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Unbusinesslike

I had to think about this post for a while. Part of me wanted to post it because I work with computers for a living. Part of me wanted to post it because I’m friends with some of the people who wrote the original Obama campaign mobile application back in 2008 (which was very successful). So I’m definitely biased.

But the account of how the Romney campaign completely bungled their “get out the vote” app goes beyond technical issues. Was their app doomed to fail because it reflects a world-view that is becoming a dinosaur, not to mention rife with irony and hypocrisy?

And fail it did. Users were emailed 60-page PDF files to print out. Seriously. Users had not been given any training and were not allowed to use or learn the app before the election. On election day, the website was largely inaccessible because they only put it on a single server. Even users who could get to the app found that they had been given the wrong PIN codes and passwords. When that was cleared up, the servers started crashing. And especially ironic, with all the users trying frantically to access the servers, the campaign’s ISP (Comcast) shut down their network connection because they thought it was a “denial of service” attack. When volunteers couldn’t access the app they had no way to help get out the vote, so they had no choice but to give up and go home. There was no plan B.

One of the developers of the Romney app put it well:

The bitter irony of this entire endeavor was that a supposedly small government candidate gutted the local structure of [get out the vote] efforts in favor of a centralized, faceless organization in a far off place (in this case, their Boston headquarters). Wrap your head around that.

The Romney app’s world-view reflects the top-down, hierarchically regimented, centralized world view of the CEO, versus Obama’s decentralized, bottom-up, grassroots world view of the social networker or community organizer. It is central control versus local control. It is authoritarianism versus peer networking. It is automation versus human factors, homogeneity versus heterogeneity. In every way I can think of the latter is more powerful, more democratic, more capitalistic (in the real sense of the word), and reflects the things that have made the US the greatest country on earth.

It is also ironic that the businessman’s campaign miserably failed in one of their most business-centric tasks — marketing and sales. So even if you believe we need a more business-like approach in our government, maybe Romney just isn’t a very good businessman.

UPDATE: Interesting stories on how Obama won the election — using sophisticated data mining and analytics — and how this is making old-school pundits obsolete.

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3 Comments

  1. Tim in Va wrote:

    Your are dead on target, particularly in your last two paragraphs. (Not sure I feel good about you encouraging them to “fix” their mess, though. Since they probably don’t visit this site, and most likely wouldn’t pay attention if they did, I guess it’s OK for you to make these excellent points for the rest of us to enjoy)

    IRONY RULES!

    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink
  2. Izzie Fareal wrote:

    This country is just that a COUNTRY…..NOT A BUSINESS! We don’t need a CEO/BUSINESS Man as the Commander in Cheif. It’s insane that right/gop saying things like “the government doesn’t create jobs, the private sector does that”….and then in the next breath say “elect me and I’ll provide 12million new jobs, and if already have a job I’ll get you more money” the hypocrisy and just the bold face lies and distortion is what made them lose. People don’t like feeling like the candidate thinks they’re slow/stupid and just won’t catch on…… arrogance has to account for some of that and just no moral compass about bold face lies to the very country you want to be head of…smh

    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Permalink
  3. Arthanyel wrote:

    Slightly off topic but I had to post this repose yesterday and thought it might be amusing:

    Here’s another gem from the Teapublicans today:

    “Show me one company run with liberal ideas. There may be CEO’s out there that are democrats but not a one of them run their business using those ideals – they are all conservatives. Every CEO or business owner’s number one concern is maximizing profit of the company, not catering to their workers.”

    —– cut here —–

    ROFLMAO. Obviously have no idea how companies are run. Yes, all CEO’s care about profitability of their company, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be EXTREMELY liberal. Here are just four examples off the top of my head:

    1) WL Gore. They make Gore-Tex (among other things). Wildly profitable, very happy – and no management AT ALL. Completely self-organizing, they give 100% medical coverage (no employee co-pay), you can take off as much time as you need at any time with no need for approval, and you can spend any amount of money on anything as long as it passes their “Yes – Yes” test, which is “If this works, will we all make money and have fun?” and “If this fails in the worst way imaginable, will we survive?” If the answer to both is Yes, they fund it.

    2) Google. One of the largest and most successful companies on Earth. Employees get free food from multiple restaurants on campus, 24 hours a day along with dozens of other free services ranging from dry cleaning to haircuts. Mandatory 20% of their PAID TIME has to be spent on “personal growth projects” not assigned work. For years, if any employee wanted a new computer they just needed to go down to the (free) store on campus and pick one up – no questions asked.

    3) Bob’s Red Mill. Bob’s is an organic food company based in Oregon, wildly successful, and the owner (A white Christian) gives his employees maximum benefits and now that he is planning to retire, HE IS TURNING THE COMPANY OVER TO THEM.

    4) Perdue Farms Chicken. Frank Perdue started his business in the 50th consecutive year economists said there was no more room in the chicken business, it was 100% saturated already. They now OWN the Eastern market and are the third largest chicken bushiness in the US. His business plan was a card – “Take care of your customers. Take care of your people.” That was IT. He also said repeatedly, if you do that then “The rest of the stuff – market share, profit margin, etc. – that stuff just happens. You don’t need to focus on it, just focus on your customers and your people.”

    So it is possible to be progressive and successful – in fact, some of the GREATEST successes have been very progressive.

    Friday, November 16, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

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  1. Political Irony › Buying Votes on Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    [...] Well, we’ve already seen how the Republicans tried to mount an even bigger get-out-the-vote effort for the election than the Democrats (deploying 34,000 operatives in key precincts and boasting on PBS “The Obama campaign likes to brag about their ground operation, but it’s nothing compared to this.”), but failed miserably. [...]