After 6 months, Dallas man still sequestered in town house, living off Internet

No place like home for DotComGuy

Posted: Thursday, July 06, 2000

DALLAS -- DotComGuy has passed the halfway mark without losing it.

The 26-year-old computer systems manager, who legally changed his name to reflect his online life, rented a Dallas town house six months ago and volunteered to live off e-commerce for a year, never to venture past his tiny backyard.

Since Jan. 1, he's bought his necessities and luxuries exclusively online.

DotComGuy's home is a far cry from the empty, two-story domicile he strode into with nothing but a laptop computer and an Internet connection. Now, by any yuppie yardstick, his ducks are clearly in a row -- the ''Dotcompound'' has a workout room, postmodern furniture, pets and gourmet food.

The effort has corporate sponsorship from online interests that hope DotComGuy's life -- and its dependence on the Internet -- will encourage others to use cyberspace for transactions normally reserved for the storefront.

Similar experiments have been undertaken before -- the TV program ''Good Morning America'' housed two New Yorkers in an ''e-cave'' for a week last year with a refrigerator, a $500 daily stipend, and Web access -- but DotComGuy has vowed to live off the Internet longer than anyone else so far.

Two dozen cameras provide video of DotComGuy's almost every move.

His only sanctuary from the cameras is a bathroom. The entire operation is run from an adjoining town home, where a bank of computers run by the DotComGuy team arrange the broadcast on the Internet at www.dotcomguy.com.

DotComGuy spends a good part of his day doing mundane things, and one can't help but notice the self-consciousness of someone under constant surveillance. Even the dog -- DotComDog -- seems excruciatingly self-aware. DotComGuy has developed a peculiar habit: announcing thoughts that would normally be internalized by others.

''I've gotten better at it, though I'm not as good as I probably should be,'' says the former Mitch Maddox. ''I need to do it more often so people know what's going on -- I've invited them into my home and I need to at least be a courteous host and tell them what's going through my mind.''

DotComGuy prepares meals with food delivered by online grocers.

He says he doesn't miss stepping out into the world to shop for food.

''With groceries, people say 'well, you're isolating yourself, you're not interacting with people.' Truly, the last time you went to the grocery store, was your interaction with people of any quality?'' he asks. ''You were in a hurry, you didn't want to talk to anybody, you didn't want to wait in line, and you were probably in an express line.''

So far, the location of DotComGuy's house has been kept secret, mainly for his security, spokeswoman Stephanie Germeraad says.

Patrick Keane, a senior analyst at Jupiter Communications, a New York-based research firm that studies Internet commerce, says the whole concept of DotComGuy seems like ''Internet 1997'' to him. ''The novelty is gone, the shock value nonexistent,'' he said. ''If I'm an advertiser, there are a lot better places to place my branding message.''

But the site, which has banner ads from companies like United Parcel Service, has more than 1 1/2 million hits a day, Germeraad said, though that number is lower than when the site first started.

It seems a core group of users log on to see what DotComGuy is up to a regular basis and the average time per session is 27 minutes.

If anything, the DotComGuy experiment sheds more light on the life of a homebound bachelor.

''We know his habits pretty well, his demeanor, his personality,'' Germeraad said. ''But he fools us every now and then. Sometimes we'll think we know what he's going to say or do, and he totally comes at us from left field.''

Such interest of others' lives is really nothing new, according to social psychology professor Frank T. McAndrew at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill.

''All these things, like MTV's ''Real World'' and the new ''Survivor'' program, show how he have sort of an innate interest in the goings on of other people's personal lives,'' McAndrew said.

''It's so we've evolved to know that other people are monitoring us all the time -- for any little faux pas.''

DotComGuy says his most embarrassing moment has been a tripping on the stairs and sitting on a chair that broke. He shrugs them off as one-time occurrences.

Now it's dinnertime.

''What's today's date?'' he asks as he dates a check for a pizza he just ordered online, going between the computer mouse and the checkbook. ''I don't keep track of the days,'' he says, shifting in his chair.

''I don't concern myself with it because, if I did, then I'd go nuts!''



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