High-tech heroes and zeros: 2013's best and worst so far

Which tech newsmakers have made the biggest splash so far this year, and which have gone splat? Cringe has a few ideas

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Zero: Glassholes
Nothing screams "Dork!" like a pasty-faced guy wearing high-tech spectacles -- unless, of course, you're an overcompensated member of the techno-Illuminati, in which case it's the only manly thing to do. If you end up violating total strangers' privacy along the way? It's the cost of progress, say the gadget-obsessed geeks. It's not at all surprising that on July 4 a glasshole in Wildwood, N.J., surreptitiously captured the first Google Glass video of someone being arrested in public. If he'd taken the video with a phone or camera, Chris Barrett said, he might have gotten punched, which sounds like a good idea to me.

Hero: Kim Dotcom
The plus-sized multimillionaire founder of Mega Download got sweet revenge on the authorities in the United States and New Zealand when he opened his latest online venture, simply called Mega, last January. It was nearly one year to the day SWAT teams stormed his compound outside Auckland and arrested him in a takedown worthy of a Colombian drug lord. Since then, Dotcom has won most of the legal battles he's faced and launched an encrypted cloud storage service that will be much harder for Johnny Law to crack. Whether it will actually succeed or crash and burn like the first one remains to be seen. But you have to admire the man's chutzpah.

Zero: Wanda Lee Ann Podgurski
Who's Wanda Podgurski? She's an insurance fraudster who was convicted of 29 felony counts by a California court last January and has been on the run from the U.S. Marshal service ever since. She's also apparently an idiot. On June 6, Podgurski tweeted "Catch me if you can" to her sole follower on Twitter: San Diego prosecutor Bonnie Dumanis. It turns out they could. Last week, the LAPD's high-tech crime squad used the geotags from her Twitter account to track down where she was hiding in Mexico and brought her into custody. The 60-year-old now faces a 30-year stretch. It looks like Wanda won't wander much further.

Hero: Judge Otis D. Wright II
Wright earns his hero status not merely by smacking down legal beagles Prenda Law in its endless porn trolling suits, but by doing it with such geeky gusto. Wright struck down Prenda's attempts to extort money out of porn-swapping BitTorrent users in a ruling peppered with "Star Trek" references, recommending federal prosecutors throw the Prenda principals into the brig and their respective state bars to blast these shysters out of orbit. Make it so, number one.

Zero: Sean Parker
Remember those old MasterCard ads?

Creating a "Lord of the Rings"-themed fantasy wedding in the middle of an old-growth forest: $5 million

Paying California Coastal Commission to "mitigate" the environmental damage you caused: $2.5 million

Publishing a 10,000-word essay whining about how negative media coverage ruined your nauseating display of geeky excess: Priceless

There are some things money can't buy. Humility is clearly one of them.

*A tip of the Cringe fedora to Bennet Kelley of the Internet Law Center for letting me steal his idea.

Who are your heroes and zeros for 2013? Post your picks below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "High-tech heroes and zeros: 2013's best and worst so far," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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