Not everything goes according to plan. When it comes to technology, one might argue that most things don’t. 2011 was no exception. From corruption and skyrocketing costs to outages and missing airplanes, here are the Top 11 Tech Turkeys of 2011. 

1. D.C.’s Twitter Transparency Troubles

Prior to September, Washington, D.C., Fire Department public information officer Pete Piringer was the local media’s go-to guy for breaking news. Piringer was a longtime PIO who had taken to Twitter to share up-to-the-minute details on anything crime or emergency related. Evidently, however, Piringer’s superiors weren’t quite as pleased with the torrent of transparent tweets, and sometime in mid-September, the “dcfireems” Twitter feed was silenced. Officials initially claimed that Piringer was merely on vacation. A month later a dcfireems tweet promised that Piringer would resume his Twitter duties. But it was not to be, as Piringer was eventually reassigned to other duties. What was really happening, according to Emergency Management magazine blogger Gerald Baron, was that D.C. police were going to encrypted radio and didn't want the fire department to be talking openly about things that they were trying to keep under wraps.

2. California High-Speed Rail Cost Explodes to $98 Billion

The proposed — and voter-approved — plan to connect Northern and Southern California via high-speed rail has many critics decrying the project as a massive boondoggle, thanks to a revised business plan the California High-Speed Rail Authority released in early November. The project is now estimated to cost $98 billion, more than triple the amount voters OK’d in 2008. The revised plan also indicated that the project would be completed in 2033, 13 years longer than previously estimated.

3. Kansas IT Chief Quits After One Day

One day after Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback announced that Jim Mann was appointed as the state’s chief IT officer, Mann abruptly resigned after controversy arose about his academic credentials.

Mann was officially appointed during a news conference on Monday, Nov. 7. Brownback said Mann would oversee and improve IT efficiency in Kansas — a position paying $150,000 a year. A press release from the governor announcing Mann’s appointment — which has since been pulled from the state website — stated that Mann had received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Devonshire in the United Kingdom, reportedly an unaccredited “diploma mill.”

4. Outrage Over BART Wireless Shutdown

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officials’ decision in August to turn off cell service at four underground stations led to a host of problems. BART officials said the temporary shutdown was due to information they had that mobile devices would be used to organize a rush-hour protest over the shooting deaths of two men by BART police.

Turning cell service off created a firestorm of freedom-of-speech claims, including from the activist group “Anonymous.” The group fired back at BART on Aug. 14, hacking the website and leaking the personal and login information of that website’s users. The hacking incident was followed by an additional protest, organized by Anonymous on Aug. 15 of about 100 people that caused the shutdown of various BART stations.

5. Colorado’s Decrepit Finance System

An audit released July 11, titled Evaluation of the Sustainability of the Colorado Financial Reporting System, found that Colorado’s more than 20-year-old accounting and financial management system is at an increasing risk of a partial or complete failure, chiefly because it hasn’t had a maintenance contract for 12 years and is instead being serviced by employees set to retire soon, with no viable replacement personnel available to fill the void.

The audit has since spurred Colorado officials to improve the situation. In a follow up discussion about the finance system, Colorado CIO Kristin Russell told Government Technology, “We need constant evolution to be in a better place than where we are today, and reliance on and help from the private sector and third-party vendors to help get there.”

Chad Vander Veen  | 

Chad Vander Veen is the former editor of FutureStructure.


Matt Williams  |  Associate Editor