for 11 June 1996. Updated every TUESDAY.

BIG IDEA Between the office, kids, and Friends, who
can afford the time to maintain a truly
inspirational online presence? What's more,
with today's mass media as the only source
of cultural nourishment, how can someone
with a bland personality create the snappy
repartee required for successful networked
25 WORDS <= Let our experts cultivate a customized
net.personality for you - at a suprisingly
affordable price.
HARD SELL What Internet trooper wouldn't want to be
the proud bearer of a truly familiar .sig
or well-trodden Web page? The relative
anonymity of the net opens up blazing
opportunities for third-party promotion,
thereby avoiding all that tedious wading
through Usenet or the drudgery of learning
HTML. Even with such skills (and the
requisite time to actually get behind a
keyboard and make a presence where it
counts), finding something truly interesting
to say is the extra stretch that few
culture-starved workaholics can complete.
makeover.com builds a solution with a
full-time staff of culture experts,
sociologists, music critics, movie reviewers,
and political commentators working in
tandem with top-notch net authors. The
experts keep a heartbeat on vital trends and
continually contribute material to a living
database of quotes, position papers, and
one-liners. Professional writers cull this
mix of datum to produce customized
cutting-edge commentary, ready for HTML,
NNTP, Web threads - even SMTP.
Customization brings to the table real choice
for status-conscious consumers. With a
"nominal" administrative fee, the net surfer
gains an account on a corporate
centralized-user database. The makeover
begins with a CGI-based form that
empowers the consumer to craft a phenotype
suitable to his or her tastes. Check-offs
for political, musical, sexual, and religious
leanings are gathered and stored in a
central user repository. While the initial
fee covers a limited-time subscription, it
only guarantees minimal exposure. For a
surcharge, additional Internet coverage is
locked in. A sliding scale gives the
cash-rich a chance to make a considerable
statement without having to really make a
The hook propelling the enterprise is that
future modifications to the personalized
data sheet require additional payment. So,
as trends materialize and dissolve with the
tide of the zeitgeist, the Web servers (and
the cybercash systems) will be humming
with activity as concerned users race to
ensure their publicized opinion is never
behind the curve. One-time specials can be
offered to give those with a few extra bucks
the chance to capitalize on embryonic trends,
and therefore stay far ahead of the pack.
Web authoring services complete the
package. Simple home pages can be fleshed out
with customized Java applets and hip logos,
consistent with the client's tastes. At the
high end, a fully customized electronic
'zine can be spawned, complete with
personalized theme, and stories contributed
by other makeover.com accounts (to give
the 'zine a mature look so desperately
needed to gain respect from the underground
publishing community.) In all cases, the
sites are continually hyped throughout the
infosphere by like-minded (and well-
positioned) makeover.com subscribers.
OVERHEAD Promotional costs are non-trivial. Word of
mouth is unlikely, since few will be willing
to boast of their recent purchase of an
Internet ghost writing service. Direct email
may be the most discreet and cost-effective
method but has a notoriously low response
rate. Perhaps the best way to get the word
out is by literally sitting in plain view -
creating bogus accounts on all the major
ISPs, and letting the staff go to work
forging the hype. As the trade rags pick up
on the service with the usual sensational
bent, PR will need to quickly calm the
waters and produce an appropriate story.
Database requirements are significant. As
the trend-watchers dump raw material into
the content bin, it must be sifted by the
staff writers into usable material that
closely matches the data sheet of particular
users. Leading-edge search engines, like
those used to titrate Usenet itself, can ease
the burden of filtering matching core
content and churning out building blocks of
ready-to-use material. A team of specialists
to fine-tune and tweak the content engine
will have to be brought in.
Duplication of material is a serious problem,
as no user wants to proudly read a brilliant
Usenet post with his or her byline, only to
find one of identical content and quality on
another newsgroup - with someone else's
signature emblazoned across the bottom.
What's more, the prospects of Usenet hounds
smelling a well-organized spam and
backtracing the posts to makeover.com's
corporate news server could very well create
embarassing ill-will, the likes of which
would not be vanquished by even the most
prominent spin doctors. The energy to avoid
such duplication could be phenomenal,
particularly as the net authors unwittingly
borrow from their previous postings. AI
agents to double-check submissions prior to
transmission is a possibility, but backlogs
would increase critical time-to-publication
metrics and, again, the voodoo required for
such a beast would keep a staff of
neural-net hacks busy 'round the clock.

courtesy of
Ad Nauseum