The story of Joe Anthony and the Barack Obama MySpace profile is a crazy tale of identity and social networking power.
My probably garbled & over-simplified summary:
- A fan worked for several years to create and maintain a network of friends in support of Barack Obama, using an online profile that is the MySpace equivalent to barackobama.com. The resulting network of friends was huge – 160,000 connections.
- The campaign decided that this web property was too critical to not directly control. They asked Joe to make a buyout offer and Joe gave them one – a little under $50, 000.
- The campaign balked at the number, never counter-offering, and decided that Joe was squatting. MySpace agreed with that assessment (remember, the profile was created in Barack Obama’s name).
- Control of the web property was given to Obama campaign — but after what appears to be some yelling and screaming, the friends list was assigned back to Joe, on a newly chosen web property.
The combined value of the web property and the FOAF list is obvious. How much value have they each lost by being separated? And what about the damage done by the publicity over the separation? I really, really like the justice in awarding the property to the identity-holder, while awarding the friends-list to the relationship-builder. It is a rare single-site example of the value of portability in social network data.
If Joe had registered barackobama.com and had it taken away by the campaign (an open/shut squatting case), the campaign would have gained control of both the website and the readership. An easy done deal, no ifs ands or buts, thanks for the work we’ll take it from here Joe.
But at MySpace, Joe still has his soapbox. And the Obama campaign still has to work to build up their social network again. The great thing about this, is that the readership gets to decide. They can show their support for this political campaign by registering for the now official profile. They can show support for the unofficial fan site by sticking with the original profile under a new name. They can do both. They can do neither, withdrawing subscription from both profiles in protest. I don’t think it gets much more egalitarian than that.
Power to the people, baby, power to the people…
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To me this little example shows the short sighted nature of the power base. They didn’t see 50k in value for the work and underestimated the value of that network. To me it hurt Baracks imagine as a new kind of leader.
Just my opinion!