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NICK DOUGLAS — As I sit here in a sunny San Francisco cafe, bored with the fire-eating buskers and queer nuns that crowd my city, my mind wanders to the heady days I once spent at the cubicle farm, standing behind a co-worker and watching them browse the internet. Now that's excitement! Keep your strippers and performance artists and give me the three seconds' thrill of anticipation between each click of a link and the subsequent page load! If only, I always thought, I could recreate this experience at home, so I could watch people fritter away their time all day. This, dear readers, is why I am so disappointed to be banned from Attentrust's AttenTV, which lets an Internet user — wait for it — WATCH WHAT PEOPLE ARE WATCHING.

What is AttenTV? According to the web site:

As you spend more time online, your clicktream [I assume this is not a typo but a clever neologism] (the record of where you visit online) increasingly represents who you are and what you are interested in. AttenTV turns one person's or group's clickstream data into another person's entertainment.

Watch what others are watching. See who is watching you. Influential individuals. Voyeuristic groups.

Luckily, I am influential and a voyeur, and I have several restraining orders to prove it. So I downloaded the special alpha version of AttenTV's Mac OS X application (thank god; who wants to watch what Windows users are watching?). Normally alpha versions are not unleashed on regular users without extensive warnings; the Attentrust company knows that only savvy users who are ready for anything their untested product will dish out will dare to open AttenTV.


Upon installation, the program asked for some biographical details. A check-box option asked, "OK to email you about Attention opportunities?" My goodness! Whatever an Attention opportunity is, I look forward to it!

Now I was to create an Attentron channel. Again, the program did not need to explain what this was, but in any case I was ready to name my channel! My channel, if you want to watch it (if that is a thing you do; perhaps AttentionTV will break the Old Media stereotype of channels as something to be "watched"!), is named "NickDouglaslooksatthingsonthenetplaceyay". (The Attentron makes figuring out the rules of naming channels into a game! For example, if you try to add spaces to your channel, Attentron does not tell you this is disallowed but grays out the "Sign up" button! Minigame!)


Now the real fun began! The Attentron (so many Atten words! It's a whole new world!) redirected me to a web page for another application, the "Attention Recorder." It then promptly crashed. This was convenient, as it left me more room to install this second application. This involved restarting Firefox — I almost lost this review, dear reader — but you can't make technological progress without breaking a few eggs.

After that, what a rush! I re-opened Firefox and AttentionTrust demanded a username and password from me! Another minigame! I failed to guess what username they wanted, so I opened another browser to figure it out (in a clever move, AttentionTrust blocked me from using Firefox to recover my password so I could use Firefox).

I thought I'd won this game by figuring out that my channel name was now called my username. Wow, if I'd been smart enough to know that, I sure would've made the name shorter! In any case, that wasn't enough. AttentionTrust asked me again and again to re-enter my name and password, sometimes several times every time I opened a web page. Wow, that's a lot of typing! I couldn't figure out why the program wouldn't leave me be! It couldn't be broken; a program named Attention Trust could obviously never be broken.

Finally I realized: I'm not yet trusted! I've been blocked from the circle of trust! Oh no! I don't know how I'll cope. Did the company's founder, Seth Goldstein, confuse me with my publisher Nick Denton, who wrote several short-sighted articles making fun of Seth's intelligent postmodern language? Or did my webcam notice that I look unshaven and thus untrustworthy?

In any case, I had no choice but to uninstall the programs. I am sad that I have to leave this world of crashing and secret usernames, so I will never feel the joy of watching a stranger browse the Internet! Farewell readers, and trust your attention! Or attention your trust! Possibly both!

Nick Douglas writes for Valleywag, Blogebrity, and Look Shiny. Please trust him.