Every industry has its share of villains, and the computing world is no different. This reputation is sometimes earned, sometimes not. The term 'villain' stems from Roman times and was used to describe someone who worked the land but was without honour. In later years it evolved into many forms, ranging from the man in a black hat and twisted moustache tying a young maiden to railroad tracks, to Keyser Söze from the 1995 film The Usual Suspects.
You'd be hard pressed to find such villains in the lists below. None has killed anyone (that we know of) and their actions have not been criminal in the most part, with one or two exceptions. Instead, they are people who we feel have either harmed the industry in some way, or just really annoyed us.
Some are shrewd businessmen whose tactics have garnered them a long list of enemies. Others are well-meaning individuals whose mistakes earned them the ire of the public, while still others are moral crusaders who don't mind being seen as a heel by the unwashed masses.
In the spirit of Newton's third law, we'll be doing an IT heroes piece next week. Let us know if there's anyone you think should be included on the list.
Mention: Deidre LaCarte
Shaun Nichols: In the late 1990s as the internet was carving out its place in mainstream culture, a student named Deidre LaCarte created a web page as a tribute to her pet hamster. The result was, you guessed it, Hampsterdance, one of the earliest and most annoying internet memes ever recorded.
The page combined a long collection of dancing cartoon hamsters with an infectious, high-pitched jingle that was, ironically, a bit like having an actual rodent gnawing at one's brain.
However, the site was also a hit with the burgeoning crowd of web 'newbies'. The page became the first of many pointless internet phenomena, and is likely to have driven hundreds of junior high school computer teachers to seek psychiatric help.
Iain Thomson: I have to say I'm gobsmacked at Shaun's restraint on this one. When we were coming up with the list LaCarte was one of his top picks, and certainly the one that inspired the most bile. It's not often we discuss a list and the phrase "impaled on a rusty spike" is heard, not even when it comes to Darl McBride.
Hampsterdance was annoying certainly. It spawned cheesy singles that made it into the charts in a number of countries, and I blame it for the Dancing Baby syndrome that took off later, and made it onto the egregious Ally McBeal.
As memes go, it was everywhere for a while but its influence has faded. It seems the pain, for some, has not.
mention: Ted Stevens
Iain Thomson: The former Senator from Alaska earned ridicule for his 2006 speech against net neutrality, in which he described the internet as a "series of tubes" and managed to confuse the internet and email.
What made this worse was that he had a major role in regulating internet commerce. It's a bit like your doctor showing a complete lack of knowledge by prescribing a course of leeches for a bad back. Here was a chap who showed cavalier disregard for the industry he was regulating, and his words sent shivers down the spines of people in the business of building e-commerce.
In actual fact the tube analogy from a technical standpoint could have been justified by someone who knew what they were talking about. But Stevens patently didn't, and it sounded like he was reading a poorly formed briefing paper from a lobbyist rather than expressing a view.
Net neutrality is too important to be left to people who don't know what they are talking about. Following his conviction on seven corruption charges, Stevens is now thankfully out of the loop on internet regulation and may be spending some time in prison, where one hopes he won't spend time finding out another wrong use of a series of tubes.
Shaun Nichols: Stevens may have made it into the top 10 had his error not been so laughable. The scary thought is that it came in the context of such an important debate.
At the time he made his infamous quote, Stevens was probably the best-informed person in the room on the subject of net neutrality. Think about that for a moment; these men are debating what essentially amounts to the future of e-commerce and communications in the US, and the most knowledgeable person in this group thinks that the internet functions much in the same way as the pneumatic deposit system at your local drive-through bank branch.
As disliked as he may be in the computing world, Stevens is perhaps even more of a villain among his constituents in Alaska. The former senator now faces a considerable prison term for corruption.
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