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#5.5 Jennicam Revisited


In 1996, 19-year-old Jennifer Ringley started the Jennicam, a 24-hour online chronicle of her life. Seven years later, she disappeared entirely from the internet. But why?

Also, PJ and Alex discuss how even in the past five months, the landscape of "lifecasting" has changed. And PJ puts Alex on Meerkat and he gets very uncomfortable.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This episode is brought to you by better for him a new podcast from eighty people. In each episode Francesca Ramsay talks to visionaries in business leaders about mistakes. They ve made how they work their way through them and came out better for it. Listen on Spotify wherever you get, your pot casts. This episode is brought to you by a sigh Asylum is an app designed to help teams plan, organise and execute all the work they do together. It helps it sure nothing falls through the cracks. So you can focus on the work that matters most learn. More, Try us honour for free visit, assign a dot com to get started. That's a ass, a dot com! So the thing do I guess where the internet is that the internet is changing all the time. It is a even right now. Some may just write a new web page. What's it about sports hearts that
eminently believable, also like the technologies, hide the internet in the way people easier. She knows. I'm very fascinates me your packets, it We did this story back in December about Jenny, really how she did the story. I did and the idea was that she was possibly the first person to ever street. Her a video of her life, twenty four hours a day on the internet and when we ran that story. One of the points he made that in Ottawa is what she was doing and ninety ninety six was predict The way a lot of us reduce the internet in December, two thousand fourteen, it's what I can do math six months later, it is definitely not December were who can tell time four months later, it's four months later now, what Lebanon is intervening months. Is that too The foremost rapid, popular abso. People are using periscope and mere cat are both ab.
They make it incredibly easy to use your phone to immediately start live streaming videos you can take a moment from your life and you ve been broadcast it tat. Whoever might wanna watch I found. In periscope, for, like thirty seconds, crazy, informative as to how difficult Jenny's life must have been. We lie because moment I flipped on the camera strangers were hounding me awful things? What were they say, find a dog and kick it really get dollar from a stranger what they I need to see was not the mundane any of my life? They wanted to see mayhem. I am right now broadcasting you on mere cat. Yeah, you re watching s so far, did you owe it to people are watching and what are they saying, don't say anything eager slash terrified, I hate me ray people are watching. I'm watching you get less comfortable MIA out for people are here how bad deal.
Now pretty bad. What's your anxiety level onawandah, ten, six, What's your anxiety love when you got a parking ticket for you, sort of to put up with this. Could we need a record atop if I follow me around it. Did this to you: how quickly would you freak out and actually be mad at me? Ten minutes, maybe you mean probably less yeah out ten people. Here now so this week we are revising the story about somebody who decide to live brake s every moment of her life twenty four hours a day, seven days a week for many years before that, like a normal, app, assisted way to do things in April of ninety ninety six nineteen year old Jennifer ring they started a website called Jenny. Can the site it's a stream of still images from webcam and or dorm room every fifteen minutes. Black and white photo upload generator Here studying Jenny coming back,
hidden with a snack Jenny sleep under a comforter Jenny on the phone twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Today the seems utterly mundane and pointless, but back Ninety six, it was revolution Afghanistan is the creator of the very popular Jenny com website, which televise is the life inside her apartment. Twenty four hours a day live on the internet. Please welcome Jenny. Can on Jenny, this is David Letterman. Ninety ninety eight interview Jennifer about Virgin Care- and this was just One of many media appearances, she's featured in newspapers and magazines cameo on a network drama for seven years. She was the subject of endless online discussion, debate in analysis and then one day she disappeared. I know because, for the better part of a year I've been trying to find her.
