27 December 2009

Two views

Looking back, looking forward

It can be confusing and downright dangerous to have your eyes looking in different directions. We are designed to be almost unidirectional. Our feet and our eyes and arms and ears all face the same way. If someone contorts into a different position we think they belong in the circus.

And yet at this time of the year we review. We look back. We want to know who died in 2009. We want to know what were the best moments on TV or the funniest interviews. We look backwards.

The Melbourne Age reported today the top 10 technology stories of the year. Safeguarding the internet from the scourge of illegal pornography, gambling and criminal activity was top of the national agenda this year as Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy continued to push his proposed mandatory internet filtering scheme.

Considered a misguided policy by many, the debate took a dramatic turn in March when a list of blacklisted websites was published online. The Government forged ahead regardless of the controversy and spent much of the year trialing the filtering scheme.

Zealous policing of the internet was not confined to blacklisted websites, and child abuse charges against Chris Illingworth were finally dropped in September by Queensland Police. Illingworth was charged last year for republishing a MA15+ rated video of a man swinging a baby by its arms, but the case ran out of steam following a review by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

Another Australian who was forced to defend himself in court this year was rewarded with a $445 million windfall from Microsoft when a jury found the company had breached a patent for security software he created in the 1990s. Although Ric Richardson’s victory has since been overturned by a judge, he hopes to appeal.

Microsoft made headlines again in October for ridding the world of its universally unpopular Vista operating system, and replacing it with Windows 7. It also attempted to trump Google in the search engine wars with the release of Bing, but its internet foe fought back with a public preview of the Chrome operating system and a limited beta release of an Outlook email competitor called Wave.

Our love affair with gadgets reached dizzy new heights in 2009 with the release of the iPhone 3G S, rumours of a new tablet PC, and rise of the netbook phenomenon. This was also the year that the iPhone apps market went into overdrive, bringing us delights such as the Zippo lighter app and the CityRail timetable. Our state and federal governments cashed in on the craze after releasing a flood of new data to the public.

Google also made steady progress in its mission to dominate the smartphone sector as a number of handset makers joined the Android movement, and in October the Kindle e-book reader from Amazon finally reached our shores.

There was no shortage of action for music lovers in 2009 with video games such as Rock band and Guitar Hero sealing their place at the top of gaming charts and inspiring a new generation of spin-offs. Music piracy also made headlines with the high profile case against Pirate Bay dismaying BitTorrenters worldwide. The fight against piracy continued on our own doorstep with seven major movie studios and the Seven Network suing internet service provider iiNet for allegedly permitting customers to download movies illegally.

The social networking movement kept us very well informed this year about what our friends and colleagues were up to as Twitter reached a $1bn valuation and became the latest fad for wayward celebrities wanting to chit chat directly with fans.

A new generation of web sensations were also spawned via YouTube creating instant celebrity for the likes of the Chk Chk Boom girl and Susan Boyle, while an entire Greek wedding party became the unwitting subject of a viral email campaign. Other unfortunate social networkers also landed on the wrong side of the privacy debate when they discovered there was a downside to their newfound ability to publish all their thoughts and activities to world when taking sick leave from work.

Not to be left out of the technology race, a New Zealand toddler stumbled upon a new way to acquire excellent toys in May when he won an auction for a $15,600 digger listed on the TradeMe site.

Thanks Melbourne Age.

But what about you. What were your top stories for 2009? New job? Disappointment with mates in the neighbourhood? Your relatives giving you expected presents at Hanukkah? Or none at all?

Then if you really ponder what I'm saying, you cannot only look backwards and continue to go forward. You have to draw a line, look one last time behind you, then make some plans and move into 'forward' drive.

Draw inspiration from the past. Learn lessons from the past. And push on into what is next.

But we'll look at this phenomenon in the next couple blogs, I think.

For now, make a list of what you would like to fix, in your flat or in your life. Consider what disappointments you experienced and which ones you caused in 2009. And let's learn from them all.

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