We Live in Public
The last time I saw Josh Harris (before last night) was in May 2006 sitting at our house with Jason Calacanis doing a podcast (worth listening to) with Fred and me. I have been a huge fan of Josh for many years. Brilliant mind. Not only that but behind the face of Josh is really a warm, sweet guy who is almost too smart and has so much family baggage that his desire to have a family life, kids, etc., has not been realized. I hope it is one way.
Josh got the Internet before anybody. He told Fred in 1995 that he thought that the Internet (which at that point was just a bunch of nerds playing around with technology ) would be a good thing for auctions. He really saw that the Internet would change the way we live. That in fact we would live in public, steam videos about ourselves on line, millions of people would watch them and you would have your 15 minutes of fame daily, computers would be able to track eyeballs, that advertisers would be able to target the customers through technology, etc. He saw Facebook, Myspace, Reality TV, Ebay ( back in 1975 ) before anyone else. He took this and pushed the envelope in ways that not many people could or for that matter would.
Last night we went to see a documentary done by Ondi Timoner called We Live in Public. The show was shown at the MOMA which subsequently bought the film for the archives which is perfect. It brought back millions of memories. It is a must see movie for anybody working in technology. You have to understand where it all started to understand where it is going.
Josh started a company called Jupiter which he actually made $80 million on when the company went public. He took this cash and started another company called Psuedo. Pseudo was the first online TV company. Not only was he streaming shows over the net ( that was before broadband ) there was live chat with the audience going on, on the screen, during each show. We all knew that he was on to something. Josh had asked me to come in and head up the marketing/advertising/sales division and help Psuedo bring in cash. But out of all the shows abotu 98% of them were so out there that it would literally impossible to get advertisers. People didn't get it. The shows were anything from hip-hop to sex. I spoke to him a few times but Josh was really interested in the whole art behind the project which was cool so I passed. There are a small part of him that wanted Psuedo to take out CBS, NBC, etc, but the lure of the art behind the whole thing was much more enticing. He just didn't have it in him to turn Psuedo into a real mainstream business after all he had $80 million in his pocket.
Psuedo eventually closed as the backers pulled the plug. Josh was starting to get a little crazy at this point. He was not only parading at his alter ego, Luvvy, he decided to move on and do another project. This project was to rent out an underground area where he installed 100 pods/beds where people would live for a certain period of time, I believe it was 2 months. He set up cameras and tvs in each pod and all around the places with different channels so everyone could watch each other all the time. People were having sex, going to the bathroom, being interrorgated, having dinner, etc. and it was all out there in the public for those 100 people only. Everything was available, drugs, food etc and free but Josh owned the tapes of the event. An I am not sure the word event even defines what happened. The environment was completely controlled and proved Josh's theories about what would happen to people living in public.
The project was closed down by the NY City police department on January 1, 2000 but he wasn't done. Josh decided with his new girlfriend ( although there was always the question was it a girlfriend or someone he chose to live with and be part of the project ) literally lived in public by setting up cameras all around their apartments for months. Didn't end pretty. Josh lost all his cash, moved to upstate NY and worked an apple farm. Next came to LA with a new idea which didn't work out, Madrid where he shot a movie and now he is in Ethiopia thinking and teaching basketball to kids.
The story is incredible. The documentary is really well done. Personally, I would never count Josh Harris out. He is too smart and too much of a visionary not to have another idea in him. It was really nice seeing him in person last night. He looks great. As I said, I have a soft spot in my heart for Josh and only hope he finds himself and happiness on the next go around.