From gimlet. This is Why are you sure about the internet, I'm out even I am not entirely sure why I'm so obsessed with Jenny. Can I back in the nineties, but I didn't really watch it, but as when we spend most of his time online. These days she started it like someone who might have some special insight, someone's already gone through. What we're all living through today choose one of the first leave her life in public to one of the first, to become a celebrity simply because she was on camera, choose one of the people to share her most intimate invulnerable moments with complete strangers online, so why, after living so public did she vanished so completely so, first let me say thank you for this. I really appreciate it no reason that you should necessarily ban do pay for it I dont even know I picked up the phone, I usually the aftermath of dead ends in
phone numbers and emails can very saying that they had no idea where she was or worse sang. I think I know where she is, but she'll never talk to you. I finally got in touch with Jenny. She wasn't stand officer mean or even particularly mad, that I'd founder honestly. She was more the curious if her mom had given me her number, why did you think it was your mom who had given me. A phone number has done that in the past. Yeah they're they're. Still, you know fully listed in the phone book in everything and them I've yeah. I was hoping that she hasn't done that again my mom revival under my biggest fan sure, like the original stalker, so yeah. She would call me on Saturday morning and you know say I see you're still in bed. You need wake up, I'm like moments the clock, Jenny, and I ended up talking about three hours during which he told me. The whole story it I'll be. And back and ninety ninety six at the time
Jennifer really was a junior Dickinson College and Pennsylvania when she stumbled upon a new piece of technology or college bookstore a webcam. I was a computer nerd I've always been a computer and earth, and I had to have one pretty quickly real. I think- and I have anything to do with it and I just spent in a good checker money at the bookstore on this camera. So it was basically a programming challenge to myself to see if I could set up the script. It would take the pictures, upload them to the scientists to get that happening automatically, and I shared it with a couple of friendly kind of look. I got this working and I thought it was kind of meat in the begin. It was just her in those computer, nerd friends, but those french shared with their friends and they share with their friends and at some point the press began sniffing around somebody. A newspaper in Australia heard about it, It was easy to sit there and stare at the screen. Anticipating the next picture,
pretty immediately. Things went crazy. I got a call from my eye p that I owed them several hundred dollars for bandwidth charges and I'd have to move my side and it was not something I had definitely prepared for looking at Jenny, came as an internet user and twenty fourteen kind of hard to see the appeal, but something magnetic about watching it. It was you, sit there and stare at the screen, anticipating the next picture. Link in the chain that could be assembled into a narrative Jenny's, bed and via high boots, so she's going out Jenny, tank top and sweat, pants and forever computer, so Staying home and chatting on our see. In a guy laying next one another in bed, so the falsely breeding or they'll end up having sex. This, of course the possibility of witnessing nudity or sex was also a huge part of the appeal maybe it would happen in the next image or the next image or the next? The first time, one boyfriend and I did start kissing
The fight went down pretty much immediately from from from tomb slowed so em, and then, of course, you know, I hear the computer beeping. I look. Over a once. He realizes that kissing his overloaded, he didn't come back into my room again. Nobody who to be on it. Nobody wanted to come into my room, even though the new videos like almost incidental just by the fact that people were. So excited by the fact that your kissing on camera, they crashed your website. There was a sexual undertone. I guess I would say to what you were doing and was that something you thought bout, when you set it up, I think I decided he was gonna, be more of a pain to have to turn the camera around. When I was gonna get changed that it was gonna, be more of a pain to have to cover it up when something what's gonna be happening, that if I really wanted to be able to ignore the cameras in as much as I, why do that they just had to keep running time as until you, my boyfriend,
We must stop that mark over to the other side of the room and there's no that's that's not. Didn't want it to be disruptive like that. For me is there any part of you that felt that it was empowering or was excited by it? Like was very pretty view that was like this is a part of this I actually enjoy. Where was it just another part of this expert? I'm not gonna lying there were their work was certainly a couple of times. As you know, I wouldn't put on something and woolly check this out. Like it was almost like. Looking in the mirror and dormant, I didn't have a big mirror for turning the camera. Cramp around the room, I'm not going to deny that there is a certain amount of you know, insecurity that goes along with being no nineteen years old sets its natural to be seeking approval, but I also tried not to listen to hard to this.
