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Now, Voyeur

''Big Brother'''s website -- While the reality show's ratings are iffy, its site hosts everything a snoop could wish

MEMORANDUM
TO: Big Brother producers and America Online
FROM: Noah Robischon

The big brother site (www.bigbrother2000.com) probably isn't topping your agenda right now, what with the show's shaky ratings and all. But it should be, and here's why: Your audience is tech savvy, and the online traffic spikes along with the drama (more than a half million visitors the day the first potential exiles were nominated) — which means that if your website didn't reek like a Survivor's armpit, you might attract a few more viewers. Maybe you think the live webcast is usurping the audience from the broadcast; I say quit whining and take advantage of it. A few ideas that would make the Big Brother website a little less bore-wellian:

POINT THE WAY
Make an online map of the house that shows where each roomie is at every moment. That way I could follow my favorite characters around and wouldn't have to rely on luck to catch the live and unedited version of Jordan and William having a heart-to-heart in the bedroom.

HOME-PAGE ME
Instead of those drab, cut-and-paste biographical pages you've created for the cast members, the contestants should have made their own websites. Seeing George's flabby idea of a good site would help me finally decide whether he's funny or just annoying.

KEEP IT REAL
You say AOL members have access to three more live cameras than the rest of us? As if! RealPlayer aficionados have already figured out how to access all seven video streams: Paste the correct URL (rtsp://bb1.stream.aol.com:7071/farm/*/encoder/bblive1.rm) into the player's ''Location'' box, and modify the number in the last portion (e.g., bblive5.rm,bblive7.rm) to switch between feeds. To be honest, though, the chicken-coop cam isn't all that exciting.

MAKE IT FUNKY
Take a cue from performer- turned-Web-cam artist Ana Voog (www.anacam.com)), and enhance one of the feeds by adding psychedelic colors. Watching the household's daily aerobics workout would be a lot more interesting.

PLAY IT LOUD
Just because they don't have music doesn't mean we shouldn't. VH1 has a Survivor tie-in music-video show, and at Here and Now (www.hereandnow.net) the playlist changes based on the mood in the house. You could at least offer a soundtrack: say, Hank Williams Jr.'s ''Divorce or Destroy'' as Karen cooks dinner for the troops.

HIT THE LINKS
When the ''Tour de Big Brother'' challenge started, there should have been some place on the official site where I could find a link to the real event (www.letour.fr).

CANCEL THE TV SHOW
Sounds radical, but since the program just recaps the 24-7 soap opera I've already seen, there's no incentive to tune in — which may explain why the site's traffic is increasing while the show's audience is decreasing. If Big Brother were online only, I'd be forced to watch the live feed round the clock, or sign up for a members-only area with the spiciest outtakes. Unfortunately, the way things are going now, that means I'd be watching George play with a chicken.

Originally posted Aug 04, 2000 Published in issue #553 Aug 04, 2000 Order article reprints