Russian (Chat) Roulette

A few weeks ago I fired off the random tweet that I’d be wasting some time on ChatRoulette and that fact garnered me a few snickers, snide remarks and general head-shaking.

I had no desire to see nudity or bad behavior (though you’ll definitely see both) but I did want to play around a bit. There’s no better way to waste an afternoon than on a simple, single-serving concept that’s fresh each time. Simply turn on your webcam, stare into the abyss and wait to laugh, cry, cringe or type with your new best friend.

To me, ChatRoulette offered the allure of all the things that made email (yes, email) so cool the first time I saw it.

Or HTML/The Web
Or Napster
Or … you get the picture

The first thing everyone does with a new internet toy is lurk. Lurkers/lurking is still the predominate mode of internet usage (even for “social” folks) and what better way to explore video (without having to make your own viral video hit) than to stare blankly at your webcam and wait for something to happen.

Seems pretty much standard operating procedure to me. No matter how “lean forward” some web experiences can be, we’d all like to just be entertained once in a while.

For my part, I was more than happy to play the part of the merry trickster, holding this candy wrapper up to the green-lighted eye of my webcam for folks to read. It got just as many leans forward and head nods as it did “Next” clicks.

Then I saw this amazing PianoChatImprov video (Via Brand Flakes For Breakfast) and my brain exploded a little bit:

What an awesome outlet for his creativity and a way to engage folks by giving them something (delight? surprise?) they didn’t even know they were looking for. And who knows, maybe some of those folks even decided to go do something creative themselves, either on ChatRoulette or off of it.

If the first step to getting more folks in the mode of creating things was text-based (BBS led to Blogs led to Twitter & Facebook) then the evolution naturally moves toward audio (podcasting, which is bigger than ever) and video, which is still growing.

Granted, the “content” (such an ugly word) won’t all be great, but that’s not the point. The point is the lowering of the barrier to entry so that those with latent talent and dreams can realize fulfillment (and fulfill others) where previously they couldn’t.

Democratization of media and whatnot.

For my part, I think I’m finally feeling the real urge to do a certain passion project that I’ve been rolling over in my head since last year’s SXSW. Stay tuned.

Are we likely to see some guy’s business or the random boob on ChatRoulette? Sure.
Will we see a live death (a real Russian Roulette) a la Abraham Biggs on Probably.
Could we get the next Seinfeld or Tarantino or Shakespeare here too? Hyperbole aside, new mediums produce new stars, so yes.

I’m not saying this one site will change the world (or even the internet) but it’s a bell-weather moment, a road sign pointing towards a future where TV plays less of a creative, cultural role and people entertain one another, either solely friend-to-friend (see: Facebook) or in new creative venues/enterprises.

And if you don’t believe all the squishy hype (or don’t like the piano guy) at least you can geek out on a map data mash-up, watch videos from the site or see the “best” screencaps from the site.

Happy Webcamming!

UPDATE: Ben Folds gets in on the action, pulling his own Merton at a concert in Charlotte!

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