Towards the end of the year, it becomes sport to wonder who Time's Person of the Year will be. It's sort of like wondering who will be on the cover of Sports Illustrated or who People's Sexiest Man Alive is (both are also Time Inc. publications, as it were). Time tried to get its readers excited, asking them to vote online for who they thought should be the Person of the Year, with choices being George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Kim Jong Il, Al Gore, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez, Nancy Pelosi, and The YouTube Guys. Well, if you bothered to vote, you never had a chance - Time decided to make "You" the Person of the Year.
And by "You," Time means anyone with some sort of connection to the Internet. From its introductory article:
...[L]ook at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes...
...And we are so ready for it. We're ready to balance our diet of predigested news with raw feeds from Baghdad and Boston and Beijing. You can learn more about how Americans live just by looking at the backgrounds of YouTube videos—those rumpled bedrooms and toy-strewn basement rec rooms—than you could from 1,000 hours of network television.
And we didn't just watch, we also worked. Like crazy. We made Facebook profiles and Second Life avatars and reviewed books at Amazon and recorded podcasts. We blogged about our candidates losing and wrote songs about getting dumped. We camcordered bombing runs and built open-source software.
Wa wa wee wa, that's boring. Because it's not like Web 2.0 ever fails to navel gaze! Sure, Web 2.0 probably hit some sort of critical mass this year, but this observation still seems late. And by lumping everyone and everything together, it seems trivialize some Web 2.0 types who have been at the forefront - and other "Persons of the Year" - while overemphasizing the importance of others. We don't know, on the other hand, it does give us the chance to accept a hearty clap on the back for wasting precious time tagging photographs with "cats in clothes."
Maybe Time got a memo from the State Department requesting that Ahmadinejad not get the cover (he's the runner-up). But more likely Time wanted some buzz and to appeal to marketers. That plus put a mirror on the cover.
What do you think of Time's selection? Here's a list of previous Person/Machine/Planet of Year's. And Dan Dickinson noticed a flaw with Time Person of the Year sponsor Chrysler's online advertising; Dan also writes, "I look forward to the Person Of The Year 2007 being 'Everybody', followed by 'Humanity' in 2008, and as a complete twist, 'Those Guys' in 2009."