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Define "Guru": Selling the Obama '08 Online Campaign Abroad

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, April 25 2011

It's a perfectly normal course of events for political operatives to wrangle over who deserves what credit for a campaign's successes (or failures, for that matter). But letting yourself be billed as the Obama campaign's Internet guru when you're role was limited to managing the New Mexico Democrats' website is something rather different. Politico's Ben Smith and Byron Tau report on the case of ElectionMall's Ravi Singh:

In capitals across the globe in recent months, the face of Barack Obama’s groundbreaking 2008 online campaign has been one Ravi Singh, a self-styled “campaign guru” with a colorful turban, a reassuring smile and a killer sales pitch.

He has been called the man “responsible for the Internet campaign of Barack Obama,” in Poland, the “election guru” of Obama and Clinton” in India, “el guru tecnologico de Obama” in Colombia, and “homme qui a géré la campagne d’Obama sur Internet” in France.

There’s just one major thing wrong with this international portrait of Web wizardry — Singh never worked for Obama.

And it is easy to see how his international partners got the wrong impression.

Easy, like a video posted to Singh's "Campaign Guru" YouTube channel that carried the title "Election 2008 Obama Campaign Guru Ravi Singh in Madrid Spain." (That video has, in the last few days, been set to private and a clarifying dash belatedly added between "Obama" and "Campaign.") Of course, there's a meta lesson in small-worldness here. Michal Kolanko is the Polish reporter who reached out to Politico after seeing how Singh was being sold in Poland. “I think playing these games is a lot harder at this point than it was, let’s say 15 years ago," says Kolanko in the piece. "[W]hatever you do, you’ll leave a lot of breadcrumbs in the net ecosystem -- Google, social media -- on a truly global scale."