Via Drew Tipson (@dtipson), Yahoo news is reporting this gem of a bad online political idea from the NRCC: ”House Republicans Plan Experimental Online Messaging Blitz Before Health Care Ruling“
The campaign, brainchild of National Republican Congressional Committee Digital Director Gerrit Lansing, takes a fresh approach to old-school petitioning, one that combines social media gizmos with a retro tech twist. (Part of the plan involves a computer printer that has its own Twitter account. Follow along if you can.)
The NRCC is going to roll out videos this week, featuring elected officials explaining why Obamacare = socialism. In those videos, there will be a QR code*. Viewers are supposed to wave their mobile phone across the QR code**. That takes them to a Tumblr page with another video, explaining why Obamacare = unconstitutional. Then there’s a petition you can sign. And when you sign the online petition, you get to watch a livestream of a printer as it prints out your petition signature. And that printer has a Twitter account (of course it does!). If you have a high Klout score (see here xkcd’s seminal explanation of Klout scores), the printer will tweet that you’ve just signed the petition. And then, eventually, the NRCC will deliver the petitions to the White House. …Because the Obama White House should definitely be your target while health care reform is being decided in the Supreme Court.
The whole idea resembles the old boardgame mousetrap, or one of Data’s elaborate contraptions in the movie Goonies. It’s a big, elaborate process with an utterly mundane outcome. I mean really, gathering online petition signatures isn’t that hard. Adding winky steps and shiny online gadgets actually reduces the number of people who will sign the thing. The petition itself is a study in futility. The Obama administration isn’t going to change course because online conservatives don’t like the health care law. They’re already well aware of that one. The only conceivable point of the whole endeavor is to garner some earned media from gullible reporters. I say “gullible” reporters, because any savvy reporter on the tech and politics beat would be able to immediately see this for the glittery-but-stupid idea it is, and treat it accordingly. (either ignore or mock. Those are really the only options)
The real lesson here is that political campaigning has always been full of bad ideas. The digital landscape hasn’t changed that. Someone pitched this idea at a meeting. Someone’s boss approved this idea. Someone built the thing. Someone pitched it to reporters. And tomorrow, all of those people will still have jobs. That’s a comforting thought: maybe the “web gurus” aren’t so special after all. Turns out they’re just as fallible as the rest of us!
*QR codes are usually the canary in coal mine of online political tactics. They signal that there’s something toxic in the air. If your idea hinges on a QR code, I recommend taking a deep breath, slapping yourself briskly across the face twice, and then taking the QR code out and trying again.
**Um, what if they’re watching the video on a mobile device? See what I’m saying? Stupid idea.