That Obama iPhone application

October 8th, 2008  |  Tags: , , , ,

Last week Sen. Obama’s campaign released an iPhone application designed, as far as I can tell, to help people more efficiently annoy the living crap out of their friends. The reaction from weblogs I read and twitter users that I follow was overwhelmingly positive, and given the pedigrees of the programmers involved, I have no reason to believe that the application is not well-designed and effective at what it does. However, I find myself almost completely creeped out by the whole thing. Honestly, random people who insist that I make a public confession of faith in their preferred candidate have had no trouble finding and pestering me even before I could be an “Insufficient zeal” item on a smoothly-animated, multi-touch enabled bullet list.

The first non-positive comment on this application I encountered in my feed reader came from Wolf Rentzsch, who noted that the use cases for the application seem to reduce one’s friends to “resources to exploit to further [one’s] political ideology.” Rentzsch compares Obama’s proselytes to “religious crazies,” which I think is unfair. I’ve had far better conversations with the kempt and friendly members of various cults who come to my door than I have ever had with the clipboard-addled, talking-point-infected scumbags who want me to vote for someone or to sign something without reading it.

I was curious, so I installed the Official Obama ’08 iPhone and iPod Touch Application, but it made my phone go haywire: repeatedly calling everyone in my contacts list who isn’t a U.S. citizen or is recently deceased; applying some bizarre Shepard Fairey halftone effect to all of my photos in the Camera Roll; replacing Marker Felt in the Notes application with what I am pretty sure is an unlicensed version of Gotham; etc. I had to remove it.

The experience got me thinking, though: while there are clearly a lot of useless iPhone applications, there aren’t that many that are actively socially hostile like this. I wonder what other applications might fit in this model?


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