Originally created 01/02/00

Dallas man plans to live year exclusively online



DALLAS -- In an effort to prove how wired the world has become, a 26-year-old former computer systems manager walked into an empty Dallas house on Saturday with a laptop computer and said he doesn't plan to leave until 2001.

His plan: live exclusively online, including ordering food, furniture and clothes and hosting a 24-hour live video feed of his life.

"Our vision is that new online shoppers will go to our site to learn how to utilize e-commerce," said Mitch Maddox, who legally changed his name to DotComGuy and set up a company, DotComGuy Inc., for the stunt.

After locking himself inside the rented house Saturday, he added: "I'm going to come out being a loon."

The "live" part of the DotComGuy stunt involves 24-hour streaming video from dozens of digital cameras set up throughout the house. One camera points at the kitchen, several face the living room, and one even sits on a bathroom shelf -- turned away from the toilet and bathtub.

The DotComGuy project, which sounds like a cross between the enviro-colonization experiment Biosphere and the film "EdTV," has a few ground rules. Maddox can have visitors. He simply can't go farther than the back yard.

"We certainly don't recommend that people lock themselves away from the world, but we will prove that it can be done," said Len Critcher, a friend of Maddox's and president of DotComGuy Inc.

Maddox's first monthly paycheck from the company will be $24, but it will double every month as an incentive to stay in the house, Critcher said.

Critcher helped line up sponsors to sustain Maddox through the year, including Gateway, which donated the laptop, and Peapod.com, which agreed to keep the house stocked with groceries. The sponsors are listed on the project's Web site, www.DotComGuy.com.

Dallas-based service911.com jumped on board when it realized its PC services company could benefit from a little live, online exposure.

"We are going to have people say, 'Hey, DotComGuy, how do I install a brand new modem or how do I get this or that Web site?"' said service911.com's Jeff Lipschultz. "And when he uses our site, that's how people will learn about us."

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

Saturday afternoon, the Web site video showed Maddox sitting on the floor of an empty room chatting online with visitors.

Among his first buys online buys: shampoo, toilet paper, cleaning supplies and carry-out food.