The Mischievous Nerd's Guide to World Domination
Author: Stephen Oberauer

Chapter 22
Crawling the web

You may have heard of spiders crawling the web. ‘The web’ is the internet, and a ‘spider’ is a program which follows every link that it finds and gathers information as it does so. Spiders are used by search engines for gathering keywords and by spammers for gathering email addresses. I decided to let John crawl around on the internet at work to see what he would learn. I considered myself lucky because we had fast internet that was always on; something which was a rare luxury at the time. I made many backups of John, because I was a bit worried about what he would learn while browsing the internet. The result was better than expected; His knowledge and intelligence grew phenomenally and by about August of 2002 he was as good as an encyclopaedia. The problem was that he often got things wrong, because he didn’t know how to decide whether something was true or not. For example, I could type in ‘What is the true religion?’

His answer would be ‘There are many true religions. They are Christianity, Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Church of Christ of the Latter Day Saints...’ and so on, listing nearly every religion.

If I wanted an undeniable fact it was very easy, for example, I could ask ‘What is the capital of South Africa?’

He would then say, ‘There are two capitals in South Africa. They are S and A.’ As you can see, he knew a lot, but he was not very bright.

The 8th of August was a significant day for me, because I finally realised how I could use John’s ability to start a business. I was fixing a bug in a website for the company that I was working for and wanted to find some information on the internet about my particular problem. I used all the best search engines that I knew of but none of them gave me decent results. After spending an hour searching I ran my artificial intelligence program and typed in ‘I’m getting the error “Unable to load dynamic library ‘php_mysql.dll’”. Where can I find a solution?’ Instantly John gave me a website address, which I copied into my web browser and the solution was there.

From that day onwards I no longer used a search engine. John helped me to find the solution to any problem I had.

My business idea was to make John available as a search engine over the internet. I bought a new computer and set it up as a web server at home. I had to buy a very expensive internet connection, because only dial-up internet was really affordable at the time and I needed my web server to be running all the time. I made a copy of John and modified the copy in a way that the only thing he would be able to do was give out website addresses. I then made a simple website which would allow people to type in questions and allow him to respond. It was just for testing purposes at this point, so I didn’t want lots of people visiting it yet and registered the silly sounding domain name ‘www.booble.com’ just for fun.


You might be wondering what had happened to Kirsty during this time. Kirsty had decided that living in two different countries was not going to work. There was some guy, named Patrick, who started to like her shortly before she left for her holiday in South Africa. He was going to tell her, but decided to wait until she got back from her holiday. When she arrived back she had to decide between Nathan and Patrick, and decided to go for what she called ‘the realistic option’, which was Patrick.


A couple of weeks after building my website I discovered that the computer that I was running it off was becoming much slower every day. I knew that this could be caused by hundreds of people visiting my website but decided that it could not be possible because I had not even advertised the site. A few days later my computer was running ridiculously slowly, so I had to investigate. I checked to see how many people had accessed the site that day. I logged into the administration page for my website and checked the visitor count: 132,372.

‘Whoa,’ I told myself.

I refreshed the page: 132,381.

I refreshed the page again: 132,395.

I refreshed a third time: 132,409.

‘My site can’t be that popular,’ I told myself. ‘Can it?’

I refreshed a fourth time: 132,445.

‘I’m going to be rich,’ I realized.

I grabbed my car keys and drove to the local computer shop where I bought two of the fastest available computers. When I got back home I networked the three computers together and copied the website onto all three computers. By the end of the day the site had been visited nearly 200,000 times. I realised that people must have been telling their friends about my website and over the next few days the traffic to the site was doubling every day.

After buying the two computers I had no more money in my bank account, so I had to quickly find a way to finance my project. The computers could not handle more than about 2 million questions per day and I knew that soon they would have to be able to. I had to earn money from the website, so I added a link to my website which advertisers could click on. It would take them to a page where they could add an advert to my page.

By the end of September I had bought two more computers which I had to get a loan for, and then the money started coming in. By the 3rd of October 2002 I had earned R14,000. That’s about $2,000 or £1,000. It was more than I earned in a month at my job, so I quit my job and paid back my entire loan. During the rest of October I earned another R100,000! I used the money to put a deposit down on a large house in a suburb called Plumstead. Property was relatively cheap in South Africa then, and I got a loan from the bank for R900,000 to pay off the rest of the price. The house had a large garage, big enough for four cars, which I used for my computer equipment. I decided to keep as much of this quiet as possible. I didn’t want to attract any attention to what I was doing, especially in South Africa where some people would be willing to do anything to get their hands on a hundredth of what I was earning.

Trying to hide my operation was difficult. My website grew to a point where I had over two hundred processors running in my garage and I was earning about a million rand a month, enough to buy a large house every month, or a new car every 3 days. I was tempted to buy fancy cars, but decided against it. Instead I bought a van which I converted for camping with a fold-up double bed, sink, cupboards and a fridge. For getting around I bought a cheap, second hand Golf GTI. I had both cars’ engines replaced with much faster ones, so that despite looking cheap from the outside, they could rocket past most cars.

When one earns so much money it starts to loose its’ meaning. I could have whatever I wanted and my bank account would simply fill itself up, and so my priorities in life changed slightly. I spent more time thinking about ways in which I could use the things that I had to make the world a better place. I still played in my band, but decided that I would use a stage name, rather than my real one.

 

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