Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Obama, Romney, and GOP Technology: A Chilling Analysis
Please read the whole thing.
WHAT LESSONS CAN WE LEARN?There are so many things we can learn from all this.
- Technology is no longer an add-on to a campaign. It drives all activities in a campaign.
- Romney's people didn't pay attention to the lessons of the past (2008), when Obama's people struggled with GOTV technology and lots of data issues. (Obama's people were very surprised at this, as these lessons were public.) We must keep up with these things. We must study what Obama's people did in 2012 in great detail. (I have included all good public information at the bottom of this article.)
- Outsourcing everything means you lose control and the ability to adapt to changing conditions. We need to hire technology guys into party operations and large campaigns and pay them well.
- We need to build things in iterations, testing all along the way, using simple building blocks. No more building something big for a long while and then releasing it. Too risky.
- We need to keep up with what the startups are doing in technology and translate those things into political uses.
- We need to get involved with the online communities that are out there that share innovation, such as Github - used heavily by Obama's team and not Romney's. We also must get a feel for how these places operate so we can build our own Republican communities of technology.
- We need to stop using so much commercial software and use a lot more free, open source software.
- We need to embrace the new world of analytics and social science research in voter preferences and targeting. We need to cultivate a network of people who have these skills.
- We need to discuss technology out in the open. Obama's people let a lot of what they were doing out into the community so they could get feedback and help.
CAN WE REPUBLICANS CATCH UP?The short answer is no. Getting to yes would be a long and hard road. Some of that journey actually has nothing to do with technology. Here is my prescription for Chairman Priebus:
- Begin building the infrastructure for the 2016 GOP Presidential Nominee now. Start by commissioning some people to create a Republican version of Narwhal.
- Elevate technologists to the most valuable of all Republican activists. Create nationwide programs to gather them together, share best practices, and produce components. Foster technology projects across state Republican parties. Invite in all kinds of groups on the right, including Ron Paul's supporters and the Tea Party. Nothing unites people like technology projects.
- Create a nationwide repository for voter data tools that can link to and work with the data from GOP Data Center (the successor to Voter Vault).
- Start supporting the voter information file from NationBuilder. I know that seems crazy. But the party should have a community of people who use that data and build apps on it. I predict that by 2014, the data and applications in there will be far more valuable than anything in GOP Data Center.
- Technologists have policy needs that neither party is serving. If we had a platform that included them, they would have a strong reason to support the party. What are these desires? Copyright and patent reform, an open web (build on what Darrell Issa is doing), prevent things like SOPA and PIPA, and increase the amount of high-tech visas. These things - plus California's new high taxes - will help change the perception of Republicans.
- Start to offer technology training to activists who want to learn computer programming. Do what Code for America does. (They are a non-profit that teaches people to code and then loans them to cities to build applications for better government.) Find people, train them with great free resources like Code Academy, do some in-person training and programming contests, and then put them to work on great projects. There are regular computer programmers who have boring jobs who would love to work on cool projects with the cool stuff that they know is used at Facebook, Twitter, Etsy, and Google. We should give them some opportunities.
Well, that is all I have to say about this for now. I didn't even cover the whole story or lots of other things they built. But I think this is enough for my fellow Republicans to start taking technology much more seriously.