Campaign computing

I guess it’s a little anticlimatic to be writing about the US presidential election now, but I’m going to do it anyways!   🙂

For me one of the interesting trends this year was to see how central big data and sophisticated computing have become to our election activities.  There were a whole series of terrific posts during that time, and I wanted to share a few of them in this post.

But first <ahem> a little confession to let you know where I acquired the visual below.  One of my guilty pleasures is following the Barack Loves Michelle blog.  The blogger posts behind-the-scenes candid photographs of Barack, Michelle, and their family, including shots of Barack playing basketball, patting the family dog, snuggling with his kids.  And more recently, the blogger posted a great portrait of Barack and Michelle.  I know, what a dork, right?  I did say it was a guilty pleasure!

On a more serious note, the blogger (who – anonymously – claims to be a private citizen) also posted this amazing graphic:

It’s really astounding to me how little has changed in all this time …

If you weren’t hiding under a rock (or putting a pillow over your head!) during the late stages of the campaign, you probably heard mention of Nick Silver’s blog FiveThirtyEight, which is now part of the New York Times website.  His analysis and prediction of the election outcomes was amazing.

I also really enjoyed an article from The Atlantic entitled When the Nerds Go Marching In, which tells the story of the ‘dream team of engineers’ that supported Obama’s re-election.  I also enjoyed reading 5 Ways The Obama Campaign Was Run Like A Lean Startup from Fast Company magazine, which was an article about some of the things the Obama campaign tried in 2008, and how they made adjustments for 2012.  Many of their lessons (the difficulty in collecting data from the polls, the need for careful planning about infrastructure breakdowns) were the technology failures of the Romney campaign this year, as described in this Ars Technica article called  Inside Team Romney’s whale of an IT meltdown.

Maybe one of my favorite pieces was an article called What Republicans Are Really Up Against: Population Density, also from The Atlantic Cities column.  It was co-authored by Richard Florida, a sociologist that consults, researches, and writes about what he calls the Creative Class.  He shows a fascinating connection between population density and voter choices:

Crazy, huh?

That reminds me, there is a (relatively) new company in the Bay Area called Inflection that is doing some super interesting work at the intersection of user experience, big data, and cloud-based software development.   Their charter is the democratization of public records, and they bring that together with available personal data, all the while respecting individual privacy.  Great stuff.

I’m still fascinated by this topic and the data visualizations that accompany it, so I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you have other articles to share!

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