He Said, She Said: Yet More On Obama, Joe Anthony and MySpace
by Chris Bowers, Thu May 03, 2007 at 07:50:44 AM EDT
But what strikes me as odd about it is Rospars' claim that Anthony's "list of itemized financial requests" came unbidden, after the workload on the page exploded and Anthony cut off the campaign's password access to the site. Rospars would have you believe that Anthony was in effect extorting the campaign by witholding access, but my notes of my conversations with Obama staff, which were "on background" make clear that Anthony only produced that proposal (the $39,000 plus the $10,000 for possible advertising spending by the campaign on MySpace) at the request of Chris Hughes.The details of this part of the story, which for many people is the crux of the issue (did Anthony try to extort the campaign or did the campaign negotiate in bad faith?) now seem rather murky. There is a lot of he said / she said that might not ever be entirely sorted out. The second key aspect of the story, the issue of fair compensation for the work Anthony did, is addressed by Micah Sifry in another post today:
I should add here that I know Rospars a little and based on our past conversations and his general reputation among politech folks, he's a straight shooter. I don't think he's saying anything other than what he believes were the actual version of events. But what I don't know is whether Rospars was personally involved in all the details of the relationship with Anthony, or what he's written here reflects what others who were more directly involved are feeding him.
It's possible that we will soon see a clarification of this issue, since Anthony tells me that Rospars offered to let him post
I've seen comments about this controversy suggesting that Joe Anthony's work in creating his myspace.com/barackobama profile page two-and-a-half years ago and building it to the point that he had more than 30,000 friends by the time Obama formally launched his campaign in late January was negligible, little more than stitching together some images and biographical content and then clicking "add" for all the friend requests that flowed in.Nothing bothered me more in the discussion yesterday than the argument that Anthony's work wasn't valuable. That line of argumentation had strong overtones of implying that all internet and netroots work conducted on behalf of a campaign was not valuable, a
But from talking with Joe, and even from Joe Rospars defensive post on the Obama site, it's clear he did a lot more than that and spent a great deal of time--at least five hours a day starting this January, he says--responding to individual emails, pointing people to information on how to register to vote (something he is rightfully intensely proud of), answering their questions about Obama, and so on. If you hired someone to do this for you to promote a movie or a product or a candidate on MySpace, surely you'd have to pay them something. Top internet consulting firms charge anywhere from $50-$150 an hour for staff time. If Anthony put in just 5 hours a day over the last 18 weeks, that could be anywhere from $30,000 to $90,000 in value.
I'm not even factoring in the intangible value of all the good press Anthony's site generated for the Obama campaign as soon as the media started reporting how well the Senator was doing in the "MySpace primary." You can say that if it wasn't Joe Anthony who made Barack Obama so popular on MySpace, and you'd be right, but still, Anthony was still doing the back-end work of building and maintaining a rapidly growing group, and by all accounts did so pretty well. Not perfectly, but when I asked the Obama campaign folks if Anthony's management of the site ever harmed them, they unanimously said no.
And then there's the future value of a vibrant group of 160,000 "friends" on MySpace. Lots of people have expressed skepticism about this (including a truly condescending post on a blog connected to the D Conference about Obama losing the support of that "all-important 13- to 17-year-old demographic at the polls"). If you think the group has no daily life, that once people friended Anthony's Obama profile, consider this: as of this morning, there are at least 18,000 comments from members of that group responding to a bulletin Anthony sent them about the situation and asking for their advice.
Sifry has quite a bit more to say in both posts, here and here, including comments from a variety of internet consultants on the value of Anthony's work. If you think this isn't a big issue, I think you are wrong. This incident cuts right at the right of funding issues surrounding the netroots and blogosphere, and the value of our new medium in general. As opposed to the conversations yesterday, I also think that now it is clear that there are no clear answers or "sides" to take on what happened. This isn't a black and white issue, but it is very important, and it needs further discussion.