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Last updated on April 23, 2014 at 10:33 EDT

Healthy Features and New ‘Spore’ Creatures

June 21, 2008

One of the things that makes the valley unique is that failure here is viewed as a learning experience, not a mark of shame.

Julie Wainwright of Pets.com fame — remember the sock puppet? — is the latest to put that mantra to the test. Wainwright, chief executive of one of the more notorious busts of the dot-com era, is back with — you guessed it — another dot-com.

This time, instead of trying to sell pet food over the Internet, Wainwright has an idea that seems a bit more realistic. Her new Web site, SmartNow.com, which launched in beta this week, offers health and fitness information and beauty and relationship advice to women ages 35 to 55.

Wainwright, who’s been an executive at three companies since Pets.com, said she got the idea during the week that she had to shut down the pet supply Web store. That same week, her husband told her he wanted a divorce. Wainwright turned to the Internet for guidance, but found the offerings wanting.

To turn failure into opportunity usually requires acknowledging and learning from past mistakes. Despite the fact that Pets.com went from launch in 1998 to liquidation in 2000 — burning through around $160 million along the way, thanks in part to the high-profile sock puppet ad campaign — Wainwright still sees it not as a failure but a victim of circumstance.

Hopefully for her, the circumstances will be better this time around.

MORE SPORE: Video game players love aliens. And this week, thanks to free software from Electronic Arts, we can count the ways, alien by alien by alien.

Launched Tuesday, a free downloadable demo of the “Spore Creature Creator” had spawned almost 600,000 virtual life forms by midday Friday. People around the world have been working around the clock with design tools that feature simple click-drag-and-shape body parts.

The power to create creatures is a precursor of the full online “Spore” universe-creating game, which is due Sept. 7. It’s the next big brainchild of “Sims” originator Will Wright.

The demo, available at www.spore.com, includes only 25 percent of the parts that are in a full version of the creature creator (available from retailers or through the Spore Web site for $10). It took only minutes for Mercury News reporter Mike Antonucci to put together his alien — its face is devoted to a mouth with a ferocious bite, and its solitary eye is in its chest — and he picked Malency from an apparently endless stream of suggested names.

All the shared images are at Sporepedia (www.spore.com/sporepedia), along with information such as the names and photos of creators, as well as a description of their creatures (“looks a little like a tiger, but acts more like a dog”).

Not surprisingly, there has been creation mischief involving highly suggestive creature parts. “Online users have the ability to send us a complaint and flag content if they feel something is offensive,” an EA spokeswoman said via e-mail. “If someone complains, we review it, investigate if it’s in breach of our guidelines, and remove it.”

“Spore Creature Creator” has an Everyone rating; a rating of Teen (13 and older) is anticipated for “Spore.”

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