It is almost 2014, and products like this exist. Although, if you’re looking for something to be optimistic about, take solace in the fact that hardly anybody actually bought this thing.
The Flojuggler Memorial Award for the Worst Web Site of the Year
The FMA is always a difficult award. The web site after which the award is named (which we refuse to link to on principle) is a pointless, awful thing, but perhaps not as downright evil as last year’s winner – a site called Potential Prostitutes that was really just a shakedown racket that forced women to pay money to have their information removed from the site.
This year, we’re once again moving in an entirely different direction. In picking the 2013 winner, the award committee was swayed purely by one criteria – rampant technical incompetence.
A few months ago, the Affordable Healthcare Act rolled out in the U.S., finally allowing previously uninsurable Americans to have access to decent healthcare. The centrepiece of the rollout was a set of web sites designed to let users quickly and easily sign up for plans.
The problem is, many of them didn’t really work. At all.
Of all the state health exchange web sites, one in particular stood out for its astounding technical incompetence. For months, Oregon’s exchange site was effectively unusable, signing up exactly zero people. And when it finally started working, it presented users with a 1994-era list of hoops to jump through.
Why make the site only accessible via Internet Explorer? Why put a one-hour time limit on a Web-based application? Why did no one catch this before the site went live?
Almost everything about the Oregon site seemed designed by a professional troll. If you tried signing up using any other browser, the site informed you that you needed to use Internet Explorer. But if you tried signing up using an older version of Internet Explorer, the Web site refused, and helpfully suggested you upgrade your browser – to Google Chrome.
It’s a good bet that, in the next year, this mountain of glitches will be fixed, and the Great Health Exchange Rollout Debacle of 2013 will be largely forgotten. But for now, technical incompetence on this grand a scale cannot be ignored. Congratulations, Oregon Health Exchange site!
Part II – The Year in Win
Best Halloween Costume
There is, as far as I can tell, only one good reason to have children, and that is so you can dress them up in a crazy stick figure LED costume and film them stumbling about like tiny glowing drunks.
Best Use of Internet Outrage
In February, Tel Aviv gave us one of the finest examples of the municipal can-do spirit when they let neither the laws of time nor space stand in the way of a good parking ticket. A couple of city employees, presumably dispatched to paint a handicapped parking space over some curbside, didn’t flinch when they saw a car already parked there – they simply painted the lines around the car and, when they were finished, called for a tow truck. After all, the car was parked in a handicapped spot.
Fortunately, the car’s owner refused to let this phantom parking violation stand. She hunted down security camera footage of the act and put it on Facebook, where it quickly went viral. As a result, the municipality was forced to apologize and rescind the parking ticket.
Canadian Technological Achievement of the Year
In a year that saw BlackBerry’s fortunes take yet another turn for the worse, it was often easy to feel pessimistic about the state of technological innovation in Canada. Fortunately for us, people like Cary Walkin exist.
Mr. Walkin, a chartered accountant, decided to build a dungeon-crawler role-playing video game all by himself. Now, this on its own would be a fairly impressive endeavour. But no, Mr. Walkin took things a step further by building this video game entirely within the confines of Microsoft Excel.
Now you may ask: Could Mr. Walkin have spent his time and ample talent doing something more worthwhile than building a video game using only spreadsheet macros? We say no. Keep on fighting the good fight, Cary.