Some time back, I reviewed Ondi Timoner’s epic documentary of the rise and fall of Josh Harris entitled We Live in Public.
In much the same way that Pirates of Silicon Valley or Hackers should be required viewing for any self-respecting nerd, anyone who considers themselves a survivor of the Dot Com Bust should be familiar with Josh Harris and his story.
If you read my review of WLiP, you know that Ondi didn’t make the best impression on me the first time we met, and it has irrevocably colored my perception of Jeff and the film. The insight I feel I have into the mind of Josh and his sycophants carries over into a new venture announced today on Scott Beale’s LaughingSquid blog.
Josh is a serial entrepreneur who not only left a trail of carnage throughout the Dot Com era, but also represents everything I feel is despicable about those times.
From my review of the film last summer:
I knew that Josh was the posterboy for all that is wrong and destructive about the dot com era, this much was clear. When I watched Ondi’s on-screen documentation of a rape (or attempted rape, it’s actually a bit unclear) while Josh looked on seemingly unmoved, it became clear what a sociopath the man actually was.
His sociopathic delusion is celebrated in “We Live in Public” as vision and prescience by friends, relatives and the filmmaker herself, it seems.
It seems that Josh’s latest venture is to combine the aspects of the WLiP experiment with the vigilantism common to hacker and underground groups like 4chan, Anonymous and LulzSec.
The promotional video (which points back to Josh’s project on Kickstarter) trades on his micro-celebrity status created by Ondi’s documentary, and encourages viewers to compete to live in a compound dedicated to everything from “saving the whales to fixing the potholes.”
Not all participation will be in-studio, as action will also be outsourced from the “command center” to viewers at home that are broadcasting from webcams, competing on the site for attention.
There is no proposed business model, per se, but several potential business models are hinted at in the bullet point list, including MMOG elements, virtual currency and CPM monetization of the video and text output.
Could something like this work? Possibly, if anyone other than Josh Harris was at the helm. This is simply WLiP and Pseudo.com mashed together with a little game theory, vigilantism and Web 2.0.
In other words, this can only end badly.