"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 29 April 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Leave The Conniving To Us


[Virtual Places]

The service was introduced last

Wednesday, at a super-secret

press briefing regarding an

auspicious marriage of chat and

the Internet. But no sooner had

we swallowed the hype than the

news went public, in a press

release dubiously titled

"America Online brings chat and

community experience to the

Web." These moves were intended

to position the launch of

Virtual Places as AOL's

begrudging response to public

pressure. But, like the

introduction of the Double-

Decker Taco, it meets a demand

for consolidation that never

really existed.



Far be it from us to damn any

device that offers the general

public a chance to suck at the

AOL chatroom tit, especially if

there's a way to make it -

somehow - pay. The system's

roughly designed "tour" option

seems like the best bet -

they've got ads on the sides of

real buses, right? If only the

Virtual Places interface was as

charming as the average city bus

or municipal steam roller.



Re-approaching interface design

is hard enough for the experts

to fake; the legions of

interface amateurs tend to

shrewdly employ theft in their

crucial planning stages. As sure

as the first microwave ovens

ripped off their interface from

the Easy-Bake, Virtual Places

has swiped its concept for

communal Web transit from

Gauntlet. Substitute "Let's find

some hot GIFs" for "Elf is about

to die," and word balloons for

magic spells, and presto:

interface all over your Web



[Carnival Barker]

If the Web really is, as AOL

honcho Ted Leonsis loves to

claim, "a collection of

gravesites," dancing on them

(rather than reading them) may

be the most inspired move yet.

Being folk of action, we hustled

our corpulent asses over to

gnn.com and tried to make some

new friends, see some new sites,

and take a stab at our dream

careers as carnival barkers.



So what if the assorted Virtual

Space neophytes didn't wound

each other scrambling to get on

our bus - it was a learning

experience. Lesson #1: People

hate graphically-challenged

sites, especially when we're

trying to make them more

interesting by spouting off.

Lesson #2: Drugs and sex seem to

be mainstays of heckler humor...



Why is that turtle smoking?

he's a hippie

What is that turtle smoking?

He's wearing tye-dye under the

Don't know. This is just one of
the links from my page. Aesop

a bong-slurping,
bandanna-sportin', hair-braid
sellin' hippie.

Well, ready to head back?

Hmm, there's an "ass" section. is
this 18 and over?


Perhaps it was a sign of

discriminating taste that the

wandering avatars were bored

into rage by our on-the-fly

attempts at digital

consciousness raising. We

re-entered the arena later, with

a new mission, courtesy of

diabaR's search for sleaze: peep

show franchise tour guides.

Surmising that interested

participants would demand

righteous sleaze, we creeped

slowly towards the gold,

disguised as "Mr. Friendly"...


Mr. Friendly
Let's go on a PORNO ride! Anyone?

Bit too friendly for me,

Mr. Friendly
Your eyes will bug out of your

So where is this lean machine

Mr. Friendly
You WILL ruin your pants!

are we there yet? (Wink)

Is this the "racy" tour?

Mr. Friendly
This is the good stuff!

Hmm, I think watersports might be
a bit much. Especially this.

Mr. Friendly
I was playing in my room by
myself when it occurred to me
that peeing my pants might be
fun. It was, and I've done it
regularly ever since.

I'm praying that's a quote.

Umm... No. This is purely,
totally, 100%, genuinely wrong.



While the hoi polloi of Virtual

Places appeared to be disgusted,

their interest was at least

piqued enough to keep them from

hopping off the bus - in fact,

the more pressing issue was our

dearth of suitably salty

bookmarks. The larger lesson

still stood intact, however, and

visions of undercover PR tours,

niche-interest blackmail

sessions, market research

snoop-alongs, and aggressive

guerilla theater ran through our

heads. This was no hive, or ant

colony, or global brain - this

was a vast murky sea of sharks,

pilot fish, and waterlogged army


courtesy of the Duke of URL