Betabeat is back with another edition of modern justice. Back in March we brought you the story of Mark Bao, the serial entrepreneur who tracked his laptop thief and released humiliating videos of the culprit doing the rubber band dance on Youtube.
Last night a live drama played out on Twitter, as Sean Power, a tech author and consultant, used the free software program called Prey to track his stolen laptop, which had been taken along with a birth certificate, health card, cell phone and cash.
Power was in Canada on business, but watched remotely as the thief took a photo and uploaded it to Flickr. That helped Power figure out a name and location, Oficina Latina in Nolita. Twitter followers watching powers tweet about the drama figured out the culprit was actually a part owner in the establishment.
Power tried to sick the cops on the crook, but they refused to respond without him filing an official report, which he couldn’t very do from Ontario. Several online watchers offered to help, but Power begged them not to. “Please please please don’t get directly involved. I don’t want any of you to get hurt for a stupid laptop.”
Now a Twitter follower was staking out the bar and the story had broken on several blogs, although the alleged thief was still blissfully unaware. Power continued to share photos of the alleged thief that he was taking with the laptop camera and posting on the website Imgur. In an ironic role reversal, Power was able to watch as someone logged into his Chase bank account on the stolen computer.
By this point the dramatic narrative had jumped the shark for some followers, who began to tweet that Powers was probably part of viral stunt to promote the Prey anti-theft software. While friends jumped in to defend his honor a twitter user named Nick Reese and a mysterious hero known only as the girl in the purple sarong confronted the villian, who gave the laptop up without a fight.
A freelance writer named Brandon Ballenger captured the entire real time drama through a very creative use of the Storify platform, a tool for quickly creating journalism based on social media streams. Powers was so happy to have his property back he actually reached out to the various journalistic outlets that covered the episode and asked them to remove any identifying information. “Paolo freely gave it up. I’m not about to accuse anyone of anything. I’d rather forget that that place exists and just move on.”