When Unity08 ran what it called its “first vote” to determine the set of urgent issues that would form its “American Agenda,” Unity08 servers maintaining its database crashed, a number of vote records were lost, and Unity08 decided to sample the remainder rather, resulting in a “vote” that counted a small majority of ballots cast. Unity08 Vice President for Online Marketing Bob Roth blamed the crash of Unity08 voting systems by claiming that “we are pushing the limits of existing technologies while also building things that will be entirely new.” Hogwash. Unity08 used Linescale marketing survey software that’s been used by corporations to measure consumer satisfaction with cruise, credit card and candy brands for years, and whatever server it used only had to manage 22,000 votes over the course of an entire month. A desktop computer bought for less than $500 at Best Buy can handle such small computational and storage demands, as long as it’s maintained properly.
But Unity08 isn’t very good at the implementation and maintenance of simple technology: during the month of September, Unity08’s e-mail system broke down, too. And now Unity08’s central database has crashed, again. Over the weekend, Unity08’s system for members to rate one another’s comments disappeared (members tellingly never had the ability to rate Unity08 corporate posts), members started noticing that all posts for the past few days had disappeared, and the system failed to sign up new members. Unity08 VP Bob Roth explained the problems this morning:
Working on recovery for a database crash that occurred late last week. Please bear with us. If you have created a second account, please notify me of the two account names and I will merge them, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wouldn’t spend my time noting such technological foibles and avoidable glitches, except:
1. Unity08 claims it is going to run the first national secure online presidential nomination in June 2008, which is just seven months and one week away. There is no public accounting showing how Unity08 will move in that short time from a glitchy, crashy, vote-tossing operation to a trustworthy, iron-clad executor of a presidential nomination.
2. Unity08 is staffed by political public relations executives, is funded by wealthy venture capitalists and hedge fund managers, and continues to use its considerable connections to get media playtime in a variety of venues.
3. Unity08 is asking for your hard-earned money to keep itself going and paying its stable of consultants salaries and fees.
The media outlets that continue to air Unity08’s vague pronouncements about healing divisions, ending conflict, petting bunnies and kissing rainbows should start asking hard and specific questions about how this corporation plans to actually accomplish its goals. A year and a quarter of air kisses and puff pieces indicates that won’t happen any time soon. So it’s up to you as a potential donor to be aware of Unity08’s track record. Even if you agree with Unity08’s somewhat nebulous goals, you should be wary of indications that Unity08 is incapable as an organization of executing an election in a competent and trustworthy fashion. When you get a call from the telemarketing consultants Unity08 has hired to make fundraising appeals, ask the consultants about these problems. See what kind of answer you get — or don’t get. Act accordingly.