When the Nerds Go Marching In
Rohit Khare stashed this in Startups
This is a great description of the software development process:
They'd been working 14-hour days, six or seven days a week, trying to reelect the president, and now everything had been broken at just the wrong time. It was like someone had written a Murphy's Law algorithm and deployed it at scale.
And that was the point. "Game day" was October 21. The election was still 17 days away, and this was a live action role playing (LARPing!) exercise that the campaign's chief technology officer, Harper Reed, was inflicting on his team. "We worked through every possible disaster situation," Reed said. "We did three actual all-day sessions of destroying everything we had built."
Hatch was playing the role of dungeon master, calling out devilishly complex scenarios that were designed to test each and every piece of their system as they entered the exponential traffic-growth phase of the election. Mark Trammell, an engineer who Reed hired after he left Twitter, saw a couple game days. He said they reminded him of his time in the Navy. "You ran firefighting drills over and over and over, to make sure that you not just know what you're doing," he said, "but you're calm because you know you can handle your shit."
Romney had no such firefighting squad. ORCA fell apart on Election Day.
This is a great description of the differences in approach between Romney and Obama:
The billing the Republicans gave the tool confused almost everyone inside the Obama campaign. Narwhal wasn't an app for a smartphone. It was the architecture of the company's sophisticated data operation. Narwhal unified what Obama for America knew about voters, canvassers, event-goers, and phone-bankers, and it did it in real time. From the descriptions of the Romney camp's software that were available then and now, Orca was not even in the same category as Narwhal. It was like touting the iPad as a Facebook killer, or comparing a GPS device to an engine. And besides, in the scheme of a campaign, a digitized strike list is cool, but it's not, like, a game changer. It's just a nice thing to have.
So, it was with more than a hint of schadenfreude that Reed's team hear that Orca crashed early on election day. Later reports posted by rank-and-file volunteers describe chaos descending on the polling locations as only a fraction of the tens of thousands of volunteers organized for the effort were able to use it properly to turn out the vote.
I hope that Obama's techniques can be used by future candidates.
It would be a real shame for that knowledge to die with this election cycle.
The real question is why they don't use something at smaller scale in 2010, 2014 and to push through major ground game to get voter pressure pro-Affordable Care Act and similar initiatives.
What's astonishing is how quickly YouTube, Tumblr, Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter have become important tools for political campaigning:
In 2008, Facebook was about one-tenth of the size that it is now. Twitter was a nothing burger for the campaign. It wasn't a core or even peripheral part of the strategy.
Think how much more the 2016 campaigns will be swayed by social media.