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her parents seem hipper and younger," says Julie Germany, direc-
tor of the nonpartisan Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the
Internet at George Washington University. The McCain campaign
did not reply to several interview requests, but Germany predicts
that the campaign will exploit social networking in time to make
a di erence in November. "What we will see is that the McCain
online campaign is using the Internet just as e ectively to meet
its goals as the Obama campaign," she says. Over the summer, the
McCain campaign refreshed its website. But Rasiej, for one, doubts
that McCain has enough time to make up lost ground.
A NETWORKED WHITE HOUSE?
The obvious next step for MyBO is to serve as a get-out-the-vote
engine in November. All campaigns scrutinize public records show-
ing who is registered to vote and whether they have voted in past
elections. The Obama campaign will be able to merge this data with
MyBO data. All MyBO members' activity will have been chroni-
cled: every house party they attended, each online connection, the
date and amount of each donation. Rasiej sees how it might play
out: the reliable voters who signed up on MyBO but did little else
may be left alone. The most active ones will be deployed to get the
unreliable voters---whether MyBO members or not---to the polls.
And personalized pitches can be dished up, thanks to the MyBO
database. "The more contextual information they can provide the
field operation, the better turnout they will have," he says.
If Obama is elected, his Web-oriented campaign strategy could
carry over into his presidency. He could encourage his support-
ers to deluge members of Congress with calls and e-mails, or use
the Web to organize collective research on policy questions. The
campaign said in one of its prepared statements that "it's certain
that the relationships that have been built between Barack Obama
and his supporters, and between supporters themselves, will not
end on Election Day." But whether or not a President Obama takes
MyBO into the West Wing, it's clear that the phenomenon will
forever transform campaigning. "We're scratching the surface,"
Trippi says. "We're all excited because he's got one million people
signed up---but we are 300 million people in this country. We are
still at the infancy stages of what social-networking technologies
are going to do, not just in our politics but in everything. There
won't be any campaign in 2012 that doesn't try to build a social
network around it."
Lessig warns that if Obama wins but doesn't govern according
to principles of openness and change, as promised, supporters may
not be so interested in serving as MyBO foot soldiers in 2012. "The
thing they [the Obama camp] don't quite recognize is how much
of their enormous support comes from the perception that this is
someone di erent," Lessig says. "If they behave like everyone else,
how much will that stanch the passion of his support?"
But for now, it's party time. At the end of June, after Clinton sus-
pended her campaign, MyBO put out a call for the faithful to orga-
nize house parties under a "Unite for Change" theme. More than
4,000 parties were organized nationwide on June 28; I logged in
and picked three parties from about a dozen in the Boston area.
My first stop was a house party in the tony suburb of Winchester,
where several couples dutifully watched an Obama-supplied cam-
paign video. Host Mary Hart, an art professor in her 50s, said that
Obama and his website made her "open my house to strangers and
really get something going." She added, "I'm e-mailing people I
haven't seen in 20 years. We have this tremendous ability to use
this technology to network with people. Why don't we use it?"
Next stop was a lawn party in the Boston neighborhood of
Roxbury, whose organizer, Sachielle Samedi, 34, wore a button
that said "Hot Chicks Dig Obama." She said that support for the
Obama candidacy drew neighbors together. At the party, Wayne
Dudley, a retired history professor, met a kindred spirit: Brian
Murdoch, a 54-year-old Episcopal priest. The two men button-
holed me for several minutes; Dudley predicted that Obama would
bring about "a new world order centered on people of integrity."
Murdoch nodded vigorously. It was a fine MyBO moment.
My evening ended at a packed post-collegiate party in a Somer-
ville walk-up apartment. Host Rebecca Herst, a 23-year-old pro-
gram assistant with the Jewish Organizing Initiative, said that
MyBO---unlike Facebook---allowed her to quickly upload her entire
Gmail address book, grafting her network onto Obama's. "It will
be interesting to see what develops after this party, because now
I'm connected to all these people," she shouted over the growing
din. Two beery young men, heading for the exits, handed her two
checks for $20. Herst tucked the checks into her back pocket.
DAVID TALBOT IS TECHNOLOGY REVIEW'S CHIEF CORRESPONDENT.
Hear the CTO of Blue State Digital explain the origins and
workings of Barack Obama s social-networking website:
In 1992, James Carville, Bill Clinton's campaign chief, famously
exhorted his sta , "It's the economy, stupid!" This year, "It's the
network, stupid!" says Joe Trippi, manager of Howard Dean's
2004 campaign, which midwifed Barack Obama's Web tools.
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