Back. That was either really good or really bad. So why Actually was she doing this? We ve come to accept that when someone does something this extreme, if the result of something extreme in their personality and what confusing about Jenny? Is that she's confounding we normal? She enjoyed the attention sure, but she wasn't desperate for fame. She was an approved exact but as exhibitionist go, she was pretty mild. She wasn't in it, for the money generally refuse plenty opportunities for banner ads or product placement, a kind seems like when she started it, she just did you see what would happen next, its became a mission. This experiment and radical openness a mission that every once in a while, she felt really paid off I was in my dorm room Saturday night doing laundry its. I was not out emerge and I got an email from someone who said I'm doing laundry too, and I just looked, and I saw the you're doing laundry on Saturday night funny cause. I felt like loser, I'm sitting
I'm doing laundry on Saturday night, but I saw you are too so now I don't feel so bad and that that kind of just did it for me that that was the turning point where you're like well. I'm helping someone, because I'm doing laundering they're doing under the same time. I don't care anymore, like I'm gone, to hear of it. Somehow I gave, buddy permission to be themselves and to be ok with that, after college, Jim move to Washington DC and got a job doing web design going from a room to an apartment. She suddenly had a lot more space to document agenda super gave her a bunch of webcams. His work was throwing out. And she wired her new home. When I lived in DC, there would have been won in the office, probably too in the office, one in the kitchen and one in the living room. You won in the bedroom, and there was one in the bathroom, but it did not point at the toilet that that's that was. That was where I grew. Speak her sight got seven million hits a day which back
Eight nineties brought any a lot of attention theirs. Jenny, campfire, see channel there is a website dedicated just a picture of her feet. There were articles about her in the Wall Street Journal Salon in my and fair at magazine the guest on this american life she made a cameo appear. On diagnosis, murder, a late. Ninety text show starring, did Vandyke and, of course she if you buy the arbiter of late. Ninety celebrity David Letterman. This will replace television as we know it This will replace. However, even this is really all people what they just people are lonely and desperate their lonely, desperate miserable human beings, they what they're the reaching out they want to see life somewhere else taking place. It's comforting, don't you think I think The thing is that if you turn on the tv, you can see wild America and you can watch lions and badgers antelope eating, and keeping in doing what they do, but for some reason wanting to see people doing the same, broad, considered, sick and perverse well about that exactly
the whole thing was such a blur. But what always stand out to me? Listen, I've working under the states, Samuel L Jackson was coming off of the stage and I can't believe he even stopped to acknowledge me, but he looked right at me and he, I just set out your fight and I saw some peace, thieves downloading your stereo. We when you just that I thought that you are saying that he actually did catch people in the act of stealing things from your house. That's my co host Pga vote. We talked a journey together, but he was with you, you know he was making a joke that he'd seen. I guess that was the joke was that they were downloading my stereo, not with a view to feeling it now. There's a war on line up up up up up down. Instead of those two thousand with people would talk about world wide web lake. It was magic. The son, a vat joker said I'll Jackson to make in two thousand about the internet. Now that's pretty sharp or at work so I think it's either legacy before. I think this is the best idea. I've heard silly internet thing,
nice meeting you. Thank you very much Jerry coming up after the break. What makes Jenny We decided to make her entire life public disappear completely. This episode is brought to you by better for it a new podcast from eighty hosted by Francesca Ramsay. We all make mistakes better, for it looks at how mistake have shaped the lives and careers of visionaries and business leaders and helps them think differently about what their working for you'll hear from an entrepreneur who ventured out on his own, and so I went out. I took seven hundred dollars. I had in the bank, but my own pickup truck took some flyers business cards and later I had a business and, in each hour, rule breaker, whose learn while we all care about work in the first place you proud of the work,
Do you want to be able to tell your friends about you wanna, be able to feel like you're, making a difference, you'll hear how they work their way through their mistakes and came out better for listen on Spotify or wherever you get your PA casts. This episode is brought to you I saw her picture this a world where you spend less time juggling email meetings and status, updates and more time doing the work that matters the most your team, that's the world economy You judge this. You don't know because you're not having these feelings, that's the kind of story. You hear a million times in your lifetime, a friend who hooked up with someone else's You can all understand your goals and how to achieve them together and whatever your next object is a sonnet. Can help reduce the busy work that waste your time from small companies to global enterprises more than a million teams across a hundred and ninety five countries get work done with Sata, learn more and
