I'm out of work. I don't have a clue what I should do for my next gig. and I know for certain that the Web is the answer. That's because the Web is the answer to everything. Want to know something? Look it up on the Web. Want to sell something? Advertise it on the Web. Want to buy something? Go to sameoldmall.com, fan out those gold cards, and go for it. Need a job? Web want ads are the only ones that work. So I know the answer. It's Jeopardy! Millennium Edition, and the answer (in the form of a question) is "Where's the one place where every schlemiel can make a gazillion dollars?" The trick isn't knowing the answer. The trick is coming up with the right question. And I'm betting that my trick will separate me from all of the other moderately intelligent, formerly employed office stiffs who have found a way to work the Web. The Web as workplace was invented with my mind in mind: I can already see myself lounging in front of my computer in a pair of boxers and a T-shirt, waiting for the Brinks truck to pull up in front of my condo and drop off the bags with that week's profits.
I sent a mass email to all of the people on my address list, asking them to name the missing link: the one Web service that didn't exist and that they couldn't live without.
My closest friends just hit "delete." But my buddy Fred, the 42-year-old dungeon-master-turned-computer-game-tester, had an idea: "Lattes Online! We're all addicts now — and it's legal. Find a way to broker all of those caffeine compulsions so that you can get your fix minutes after you put your order on the Web. Webspresso!"
Rhonda emailed me to meet her at Starbucks. In anticipation of my new status as filthy-rich Webpreneur, I pulled on some sweat pants from my dirty-clothes bin, and I neglected to shave. She took one look and said, "Slacker. You're just looking for a way to work without working, and you think the Web is it."
"Hey, my role model is that woman who's made a business out of thinking up clever Web addresses, registering them, and then selling them to businesses. That's a Web bake sale."
"You're ridiculous. You think, just because you don't sit in a cubicle anymore, that work isn't still work?"
Then she huffed out. I glanced over at the newspaper on the table next to me. It was folded open to yesterday's want ads, ready and waiting to accommodate hopeless job hunters. She's right, I thought, a job is a job is a job, and then — well, this is how Bill Gates must have felt when he thought up Windows: Yes, a job is just a job! Then I remembered the factoid-to-end-all-factoids: There's a study showing that the more time people spend on the Web, the more prone they are to depression! I'm looking at millions of depressed Web workers out there in need of consolation, in need of advice — in need of me!
Forget advice for the lovelorn. No one has time for love anymore. Everyone is working double overtime — which means people need advice for the lifelorn. I've got the missing link: Web Prozac!
Need help figuring out how to look busy in the new world of work? Web Prozac says, "Who cares?" Can't manage to convince yourself that you're not your job — after having lived through the '80s, when you so resolutely were? Web Prozac comes with instructions for a home jobotomy, so that you can finally sever your sense of self-worth from your company's annual report. Wondering how to have a hot office fling in the new world of no-office work? Hey, so am I! Email me if you have any ideas.
This is episode 14 in "Working Behind Enemy Lines," The Spy's continuing adventures in the new world of work. Send your ideas and comments by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A version of this article appeared in the May 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine.