Narcissists of the world, check it out: The folks at Ether (ether.com) seem to think you have something extra important to tell the world. “Sell what you say,” they propose—on the bold assumption you have anything to say worth paying money to hear—and count on them to make it easy for you. Just sign up, set your hours and rates (a dime a minute, 50 bucks a call), plaster the Web with your new toll-free Ether number, and pay nothing until the prepaid calls start rolling in. Don’t do tax advice? Couldn’t talk a panicked retiree through a hard-drive recovery if your paycheck depended on it? Don’t worry. You are a child of the universe. Somewhere in your possession is some priceless smidgen of “the wisdom, advice, and insights all of us have accumulated over a lifetime,” and somewhere out there in the ether is someone willing to pay its price.
The rest of you, don’t laugh. Ten years ago you’d have scoffed at the notion that anyone would pay more than 50 cents for your Welcome Back, Kotter lunch box, but then came eBay, and suddenly the attics of America were scoured clean of their dusty treasures. Ether could have a similar effect if it ever takes off. The mental crawl spaces of the masses are crammed with stuff that may soon be spilling back out into the light of a wider circulation. And sure, as with eBay’s inventory, much of it will be the veriest crap: bum steers, moldy jokes, cheesy anecdotes. And as with Ether’s modest initial offerings (Pastor Marty’s dollar-a-minute advice on preaching technology; free tips on attaining inner serenity from his holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), much will be of interest to no one you know or ever will. But just remember: If you see an Ether number up on someone’s site, it probably means someone else thought it was worth dropping a dime on.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 13, 2006