The unexpected groan came in the middle of the afternoon. A co-worker's computer had gone to sleep when suddenly a loud sob coughed out of the speaker, loud enough to turn heads across the floor.
A twisted new kind of error notification? Nah. Just another live breakdown on Big Brother.
CBS's "reality TV" show Big Brother -- where a handful of beautiful people are locked in a house, filmed 24/7 and then banished one by one -- might be a ratings stinker on the tube, but you only had to see the crowd gather around the monitor while former stripper Jordan bawled live on camera to understand that the Web is where this drama really lives.
A TV show airs almost every night, but 24 hours a day you can look in on the captives at www.bigbrother2000.com. The site is run by AOL, which, coincidentally, has been accused of a few Big Brotherish practices of its own in the past.
The camera never shuts off, for better or for worse. After a few days of solid peeping, though, you've got to wonder why anyone bothers to watch in the first place.
Live feed AOL won't give traffic figures on how many people are tuning into the Big Brother live feed, but you can bet it's huge. Webcams like Jennycam manage to get people to pay to peer into someone else's life, so the opportunity to spy for free has to be appealing, right?
There are four different views to choose from, from the bedroom to the kitchen to outside by the pool. People lounge around, talk, snore, talk, exercise and talk some more.
The novelty of peering in on someone else's existence is intriguing, and for a few initial minutes could even, perhaps, pass as entertainment. You're eavesdropping without a Whisper 2000, and it's legal! Sadly, the people in this house aren't particularly interesting.
For the most part these are people you wouldn't want to listen to in person. What can be boiled down to a few segments of exciting TV is positively boring over 24 hours.
There's also the matter of the cameras themselves. What makes looking into a houseful of people wearing microphones and hamming it up for the cameras any different than your average soap opera? Sure, it's live, but it's hardly spontaneous.
Saucy late-night chats turn into long soliloquies, and everyone sounds like they're auditioning for their own talk show. Last week a few of the inmates even discussed seriously what their own post-Big Brother show will be about.
Which brings us back to the only reason people tune into Peeping Tom webcasts in the first place: to see some sex and/or nudity.
Presumably, you'll have to wait a long time for either to happen live on the Big Brother webcast. In the meantime, you could head outside and enjoy your own life.