Dot Com Relic Kickstarts New Tech Project

Original dot-com buster tries to blow new bubbles

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Josh Harris used to be an internet multi-millionaire. Harris was one of the original innovators of the dot-com boom of the late 90's and early 2000's, until he lost all his money, in part by spending it on a month-long party in which artists lived in a confined space wired with cameras to celebrate the new millennium. The project was called Quiet, and it was eventually shut down by New York police. Then he and his then girlfriend tried living in front of dozens cameras that streamed their domestic life onto the web around the clock. Common internet connections could barely handle streaming video back then, and Youtube was years away from blowing the door off the streaming video phenomenon. The whole thing was documented in the documentary We Live In Public, which won a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2009.

Spending much of the last decade in obscurity, an apple farm in upstate New York, Los Angeles and Ethiopia, Harris has finally returned to the tech world. Wednesday, he launched a Kickstarter project for his new venture "Wired City". He's been kicking the idea around for a few years, and the New York Observer's Betabeat is reporting he pitched the idea to a group of VCs recently. The new project is a new 24/7 self-broadcasting streaming video service the size of an NFL linebacker on steroids. Users will broadcast their lives from home and aim to garner as many viewers as possible, just like a TV station, and the more viewers you gain the higher up the evolutionary ladder you will go. Eventually once you've gained a following large enough, users will get invited to come and eat, sleep, and exact internet justice from a "Wired City" starship that will document your every move, much like Quiet. The dialed in spaceship is described on Kickstarter like this:

The Wired City cyber-ship sound stage includes a capsule hotel (submarine style sleeping quarters), mess hall, bathrooms and a Star Trek/NASA bridge: everything is wired. On set you will sleep in a capsule hotel, eat in the mess hall, and use the facilities but most of the time you will be communicating (via net bandstands) with citizens who are at home.

On set we group people into twenty person “net bandstands" (workstations) each of which has has a conductor who then reports to The Wired City bridge (think Star Trek). Citizens at home follow suit by netcasting from their “home netcasting studios” using common physical backdrops, uniforms, electronics and video formatting. Citizens earn their way onto the Wired City cyber-stage by doing something special (saved the world, won a contest, built an audience or are on a mission).

Once users get invited to the bridge of the Enterprise, they will embark on "missions" to solve the world's many problems ("save the whales, fix the pothole on my street, hunt down cyber stalkers, etc.") from the comfort of their live broadcasting jail cell. Certain users will be appointed captains (like "Captain Kirk"; he's obsessed with the Star Trek references) and they will guide the warbands through their glorious missions. So far, 20 people have pledged $2,168 of the $25,000 is seeking to start the project.

Betabeat calls the project, "a bit crazy," and describes Harris as "an unapologetic dreamer with a wild vision for what people want from a world of ubiquitous broadband internet and video cameras." He was about five years ahead of his time when he thought of a world dominated by streaming video the first time. Harris' dream of a video-dominated online society comes on the heels of Facebook and Google+ launching brand new video chat features that are generally new to social networks. "Wired City" is a combination of all those things plus the fame-whoring of the original Myspace boom of the middle of the decade. Knowing the internet, the first person invited to the central starship will be a cute girl with three cats. The cats will be the major stars.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.