MIAMI – Casting more uncertainty over the presidential nominating process for 2008, the Florida Legislature on Thursday moved the state’s primary up to Jan. 29, ignoring the threat of sanctions from the national Republican and Democratic parties. The new date puts the Florida primary ahead of all but four states. State party leaders hope that it will give Florida, the most populous swing state, a bigger role in choosing presidential nominees. But officials in other states said Florida’s move would only create more chaos around the nominating process, which has already been upended by other states’ decisions to hold earlier primaries. New Hampshire may move up its primary as a result – possibly even to this year, political leaders in other states said. And in South Carolina, Republican officials said they, too, would advance the date of their own primary. “South Carolina will name a date that keeps us first in the South,” said the chairman, Katon Dawson. “It could be as early as Halloween and our version of trick-or-treat, if we have to.” He added, “At the end of the day, the truth of the matter is that the nominee of either party is going to want to make sure they have not offended the big donors and the biggest activists in the most important state in the country that is electorally available.” Some of the states that have moved up their primaries to Feb.5, including California, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, said they did not expect to seek even earlier dates. “I just don’t see it as likely,” said Ron Nehring, chairman of the California Republican Party. “California is going to be relevant, regardless of what other states choose to do.” In addition to New Hampshire, the states with contests before Jan.29 are Iowa and Nevada. In recent presidential election years, Florida’s primary has taken place in March. The Florida House voted unanimously for the change on Thursday, a week after the Senate approved the measure. In the same legislation, they approved Gov. Charlie Crist’s plan to replace the touch-screen voting machines used in many of Florida’s counties with paper ballots counted by scanning machines. Spokesmen for two Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, indicated they would not hold back from campaigning in Florida. “The DNC and the Florida state party will arbitrate this, and we will compete on the final field vigorously,” said Bill Burton, a spokesman for Obama. Stacie Paxton, press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, said the party would hold fast to its rules but suggested that Florida’s primary could be nonbinding. Its delegates could still be allowed at the nominating convention, she said, if the state agreed to hold a caucus later in the year. “This is not the first time that a state Legislature has set its primary on a date outside DNC party rules,” she said, adding that the committee is working with the state party to find alternatives that comply with the rules.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Choosing primary dates has always been contentious, with states that held primaries late in the season feeling marginalized. But frustration soared this year, and dozens of states began to jostle for position, with more than 20 so far settling on Feb.5, or considering it. The shifting dates have forced the presidential campaigns to reconsider every aspect of their nominating strategy – where to compete, how to spend money, when to start television advertising. Both parties have been trying to put a halt to the leapfrogging. They have said they would penalize all but a handful of states if they hold a primary before Feb.5, stripping them of half their delegates to the national nominating conventions. Under Democratic Party rules, the candidates can also be penalized, losing the delegates they won in the rule-breaking state. But Florida officials scoffed at those threats, calling the conventions little more than a formality. “We have people who get invited to a big party where they drop a balloon and people wear funny hats,” said Marco Rubio, the Republican speaker of the state House of Representatives. “But they don’t have any role to play.”
He is a mortgage broker, and I remember him describing the loan process. The application is taken, the bank approves the application, an appraiser sets the value of the house, the lawyers draw up paperwork, the title company makes sure the house is unencumbered, and they’re ready to close the loan. There’s only one problem. The borrower decides at the last minute he wants to think about it some more, and cancels the closing. My brother-in-law’s comment: “We could do so many more loans if it weren’t for those darn borrowers!”That’s how it feels in the software industry today. A marketing department sees a sales opportunity. Designers create a new interstitial for the website, and developers make it happen with workflows and links back to fulfillment. Meanwhile, analytics pipelines are created and each step by every visitor to the website is tracked. Performance metrics are studied. Behaviors are noted. Yet, so many website visits end in “no sale.”It’s not that the company failed to execute. They did everything correctly. And you know what? Online retailers could do so much more business if it weren’t for those darn customers!The point is, there’s a human element to all of this. People are just not predictable. Some are loyal to a brand, and, like me, will forgive a one-off poor experience. Others have no patience. Some buy on a whim. Others shop an item around, and read up on features, before pulling the trigger on a purchase. It’s unpredictable behavior that renders all that resource planning, Continuous Delivery and analysis almost useless. There’s a reason that “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” is a saying.(There is an answer, and it’s found in Creepytown: “Hey we saw you put an item in your cart but failed to purchase. Can you tell us why, so we can get your money next time?”)So, is it imperative that companies race to deliver software that hasn’t been thoroughly tested, for the possibility of cashing in on an opportunity that may or may not even exist?To me (and the Ford Motor Company), quality should be now and forever Job One. Give your customers an excellent (fill in the blank) experience, and they will remain loyal customers. You won’t have to forgive a glitch, or a page that takes that little bit longer to load, or any of the other fallout from rushing an application into the world too soon. If you listen to the voices out there in our industry, organizations must release software at a breakneck pace if they want to survive in this consumerized, instant-gratification world of applications. Heaven forbid a competitor develops a new feature before you do. If that happens, you’re told, you might as well shut down your business and go fishing, which probably suits your pace better anyway!Certainly, that is the case in some situations. Anyone remember MySpace? They got to market around the same time (or even a bit before, if memory serves) as Facebook, and lost that battle, as Facebook developed advertising tools and a more engaging user interface that captured people’s imaginations. Google wasn’t the first search engine, but destroyed the competition by building out an entire (again) advertising platform and a whole lot of productivity software.(Related: Stop collecting useless business metrics)But the hyperbole thrown around today about speed to market, and lost opportunities, seems, as Bob Uecker might say, juuust a bit over the top!If you have a retail application that is slow to load, or crashes during checkout, that creates a bad user experience. But is it the end of your world? I do plenty of shopping online, at websites of retailers that I have long relationships with, and whose products I enjoy using. If their app fails while I’m checking out, I’m not going to find another website and shop there. I’m not in that much of a hurry to get my Derek Stepan jersey, or a pair of new water shoes for my wetsuit. I’ll just come back later, because I know the situation is temporary, and I like the company’s quality and service.I remember something I heard from my brother-in-law years ago that stuck with me because I thought it funny, but it still rings true today, albeit in a different industry.