The Tacoma Narrows Bridge, melting in Apple Maps.

Ah, the holiday season. A great time to sit back and reflect on some of the most memorable moments of the past year — mislabeled maps, inappropriate dance routines, social media missteps, bungled IPOs and so much more.

Yes, it’s time for an annual GeekWire tradition, our Tech Triumphs and Debacles of the Year.

We’ll be rolling this out as a two-part series, starting today with the moments that made us shake our heads and roll our eyes. We’ll follow up on a higher note tomorrow with our Tech Triumphs of the Year, but in the meantime, please enjoy these lowlights of 2012.

Apple Maps: The rollout of Apple Maps on iOS6 was supposed to be a new era for the iPhone and iPad, adding native turn-by-turn directions and replacing Google Maps as the default on Apple’s mobile devices. Instead, it became a laughingstock, with misguided directions and enough bugs and glitches to populate a Tumblr.

Apple CEO Tim Cook issued an apology, taking the rare step of directing Apple users to alternative mapping services. And the release of a new-and-improved Google Maps for iPhone last week sealed the sense of vindication for Google, as iPhone users scrambled to return to a more reliable mapping app.

NFL blows it: The call by the replacement refs at the end of the Seahawks’ Sept. 24 game against the Green Bay Packers was bad enough, awarding a touchdown and a victory to Seattle on a catch that was clearly not a catch.

But the NFL made the situation even worse with a series of blunders on the web and social media — posting the news of the Hail Mary victory on Facebook along with a misleading picture of an earlier, undisputed catch by the Seahawks receiver, Golden Tate.

The official league account also tweeted the clueless question, “Touchdown or Interception?” in the midst of the firestorm.  Both the Facebook post and the tweet were later deleted, but the damage was done.

Mike Daisey blurs fact and fiction: Playwright Mike Daisey found himself in an unflattering spotlight early in the year when This American Life retracted its story based on his one-man show, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” which purported to reflect Daisey’s encounters with employees at plants operated by Apple device manufacturer Foxconn.

Daisey wrote in a public apology, “In my drive to tell this story and have it be heard, I lost my grounding. Things came out of my mouth that just weren’t true, and over time, I couldn’t even hear the difference myself.”

Windows Azure Dancers: Microsoft made an apology of its own after a techno-dance routine that preceded a Windows Azure presentation at the Norwegian Developers Conference. The routine featured a group of women jumping around on stage to a song that included several drug references and this line: “The words MICRO and SOFT don’t apply to my penis.”

In a strange effort to be inclusive, a monitor displaying the lyrics added, “or vagina.”

Maybe we just don’t get the Norwegian sense of humor on this side of the world? Either way, the interest in this story was huge — making it by far the most-read post on GeekWire so far this year, we’re sorry to report.

Miss Seattle hates Seattle? Be careful what you tweet! That was the lesson learned for Miss Seattle Jean-Sun Hannah Ahn after she took the crown. KIRO Radio’s Linda Thomas dug up previous tweets in which Ahn complained about Seattle’s rain and its “annoying people,” and pined for her previous home in Phoenix.

“Take me back to az!!! Ugh can’t stand cold rainy Seattle and the annoying people.”

Ouch! Yes, there’s something to be said for free expresion online, but come on, it’s not that rainy here!

The Angry Birds Space ‘launch’: OK, so we take a part of the blame for this one. Back in March, when Rovio debuted Angry Birds Space to the world, the company’s representatives came to Seattle to stage a publicity stunt at the Space Needle. The problem: they didn’t fully explain what they were doing, except to say that it involved a slingshot.

Slingshotting something from the Space Needle?! We were intrigued.

As a giant Angry Bird was inflated at the top of the Seattle landmark, GeekWire started webcasting live from the scene, and hundreds of people tuned in from around the world to see what would happen. It became a spectacle — lasting so long that I started asking people listening to the webcast to bring me coffee, and several actually did.

Hours later, we got the official word: It was a giant art installation, not an actual working slingshot. Um, sorry about that. Hey, at least we had some fun (and got some free lattes) along the way.

UW tweeting policy: The University of Washington caused a firestorm last month when it started telling journalists covering UW games, “Hey, not so much with the tweeting, OK?”

Seriously? Can they do that? Yes, as reported by GeekWire’s Taylor Soper, the UW a “Live Coverage Policy” limits reporters to 20 total in-game updates for basketball games and 45 for football games.

Part of the goal, according to the UW, is to protect the rights of its media partners who pay to broadcast games. But the ultimate effect was to make the UW seem out of touch with the realities of the online world. As many people pointed out, live tweeting would tend to drive people toward those broadcasts, not away from them.

Microsoft’s aQuantive writedown: This debacle traces its roots to 2007, when Microsoft acquired Seattle-based digital advertising company aQuantive for $6.3 billion as part of an effort to keep up with Google in online ads.

But it came home to roost this year, when Microsoft took a whopping $6.2 billion writedown, largely tied to aQuantive. Microsoft bluntly said that “the acquisition did not accelerate growth to the degree anticipated.”

GeekWire’s John Cook documented much of what went wrong. Bottom line, it was a low point for Microsoft that will give the company’s shareholders further reason to second-guess its big acquisitions and deals in the future.

Facebook IPO: It was supposed to be a banner day for the world’s largest social network, and for the technology industry, as Facebook went public in May to huge expectations — the biggest Internet IPO of all time.

But the IPO was marred by technical glitches and questions about the company’s valuation, and Facebook shares sunk in the following days as investors questioned the company’s ability to generate revenue as its users increasingly shift to mobile devices.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg reminded himself and the company’s employees to “Stay Focused and Keep Shipping,” but Facebook’s shares have yet to recover, still trading well below the original offering price.

Oprah loves her … iPad? The talk show luminary gave a shout-out to Microsoft’s Surface in November with a tweet touting its status on her list of favorite things. One problem: She (or her staff) tweeted the message from an iPad. Yikes.

That’s it. What did we miss? Given the events of this week, does Instagram deserve to be on the list?

Tune in tomorrow for a more uplifting rundown — the biggest tech triumphs of the year. 

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Comments

  • The_Tim

    “…awarding a touchdown and a victory to Seattle on a catch that was clearly not a catch.”

    I stopped caring about “professional” football after the Super Bowl XL debacle, but I did see a believable, reasonable analysis of the play that convincingly argued that the call was correct and it was a legitimate catch. To say that it was “clearly not a catch” is false.

    • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

      Thanks, Tim. Interesting read. I remain unconvinced. :)

  • Guest

    Congratulations to Apple, to the NFL, to Mike Daisey, to Norway, to Miss Ahn, to Rovio, to the UW, to Microsoft, to Facebook, to Oprah, and to the Tim on their notable moments this past year! I look forward to their encores in 2013.

  • guest

    “Bottom line, it was a low point for Microsoft that will give the company’s shareholders further reason to second-guess its big acquisitions and deals in the future.”

    You have to question the sanity of anybody still holding MSFT after more than a decade of underperformance and the company now being clearly disrupted. But that aside, it’s worth noting that shareholders still reelected Ballmer and the board *post* this write down. So while it represented gross negligence that likely would have ended most CEO’s careers, even that combined with the other negative developments on the year (PC growth rate declines, EU fine, shocking departure of Sinofsky, stock failing to beat the averages again, etc.). didn’t seem to have the effect you indicate. MS’s shareholders just don’t seem to react in either typical or logical fashion. Which is probably why Ballmer has gotten away with as many mistakes, acquisition and otherwise, as he has.

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