I s honor for free visit, assign a dot com to get started. That's a stay on dot com by two thousand Jenny spawned imitators, Anna CAM Amanda CAM easy. Can a new term entered the lexicon to describe them. Came girl, and the beginning of the end for Jenny came came when she got caught up in a key. Girl, scandal, Jenny, We need to use the names the people involved, but who's this two thousand Jenny Adjustment Sacramento and a fellow came girl who is out there help to find a place and then, a few months later Any slept with his came girls fiance on camera. I thought we fell in love. I Really. At that time I felt like I had just met my soul mate. But how could you judge this, you don't know because you're not having these feelings deadlock
If story you hear a million times in your lifetime, a friend who hooked up with someone else's boyfriend or girlfriend and there's this tiny drama for you. It didn't only here and on camera, but it happened in front of hundreds of thousands of people in every one decided to take sides. I mean Oh yeah, and I dont battle. I don't blame them said it's it's it's one of those things that, from the outside its it's so obvious, came forms erruptive with vitriol anyhow it wasn't confined to the internet? The Washington She called her a red headed little minks and an amoral man trapper the Washington Post. Jenny and the former fiance moved in together and as you probably imagine their new relationship didn't flourish under that kind of scrutiny. I think what really bit the most was, of course, that relationship headstart, failing which it now with almost as soon as anybody could have predicted but
do you think I ended up staying in that relationship Fer a lot longer than I would have just because I felt lake I really really went out of my way to make this happen. Nuts is gonna give up. So I definitely like. There was more of a weight of responsibility on me to try harder just because and apparently made a huge mistake. Suddenly, Jenny experiment and radical unvarnished openness became a performance. The performance of relationship. He wasn't happy in because they give it up would have interest too great to public a failure and then Jenny did something anathema to recording your life. Twenty four seven. She got a day job, and at that point I was gonna be gone from the house. Fur nine hours a day and sleeping another eight hours a day in life started slowing down. For me, too, it's just. You get into a routine. I'm I'm, not twenty one, I'm not flailing, I'm not! I'm not me
laughable mistakes. Every five minutes, like you do when your younger, I guess that's a little more boring. Fewer interest in the site begin to wane and later thousand three Jenny announced that you shutting down and on descent Thirty, first of that year Jenny came, went dark. She upper images, internal entries to some zip discs and, through all of it, the cameras backups every I had to do a Jenny came into a box that live somewhere in our garage. Now I feel, like you, had this like unique position of doing this thing before is commonplace, and then you stopped and you ve gone, very very far in the other direction, like I'm curious, Yeah. You saw something bad that lake rushed into a nest. Many warnings. Looking back yes, please
Oracle of the internet. That scary cause. I'm I'm I'm not I'm not especially wise. That's exactly what an Oracle had said. Jenny rejected our attempts to make her anything other than what she was a person who this one thing for very specific reasons, but you say something that I couldn't help it take as a warning from someone who knows about the day of living in public. The way we do now she The internet will always overreact whenever it decides to shine a light on heaving, both praise and scorn at levels much greater than deserved. I was exhausted at the IRA's exhaust, but why? Why are you exhausted, but I had to develop a pretty thick skin fur, from both the good stuff and about south. There are people that I want to be able to catch. With, I don't wanna distrust every stranger. I dont want every good in or bad thing to make me feel defensive or proud. It became almost too thick of askin at the time.
Jenny stashed her webcams in her garage myspace was six months old. There was no facebook, no twitter, no instagram no Youtube and now that those Jenny is one of the few people who stays off of them completely. In fact, she most entirely absent from the internet there are few picture. Never floating around and there's a wikipedia. About any cam, but the hundreds of thousands Images and journal entry. She posted to our sight. Those are mostly gone and the Genie of twenty fourteen is basically on Google. My husband's last name is Jonathan and Jennifer. Johnson, as if practically better than Jane DOE. So I never thought I would get married. I never thought I would get married But when I did, I was super eager to take his last name super eager Finally, she does let slip in the real world that used to be Jenny came and she said and she does people mostly dont, get it felt like yeah. So why deal from like well kind o was
Mckenna sales a big deal by a kind of it. Deal in their like. I I'd also like a big deal to me. Jennifer Johnson, nay, really is still a programmer and still in Sacramento. To find out more about her. Followers on Twitter, Instagram. In fact, If you want to know more about her you're, pretty much out of luck, which is exactly the way she wants, it your reply is hosted by PDA vote and me Alex Goldman. We produce this liked him Howard through these minimum Amy Lienemann These edited by Alex Matt Labour is a nap our show was makes this week by requiring theme music. Is by break master cylinder and our add music is my build buildings. You can find episodes, Itunes, dot com, slash reply on our website. His reply, all that limo, which was designed in partnership with Batman. Thank you for listening.
You're the best. We're gonna be back at you with an awesome amazing super exciting new episode next week.
Transcript generated on 2020-02-13.