NOTES FROM THE FIELD: Picking the not-commers

NOTES FROM THE FIELD: Picking the not-commers

I left Randi behind last week to baby sit my apartment while I travelled east to Internet World in New York. She didn't want to come with me. "The sunlight never reaches the street level, Bobby," she said, "because the buildings are too tall. And the hotel rooms are way too small." She was right about that. I've seen refrigerator boxes bigger than my hotel room.

The show floor was packed with a huge and diverse crowd of people, from those serious about the Internet and e-commerce to those who were mostly interested in picking up knick knacks. Yet this year's Internet World at New York's Jacob Javits Convention Center, there was an undercurrent of fear about the stock market and the dot-com shakeout.

Throughout the day on Wednesday, weary dot-commers gathered around the many television screens in the convention center to check out what the stock market was doing. On that day the Nasdaq closed down 190 points. I wasn't surprised to hear one dot-commer watching the CNNfn screen say to another that he wondered if they would both be at the show next year.

But the current dot-com malaise did not seem to bother everyone. The Humor Network announced that it "decided to use Internet World Fall 2000 as an opportunity to honour the dot-com deceased with a 13-company memorial that includes apparel, pet supplies, and auction-based sites."

Taking advantage of a bad situation, the Humor Network invited Internet World attendees to deliver flowers and cards to its booth, where the company had erected gravestones to mark the birth and death dates of each company.

"It's been a tough year and we've lost a lot of friends," Humor Network CEO Eric Targan said. "It seems like only yesterday that the names on these stones were young, happy-go-lucky companies enjoying the good life right here at Internet World. Sometimes I think I can feel the ghosts of our fallen comrades right here in this exhibit hall."

Members of the Toshiba class action lawsuit report that they have finally received their settlement checks and vouchers for future Toshiba purchases. Those vouchers, though, are a point of contention for some. Apparently they can be spent only at certain retailers and only to buy Toshiba products. Unfortunately, many of the approved retailers don't carry Toshiba products. So many of the Toshiba voucher recipients have put their settlements up for sale on eBay and are getting something like 60 cents on the dollar for them. The idea is for buyers to collect enough vouchers to buy a whole new system from Toshiba itself.

When I called home to check on things, Randi told me she was stretched out on my couch, wearing my big white terry cloth robe after taking a bath.

"I'm enjoying your digital cable, Bobby," she said. "You can stay a few extra days in New York." I immediately moved up my flight reservations.

Robert X. Cringely is a regular contributor to ARN's sister publication Infoworld

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