands flash mob – “all-hands” being LinkedIn’s term for a company-wide meeting.
Ever since a crop of interns started the “tradition” four years ago, every year the interns are expected to “disrupt” an all-hands meeting with some kind of “performance.”
You may ask: “The quality of these performances, is it on par with a fifth-grade talent show?” Yes, yes it is.
Here’s this year’s show.
Now, to be fair, if the interns are actually having fun doing this, more power to them. Still, nobody gets a pass for changing the opening lyrics of Mackelmore’s Thriftshop to “I’m gonna write some code, only got 12 weeks to make a difference.” Nobody.
The Inhuman Resources Award for Tech Industry Workplace Insanity (Pro Division)
A very strong field this year made it difficult to select a single winner in this category. So we have a tie.
Our first winner is AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, who in August conducted a conference call with about 1,000 AOL employees to talk to them about Patch, the company’s bloated local news network. Mr. Armstrong had previously indicated that he planned to cut down the number of Patch web sites by about a third. As a result, some of his employees must have been been pretty worried about their jobs, so he held the call, presumably to reassure them.