"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 11 March 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Demo D'Merrier



No matter what happens, keep

prattling on.


It's the number one rule of magic

shows and product demos [and

Suck articles - ed.] alike:

distract your audience with some

useless banter long enough to

perform your little sleight of

hand and people will be amazed,

rather than annoyed, when the

ball comes up under the cup on

the right instead of the center



Admittedly, it's hard to imagine

anyone thinking of the Web as




With the number of "Server not

responding" messages and

"Shocked" (read: crashed)

browsers we experience daily,

the only people seeing any

trickery are those who actually

paid for a copy of Netscape -

though at times we admit we're

amazed that it works at all.


[Card Trick]

Then again, it's no secret that

the Web is just one big demo -

someone needed to produce a good

trial for Interactive TV. Many

of us, of course, will remember

those first beads of sweat when

demonstrating that first Web

site to the powers-that-be: we

had all the answers down pat

then. Gray background? Nope,

can't do anything about it.

Placement of an image in

relation to its accompanying

text block? Nope, can't flow the

text around it. Interactivity?

Most browsers don't support

forms. And on we blabbered,

because the small talk kept the

boss from noticing how damn slow

the server was. It didn't

matter; we had arrived.


[Deep Space 9]

A few years later, most of us

have woken up to the sound of

Java hitting the fan only to

realize we were the

all-too-willing accomplices in a

world-wide ITV demo. And, as a

proof-of-concept, the Web goes a

long way. As we wait for

Paramount Interactive to release

the full-length Shockwave

version of Deep Space 9 so we

can replace that Sony Trinitron

with - well, a Sony Trinitron -

we've got a 30-second QuickTime

"preview" of the TV show (what

used to quaintly be called a

"commercial") to keep us

occupied. Because not only is

the Web itself a demo,

everything on it is a demo, as



[Rats To Cats!]

In all the excitement over a

future of full-motion,

full-screen, real-time video, we

all forgot about online books -

probably just as well since what

we've read shouldn't have seen

light in any medium. Oh, sure,

we were supposed to pay for each

exquisite word of those Web

masterpieces with

cybernanocents, but it would

seem that those who made their

short careers from cyberpunditry

forgot to factor in the cost of

each microtransaction, with its

attendant accounting overhead

and potential for fraud. We

didn't get online books, we got

online tables of contents.



[Jane Siberry]

Want to get acquainted with, say,

Jane Siberry's newest release?

It's here that you might think

that the demo economy of the Web

would work in your favor:

wouldn't a good demo of an album

be, say, a single? Wrong.

Remember that a complete song

might have some perceived value

- even if it were from Joan

Osborne. It wouldn't make sense

to give something of value away

for free. If you want to peruse

Siberry's latest on the Web,

Reprise Records lets you

download two Director

presentations: one contains

lyrics for Siberry's album, the

other is a trivia game

containing important dates and

events in the artist's career.

Each features a few seconds of

endlessly looping Siberry synth

yodels created expressly to

remind you that this is a demo.


[Total Distortion]

The most intriguing demos,

though, often prove to be

CD-ROMs. Since most CD-ROMs are

planned out as a series of

vignettes on recipe-sized index

cards, and most are thrown

together in Director, it doesn't

take too much to spin out the

worst segments into a Shockwave

demo. The Total Distortion site

is one of our recent faves - we

won't make the obvious joke and

tell you that Dream Zs put us

to sleep.



The point of this piece? Well, we

could say something about

industry conferences, and how

there isn't much point to them

anymore, since we can get all

the demos we used to get at the

expos off the Web. Or we might

close with something about how

demos are more important than

actual products, since, just as

the Web holds the promise of a

better tomorrow, so, too, do

demos promise products that you

don't already own. Or we might

come back to the beginning of

our story, and reemphasize that,

no matter what happens, it's

most important just to keep

prattling on. But, to tell the

truth, there isn't a point to

this piece, really. It's only a


courtesy of Nemo