One year after the original BrainTalk Communities disappeared from the web, the domain BrainTalk.org was sold at auction yesterday for $2200. Although rights to the domain could have been retained for less than $10 — or even sold to raise money for the group — it was instead left to expire by the same folks who still hold the keys to the now-inaccessible database containing over 1 million contributions by the nearly 50,000 members of the original support group for sufferers of neurological disorders.
Yes, the BrainTalk Communities do still live on. A set of active members of the original BrainTalk did set up a new version of the well-known neurology support group some months after the original site disappeared in mid-2006. Sure, they wiped out over 1 million separate contributions from a community that had numbered nearly 50,000 people. And no, they no longer had the same active support of Harvard University. Yes, one of their main founders left for a primary existence in SecondLife, essentially never to be seen again at BrainTalk. But at least the place does still exist. (Here is how BrainTalk looked in April 2006, shortly before the original community was destroyed.) So too does at least one knock-off site, set up by a psychologist who seized the moment in what some BrainTalk old-timers may feel was an opportunistic attempt to cash in on their site’s demise.
But this latest footnote in the history of BrainTalk really brings home the message that the powers that be at BrainTalk are fully focused on the future, and the neurology support forums they run now, rather than on the past. It looks like the tricky job of repairing the goodwill that was destroyed when the original site was wiped out and never restored from backup will probably never become a priority. (The original database certainly could have been restored: it is still held in backup form by one of the group’s original founders, but nobody has taken the time to do it, despite repeated offers of assistance from others in the field.)
Ironically, the Braintalk.org domain name could have been retained for less than $10 — or it could even have been sold to raise money for the group. Instead, it was left to expire, and ultimately it was sold off at auction just yesterday for $2200. Of course, the BrainTalk Communities won’t ever see any of that money; it goes to the firm which nabbed the domain upon expiry and which subsequently handled the auction. As of today, it is displaying spammy pay-per-click ads — just like all of the other BrainTalk domains that have been registered (e.g., .com, .net, .info, .co.uk, etc.) in an attempt to siphon revenues out of the strength of the BrainTalk name.
Will the new owner of the name get their money’s worth? Who knows? But to me it’s a shame that just about the only quantitative recognition left of the value of the work put in by nearly 50,000 people — and not merely by the handful of ‘powers that be’ who let the communities’ history be destroyed — is the fact that domainers are willing to pay a couple of thousand dollars to control the name.
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