For those at CNET who tug on my leash, I am sometimes a guinea pig.
However, when they ordered me to get a new girlfriend, I was a little disturbed by the personal nature of the request.
Weren't there laws against this kind of thing? Politely, they explained to me that I needed a girlfriend who didn't actually exist, but who would satisfy me at a virtual--and therefore more profound--level than any terrestrial being.
Feeling deeply relieved--as anything other than a virtual woman would most certainly cause intractable problems--I set about testing Cloud Girlfriend.
This was launched in a flurry of hype-nosis last month, when it claimed to be able to bring your perfect girlfriend into existence.
Now, apparently, the model has changed. The business model, that is. The company declared in a press release that the service was now "a mix between Match.com and Second Life."
I must confess that I'm sometimes not good at reading all the instructions. So I blundered straight on to the site--using my secret password: cnet. (Case sensitive. Please try it.)
I thought that what was being asked was for me to imagine my perfect date and the site would, with its fine algorithm, create that person for me, to love and to hold, in sickness and in health.
The site asked me for my perfect name. So I wrote "Charlotte Dumpling." I was given the choices between whether she should prefer apple pie or Apple computer (a close one, that), whether she should choose movies or books, and whether she should be 6 feet tall and talk like Richard Dreyfuss or be tiny and croak like a Budweiser lizard.
Oh, perhaps that last one was more of a virtual question than a real one.
Still, the site offered me some pictures and descriptions. And I, with eyes wide shut, requested dates from several. However, this was when I became a little disturbed. You see, two of the women looked very similar (Exhibits A and B are here on display, M'Lud).
I snuck back to the press release for a moment.
There, the site's co-founder, David Fuhriman, explained: "What we are creating blurs the lines between reality and imagination. We allow people to define their ideal self, find their perfect girlfriend or boyfriend and connect and interact as if that person existed. It can help in learning how to manage a real relationship, and they then take it into the real world."
Here's what has happened in my real world so far.
I have had no replies to my requests for dates. However, I am now Charlotte Dumpling. Yes, I must have misunderstood what the boxes wanted. Or perhaps it might have something to do with the fact that I never answered Facebook's question about whether I was male or female. Perhaps that's why I have had no replies to my requests for dates. Not even from twins.
These Cloud Girlfriend people now know about my Facebook page. (You have to log in via Facebook Connect.) What will they do with it? They promised they would never post on my wall. But I would like to warn my few, but loyal, Facebook friends right now, just in case: I am not called Charlotte. I am not a Dumpling. I did this solely for research purposes.
This virtual world can be so cloudy, can't it?