Nice try, Barack — but not quite there

Lots of chatter about Barack Obama’s new MySpace-style social network, which he just launched in conjunction with the start of his official bid to become the next POTUS. It’s at my.barackobama.com, and it has all the requisite tools of a supposedly Web 2.0 campaign — profiles, blogs, friend requests, and (of course) built-in campaign financing tools so you can help Barack make it to the White House. But does everyone get Barack as a friend, the way all MySpacers get founder Tom Anderson? Inquiring minds want to know.

barackobama.jpegFred Wilson has some problems with Barack’s attempts to get all Web 2.0, including the use of Brightcove’s video player, but my problem with the whole thing is a little more philosophical. In part, I’m unconvinced that politicians and political parties — which are inherently even more artificial, controlled and paranoid than companies (and we all know how blogging and social networking gets treated at many of the latter, thanks to Wal-Mart and Edelman) — are really going to walk the walk, as opposed to just talking the talk. John Edwards has passed one test when it comes to defending bloggers associated with his campaign, but there are sure to be others.

And I also wonder whether it makes any sense to try and convince everyone to come and create a blog and invest time in all those other social-networking aspects of their lives exclusively at my.barackobama.com. Why not have a site that acts more like SuperGlu or Squidoo or something like that, one that pulls in blog posts and photos from Flickr and aggregates it all in one place, instead of making people go to Obama’s site to write or post? Of course, that would only increase the risks to the campaign, but that comes with the territory. And presumably Obama’s legion of volunteers could monitor the content.

I think there’s a risk that the social networks Barack and others are trying to build will become little more than Potemkin villages. My friend Rob Hyndman thinks that Obama could have what it takes, and that his site goes a long way towards following through on the promise of Politics 2.0.

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