UniTEA Mobile: Amusement, Distraction, or Incalculable Damage?

Remember the Dale Robertson guy with the N-word sign who is founder of teaparty.org (disavowed by most real tea party organizations)?  Well, he’s gone and done it again.  And I fell for it.

The days of knocking on doors, walking precincts and direct mail campaigning to efficiently gather voters may soon be dwarfed if the vision of a handful of Patriots comes to fruition.

(Yes, the email and the web site really say that.)  Now if you know me, you know that  I know a bit about about online electioneering and software meant for that purpose,  mobile, web  and desktop.

Heck ever since before the days of the GOP Tech Summit, the old Online Action Center project and the successful deployment of PROCINCT, I’ve been wanting to dwarf the days of knocking on doors and direct mail campaigning to efficiently gather voters, so when I got the email announcing UniTEA Mobile, why I sat right up on my hind legs and started panting, in spite of the poor choice of words, eager to begin the dwarfing process.

Because I was skeptical that a mobile app could enable me to influence voters I don’t know yet – all from the convenience of my mobile phone.  I wanted to be convinced.

Now I don’t know about Dale, but the reason I walk precincts and sweat over direct mail (and I’ve done lots of both) is to influence voters that I don’t already know.  That’s tough work.  But Dale seems to be promising that UniTEA will make the need for that go away, so I had to check it out.

Now I’ve done enough first-time releases of new software that I know it’s very, very easy to gush a little (or a lot) when releasing a promising, useful new app, and gush Dale and teaparty.org do.  So we can easily guess this is their first-ever app launch.  But sometimes ‘promising’ is entirely in the minds of the folks writing the ad copy.  It shows in lots of ways.

I assume that when Dale says things like…

they [UniTEA users] may determine the outcome of the next Presidential election

I could naturally conclude that voter influence activity is in there somewhere.  How would we (yes, I am now among the elite of those UniTEA users) determine the outcome of a presidential election without influencing voters – by knocking on doors, phone banking or sending direct mail?  UniTEA does not seem to provide the answer to that question, but they make the claim that those activities may no longer be required for victory.  For our side, I mean.

But it’s not.  Not a bit of it.  UniTEA Mobile only furnishes you with yet another channel you have have to check in with to be sure you’re in touch with other Tea Party folk.   Busy social media people don’t need yet another channel (that’s not aware of other channels) to constantly check.

And UniTEA does not let you join or login with Twitter or Facebook and is not at all Twitter or Facebook aware, so if you are going to invite people to download, install, join, and get connected with UniTEA, you’re going to have to pull up your email reader, select the friends you want to send to… well, you get the picture.

If it works on your phone, UniTEA might be a great, if labor-intensive, app for staying in touch with your Tea Party buds if you can get them to join, too.   I doubt if you are going to find the voters you need to reach in your precinct in there already as they are in an app like NationBuilder.  On my phone it crashed, locked up, and nothing worked very well, if it worked at all.  Both the app and the marketing for it are very poorly designed. I will not exhaust you with the exhaustive list of problems in using this app.

But what’s making me go ballistic right now is some of those marketing concepts they chose.  Those of us involved with getting folks into the streets to do GOTV work – many of us here – know just what a tough time we’ve had getting folks to get off their keyboards and out in the street.

This app and especially the ‘marketing’ for it does not help.  I’m inclined to place it in the ‘incalculable damage’ column.

My fear is that we will finally get folks off their keyboards and into the street, only to find them on their mobile device  ‘determining the outcome of the next presidential election’…

…and not talking to a single voter.

Indeed, they will be sanctimoniously telling us they don’t need to walk because the days of knocking on doors, walking precincts and sweating over direct mail have been dwarfed.