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AT LARGE: Ban the Internet

AT LARGE: Ban the Internet

Democracy doesn't work. As soon as you let hoi polloi have a say in how things are going to be, all heck breaks loose.

Remember when Ross Perot, the computer billionaire, was running for President of the USA? He was going about with this notion of "electronic town halls". People thought he was a nut. Know what? He was. The Internet, the most democratising force ever unleashed on an unsuspecting world, has become exactly what Perot predicted, and look what it's done.

Case in point: Jar Jar Binks. Didn't care for him myself, but didn't despise him. And I know at least two people who thought Jar Jar was the best thing about that movie. The Internet, however, says he was the spawn of the devil, so in the second film he's this odd compromise: sort of there, but not really, mostly hanging in the background not talking.

How about the CDDB? This is an online database of pretty much every CD ever released. You pop a CD in your computer, start up your MP3-ripping software and the CD title and track names appear.

When a CD comes out, geeks the world over vie to be the first to enter its track listings into the CDDB. This battle to be first means two things: it's rushed; and there's a motive to stamp your own identity on your work.

I have about 8GB of MP3s (OK, copyright lawyers, come get me). Quite often I find that tracks have odd names like "Hey Jude - JAKL". It's the CDDB equivalent of graffiti tags. And of course there's no agreement on whether the band is "The Beatles", "Beatles, The" or "Beatels".

Naturally, I fix these things. Problem: when I try to synchronise with my portable MP3 player, it can't find the tracks because the file names don't match what my index says.

Last weekend, I attended the Sydney Bridal Spectacular, an experience that has convinced me I will only marry once. Among the many pedlars of bridal gowns, tuxedos, incredibly long cars, personalised wine labels, waltzing lessons, "wedding fudge", candelabra and chair covers, I found a fellow standing alone in a stall. I asked what he offered. He gave me a card with a Web address on it.

The philosophy seemed to be "we don't have any products, but we think our Web site is so exciting you'll give us money anyway". Symptomatic of many businesses before the bubble burst, methinks.

If the Internet didn't exist, this guy might have had to put in an effort. And my MP3 player would work properly. And Jar Jar might have more than three lines. So who's with me?

Don't contact Matthew JC. Powell on mjcp@optushome.com.au - it would defeat the purpose.


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