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Mrs. Murphy presented far better show-and-tell


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POSTED: Sunday, June 14, 2009

Imagine if aliens, who've been monitoring our radio and TV transmissions since the '50s, landed on Earth and asked you to take them to our leader. After breaking the news to them that he isn't Regis Philbin, you all decide to share the long cab ride to D.C.

Surprisingly, you run out of questions pretty quickly (turns out their cure for cancer is nothing more than distilled sea water, baking soda and a touch of lime). So, if only to break the silence, they decide to ask you a question.

“;What is this thing you call the Internet?”; Cmdr. Zork screeches through his universal translator. Oddly, a description befitting the circumstances pops into your mind.

“;Do your remember that episode of 'Leave It to Beaver' when the Beav goes to school and lies about his dad's heroics in World War II and his teacher pressures him to bring in some nonexistent medals of valor and hand grenades and stuff to show the class?”; you say.

“;You mean Season 2, Episode 28, original air date Thursday, April 9, 1959?”; Zork replies.

“;Riiiight,”; you say, trying not to seem too impressed. “;Well, that's the Internet.”;

“;Lies?”; Zork says.

“;No. Well, yes, there's a lot of that. But I mean show-and-tell. The 'Net is a global, nonstop show-and-tell.”;

If—wait, who am I kidding—WHEN this happens, be sure to have that explanation at the ready. The galactic commander might be impressed enough to keep you around as a pet, since most every aspect of the Web supports this metaphor.

From Facebook to YouTube to AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com, it's all show-and-tell. The only difference between a little girl describing the formal gown on her Malibu Barbie in front of a classroom as opposed to on YouTube? Maybe $1.45 a month from Google Ad Sense.

But the old-fashioned, schoolroom show-and-tell was better because when it was your turn to make your primary school Pitch of the Week, there was a Mrs. Murphy or Mrs. Johnson there to make sure your viewers sat up straight and paid attention.

Perhaps this is why those of a certain age feel such hostility when we learn that someone we dare call “;friend”; can't find the motivation to simply click a forwarded link and promptly report back that, yes, that tiger-mauling video was indeed “;awesome.”;

After all, we went to the trouble to find that tiger mauling, copy the link to that tiger mauling, open our e-mail application and paste that tiger mauling, and then send that tiger mauling to their specific e-mail address. Then we wait patiently for up to 90 minutes before calling them only to hear, “;Uh, what? Tiger mauling? What are you talking about? What tiger mauling?”;

Ingrates.

Unfortunately, in such an unjust and anarchic show-and-tell environment, little can be done to increase the benefit (audience attention) in the link-forwarding cost-to-benefit ratio. However, there are a few super-simple services that can greatly decrease the cost part of the equation.

Firefox plug-ins available at buzzster.com and amplify.com make tossing a link halfway around the world as simple as tossing a Nerf football across a cubicle.

Using buzzster, all you have to do is surf to the page you want to share, click a button on your browser's toolbar and type the forwarding e-mail address.

The Amplify button opens a door to even more powerful features, allowing you to clip not just a link, but actual content, including video, that can be set to automatically update your Twitter or Facebook accounts.

Now all we need is a plug-in that could force the world to sit up straight and pay attention.

Maybe the aliens can throw something together with some common items from our cupboards.


Follow columnist Curt Brandao's Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/digitalslob.