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April 19th, 2006

Anti-Social Networking

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Memo to MySpace: KEEP YOURSPACE OFF MY TVSPACE.

Ah, MySpace. Now that all the self-obsessed middle schoolers of LiveJournal have moved on to high school, where with the self-obsessed middle-schoolers make the ugliest websites on the planet? MySpace of course!

Seriously. Pull the half-dozen listenable bands with MySpace pages off of there, and what you're left with is just the latest step in an evolutionary chain that included AOL and GeoCities before them. But MySpace is the current belle of the ball, so the money and offers are pouring in almost as fast as local news anchors can warn you ominously about how your kid's MySpace page will get them alley-raped by a school janitor.

And one of those offers is... television. No, really. Take an ordinary show, and integrate MySpace into it. Because I know the last time I was watching Battlestar Galactica, the experience wasn't complete without knowing what some dork and his extended network were thinking. How, exactly, would this work? How, to quote MySpace marketing president* Shawn Gold, will they be "integrating social networking into the TV show and their traditional TV buy"?

Well, we can get an idea from some of the past attempts at interactive TV, starting with when the art form peaked.

Those of you of an appropriate age, and from the eastern portion of our great nation, may recall an early ITV innovation - kids would call in and shout into the phone, and every time they would shout, some poor soul at the station would press the fire button on an Atari 2600. There were prizes involved. Since then, it's all been downhill.

From CNN anchors reading blog contents on-air, to Total Request Live, attempts to merge the Internet and TV have been doomed to failure. Remember when The Smoking Gun got a TV show? I love The Smoking Gun, but someone, somewhere had to realize that police blotters, nerds, and cameras were not a winning combination.

And, of course, there's Star Trek 2.0. Which you'd think would be a stupid way of marketing Star Trek: The Next Generation, but no. It's actually O.G. Star Trek reruns on the increasingly-not-about-video-games G4 cable channel. What makes it 2.0? It's SMALLER.

Yes, they've taken classic Star Trek and given it a two-inch grey border. And in that grey border, they have added what they like to call "additional content", and what I like to call "shit on toast".

One side of the screen includes episode trivia. Which is not an awful idea, except that since 1969, the world has been gradually assembling itself into two groups. One group knows every bit of Star Trek trivia in existence, and the other group isn't interested in knowing any bit of Star Trek trivia in existence. And like Frank Gorshin and Lou Antonio, the two sides are locked in eternal conflict.

Another side includes Trek Stats, which is like Trek Trivia, only less interesting. It's like a drinking game crossed with chartered accountancy, without the booze. Various pointless categories are established and tallied as the episode progresses. And while I'm sure that means Bjo Trimble's note paper budget just got cut by two thirds, I don't think that's why I pay for cable.

And then there's the on-screen chat! Yes! If there's one segment of the Internet whose views needed broader exposure, it's gamer geeks with laptops and Wi-Fi who stay up late at night watching Star Trek reruns. If I wanted to hear more from those people, I'd... have to cut back on my sleep time, actually.

And finally, the Spock Market. It's some kind of interactive game. Again, an unpleasant association with accounting rears its ugly head. I'm not sure how it works, because my dedication to this column knows certain limits. But I know wildly unappealing when I see it.

So if MySpace really wants to merge its exciting mix of blogs, bands, and mental retardation into the living room, they should take a long, hard look at the dozens of lemming corpses at the bottom of the cliff. And make the right choice.

*That's the Web 2.0 job title for what, in Web 1.0, we called "Minion of Satan".