Presenting the Just Well Mixed Best of 2011

Best of NERDIt’s the end of another year, and that means it’s time for a look back at the year’s best posts here at Just Well Mixed.

2011 actually turned out to be the best year this blog has had for a while, content-wise. (If I do say so myself.) And that resulted in a lot of new readers coming in from new places like Reddit and Hacker News. If you’re one of those folks, thanks for coming by! (And hopefully I can come up with enough interesting things to say in 2012 to convince you to stick around.)

Without further ado, here’s my Best of 2011 picks:

  • The Bankruptcy of Optics (January 26): On political leaders who obsess over appearances rather than substance.  “This is the first challenge we as a nation will have to overcome if we hope to hold on to our greatness: to choose leaders who understand that the only true way to change how something looks is to change how it actually is.  And who have the courage to do the heavy lifting required to change things in the real world, rather than just change how those things look.”
  • When the Revolution Comes (February 4): On the uprising in Egypt, where I spent several years growing up. “It’s a bit disorienting to see a revolution you were being prepared to survive when you were 10 years old come roaring to life when you’re 35.  Even if you’re 5,000 miles away when it happens.”
  • Going All In, or Emerson in Tahrir Square (February 8): On the high stakes revolutionaries play for. ” If you wish to strike at a dictatorship, you must understand that the only blow you will have the luxury of striking unopposed will be your first.  Should that miss its mark, you will urgently need to have an answer to a simple question: what do we do now?”
  • The Coward’s Last Stand (February 22): On the spread of the Arab Spring into Libya. “Count me surprised that when the revolution finally came it saw Mubarak slinking away quietly to a retirement villa, and Gaddafi turning to bombs and bullets in a last desperate attempt to hold on to power.”
  • Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” Or Dear Internet, You Should Be Ashamed Of Yourself (March 16): On the disturbing viciousness of modern online culture. “Many of the people who are piling on this poor kid aren’t anonymous, random commenters; they’re paid employees of major news publications. Look at those links back at the top of the post. TIME magazine, for Pete’s sake!  Rolling Stone!  Rolling Stone used to be where Hunter S. Thompson would unload on Richard Nixon; now they reserve their scorn for more deserving targets, like thirteen-year-old girls. When did we reach the point where it became acceptable for professional culture commentators to beat up on children?”
  • Amazon’s Cloud Player Is Cool. But Is It Legal? (March 29): On how Amazon can do something that got a smaller company sued into oblivion ten years before. “Is Amazon just hoping that the world has changed enough in eleven years that an idea that crossed the line in 2000 won’t cross the line in 2011?”
  • Jim Moran’s a Moran When It Comes to Smithsonian Ethnic Museums (April 21): On how my Congressman is an idiot. “At this point every ethnic group in America should know that at some point Jim Moran is going to say something stupid about them. It’s part of the American Experience. So trying to read Jim Moran’s mind isn’t a particularly fruitful line of thought.  What might be fruitful, however, is to look at actual data to see if his fears are grounded in reality, no matter where they come from.”
  • Ubuntu 11.04: Everything Old Is New Again (April 29): On how Ubuntu is reinventing the wheel. “My beef with [Unity’s interface concepts] isn’t that they’re bad ideas.  My beef with them is that they’re bad implementations.”
  • The HP TouchPad, Or HP Shows How To Ruin A Good Thing (July 11): On HP’s epic failure to make anything compelling out of their purchase of the ahead-of-its-time webOS mobile operating system. “webOS is beginning to feel like a classic geek tragedy; a brilliant product, doomed to obscurity by poor management, first at a cash-strapped underdog and then at a global behemoth.”
  • The TouchPad Fiasco, or HP Perfects The Art Of The Own Goal (August 22): On HP’s epic failure to even find another company to sell webOS to. “An ‘own goal’ is exactly what it sounds like.  It’s when a player kicks the ball into his or her own team’s goal, thereby scoring a point for the opposition. In other words, it’s about the dumbest Goddamn thing you can do on a soccer field. Which is a pretty good metaphor for how HP has been managing its mobile portfolio over the last week.”
  • Your Macabre Thought For The Day (August 23): On the Washington earthquake, and disaster and death in the social media age. “The next time a tragedy of that scale happens — and one will happen, if not by act of war than by act of God — we will be able to look into the maelstrom. As horrible as it is to contemplate, we will have front row seats. We will be able to watch individuals struggle to survive, each status update or tweet illuminating them briefly like a flash of a strobe light, capturing them for a fleeting moment before it fades.”
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Minecraft (September 1): On indie gaming’s biggest hit, and how unsatisfying it is to play. “I find myself popping back in every now and then.  But I rarely stay long, because what brings me back is the game I dream it could be, rather than the game it actually is.”
  • Everything You Need To Know To Understand Netflix, In One Picture (October 11): On the reasons behind the online video company’s meltdown. “If the Qwikster decision seemed irrational to you, I would argue that that is because it was irrational. It wasn’t the product of reasoned, long-term strategic thinking; it was the product of panic.”
  • Dear Mozilla: Fix Your Damn Browser Already (October 12): On longstanding bugs in Firefox, and the dire need to get them fixed. “Firefox, on Linux at least, is busted.  It’s busted so bad that it’s painful to use.  And it’s been this way ever since Firefox 3 launched — three years ago.”
  • Don’t Worry About Selling Your Privacy to Facebook. I Already Sold It For You (October 21): On the privacy implications of integrating with Facebook. “Facebook Like buttons are kind of like a bribe.  Facebook offered me something of value — a chance at increased traffic — in exchange for letting them keep tabs on which pages you read on this site, and how frequently, and for how long.  And by including the buttons on my pages, I took the bribe. I sold you out.”
  • Kindle: No Thanks (November 14): On Amazon’s popular e-readers, and why I refuse to buy one. “With Kindle, Amazon has set things up so that in order to get the good things electronic books can offer, you have to accept a whole bunch of bad things too. Things that don’t benefit you at all — and that in some cases actually take away rights that owners of physical books have enjoyed for hundreds of years — but that benefit Amazon a whole bunch.”
  • Congressing Is Hard! Let’s Go Fundraising (November 22): On the increasing, and self-inflicted, irrelevance of Congress to the actual process of governing. “If Congress would rather defer questions of war and peace to the President, and Congress would rather defer questions of spending and taxes to the President, then what the hell is the purpose of Congress, exactly?”
  • Occupy Linux: Ubuntu Unity and making a Linux for more than the 1% (December 8): On why the most popular desktop Linux distribution is making changes that have enraged Linux nerds. “If you’re one of those people who cherish the ‘traditional’ Linux desktop experience, you need to realize that Ubuntu’s goal is not to serve you. You are, quite literally, the one percent. Ubuntu’s goal is to make a desktop that works for the 99%. If they can do that while serving you at the same time, that’s great, but if they can’t you shouldn’t be surprised to find them on the other side of the drum circle.”

So there you have it, the best of 2011. Now on to 2012!