As the US election season heats up, candidates and parties are competing for the attention of the voting public. That means building apps and harnessing social media or other new technology better than the opposition. How does a candidate's Pinterest profile affect their chances of winning? We're not sure yet, but we're ready to find out.
Feb 15, 2013
After 2012 election, Republicans learn hard lessons about the power of social media
Young, tech-savvy Republicans are using Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential election to teach more seasoned party operatives the importance of social media in rallying votes, Robert Draper reports for The New York Times Magazine. Draper's piece is more than just a crunchy political post mortem, offering an entertaining and insightful look at the Grand Old Party's quest to remake itself for the social age.Read Article >
One right-leaning digital advocacy firm, Red Edge, has been showing fellow Republicans a presentation on the digital disparity between the two parties. Obama's Reddit IaMa is among the topics covered:
Nov 15, 2012
Inside the Obama Campaign's Team TechRead Article >
Over the course of the recent election cycle you might have heard references to the Obama campaign’s focus on tech solutions and the corresponding edge it had in the presidential race — especially when compared with the competition. Ars Technica takes a look at the innerworkings of the incumbent president’s Team Tech, and how former Threadless CTO (and awesome Chrome extension author) Harper Reed's group of engineers used Amazon Web Services, some clever code, and a startup mentality to get out the vote. Understandably, Reed stops short of suggesting the team’s Narwhal software was the deciding factor in the contest, saying "I truly believe that the Obama campaign could have won without us."
Nov 9, 2012
Killer fail: how Romney's broken Orca app cost him thousands of votes
A few days before the presidential election, Mitt Romney’s campaign announced what it hoped would be its secret weapon at the polls. Dubbed Project Orca, it let volunteers use a web app to search for and mark off voters as they left the polling location, then collected the data to use in projections or check which Romney supporters might need a call. "When the exit polls come out, we won't pay attention to that," Communications Director Gail Gitcho told PBS. "We will have had much more scientific information just based on the political operation we have set up."Read Article >
Project Orca was designed to replace the standard phone- and paper-based get-out-the-vote effort, creating a central system that could track voters and allocate volunteers in real time. In a statement to the Huffington Post, the campaign promised that "by knowing the current results of a state, we can continue to adjust and micro target our get-out-the-vote efforts to ensure a Romney victory." It was also supposed to compete with Narwhal, the vote-tracking tool Obama would be using.
Nov 7, 2012
Number crunchers, ascendant: how data was the real winner in Obama's reelection
Less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama secured another four years in office, Time is offering up an exclusive peek at how his campaign operation managed to thwart Mitt Romney's White House aspirations. Put simply, the key ingredient was data. During Obama's initial 2008 bid for office, his team had already embraced technology in a greater capacity than any before it, assembling massive email lists and other targeted initiatives that earned Obama historic fundraising tallies. But for 2012, campaign manager Jim Messina wanted to take things even further.Read Article >
To get there, his staff needed to link what had previously been disjointed databases of voter information (collected by volunteers, pollsters, and other campaign workers) into a single, comprehensive pool unrivaled in detail and scope. Whereas most voter logs used by campaigns often list only names and telephone numbers, Obama's advanced tool dove into specifics like age, race, district, and voting history: it allowed field workers to rank voters intelligently and not waste time chasing unlikely votes.
Nov 7, 2012
Obama's 'Four more years' victory photo already the most retweeted and liked of all time
Barack Obama has been re-elected as President of the United States, and it looks like he's taken another prize as well — he can now lay claim to the most popular tweet of all time. The tweet, which simply states "Four more years" alongside a photo of Obama embracing his wife Michelle, has been retweeted over 320,000 times and counting. Buzzfeed points out that this beat the previous record — said to have been set by Justin Bieber — after just 22 minutes, and the gap has since risen to more than 100,000.Read Article >
Twitter's Government feed has also confirmed that this year's Election Day was the "most tweeted about event in US political history," with over 20 million tweets. The service saw a rate of 327,000 tweets per minute following news of Obama's re-election.
Nov 6, 2012
Seeing through the hologram: network TV's ridiculous election technology
In 2008, CNN’s reporting of the presidential election was overshadowed by its "hologram": a ring of 35 cameras projected correspondent Jessica Yellin from Chicago to Wolf Blitzer’s New York studio. While not technically a true hologram, it was certainly impressive, evoking Star Wars’ Princess Leia — who would be referenced endlessly in the coming days. But as CNN called state after state, my friends and I weren’t amused. We were there to see the race, not a gimmick that was indistinguishable from special effects on a TV screen. Four years later, the technological spectacle will be even bigger, and just as unrelated to actual changes in reporting.Read Article >
While we probably won’t know everything CNN is planning until voting ends, so far the network has announced not only the requisite touchscreens and infographics (some of which will be displayed on the Empire State Building) but a "Virtual Senate," which will superimpose correspondents and title placards onto a slightly uncanny rendering of the Senate floor. NBC, meanwhile, plans to track electoral votes with an augmented reality display, and it’s modified the Rockefeller Center ice rink to "hold an enormous map of the United States, where individual states will ice over in red or blue as the race is called." ABC is more muted, but its election coverage still incorporates an 82-inch touchscreen and what the team calls a "Minority Report" transparent display.
Nov 6, 2012
President Obama posts message on Reddit urging users to vote before the polls closeRead Article >
President Obama is no stranger to Reddit — he hosted a brief "ask me anything" session back in August. Now, with just over two hours left until the polls close on the east coast, the president has jumped back on Reddit and posted a message urging users to get out there and vote, "whatever your political persuasion." For those that already voted, President Obama requested that users spread the word to friends and family — "think of it as upvoting," the president said. While it's highly likely that the president simply had one of his campaign staff type out the brief message, it's good to see he hasn't forgotten the denizens of the internet as his campaigning wraps up.
Nov 6, 2012
Feed the machine: America's stumble through a decade of electronic voting
On October 25, President Barack Obama returned to Chicago, Illinois, walking into the Martin Luther King Community Center in the city's Bronzeville neighborhood to cast his vote. Like about a third of American voters, he did so before Election Day. And also like many Americans, he used an electronic voting system — he submitted his ballot using a 15-inch touchscreen machine known as the Sequoia AVC Edge.Read Article >
That seemingly minor detail holds significance for only the collection of computer scientists, security professionals, statisticians, and activists who've spent the last decade or so monitoring the seemingly inevitable rise of electronic voting machines. And they've been sounding the alarm, or at least cautioning that Americans ought to pay more attention to the way our votes are cast and counted. You've probably heard them recently, maybe sounding a little exasperated when quoted in publications as diverse as The Christian Science Monitor, Computerworld, and The Wall Street Journal. And depending on your long-term memory or Google skills, you might remember them speaking to The New York Times Magazine on the eve of the last election.
Nov 5, 2012
Uber offering free rides to voting locations during Presidential ElectionRead Article >
In what appears to be an attempt to save face after drastically raising its black car service rates following Hurricane Sandy, Uber has announced that it will be giving new users free trips to voting stations on November 6th. Through the partnership with Rock the Vote, first-time Uber users can travel to or from their local polling locations free of charge. Of course, there are a few caveats: the ride(s) must begin or end at polling stations, they have to occur during voting hours, and the offer only applies to first-time users. Additionally, Uber only covers up to $20.12 in travelling fees; any amount above that must be paid by the customer. To take advantage of the deal, just enter the promo code "VOTEUBER" during the sign-up process via Uber's iPhone or Android app, or the service's mobile site.
Nov 5, 2012
Google giving customized results when people search for Obama, but not Romney
Google shows personalized search results that prioritize Barack Obama for users that have recently searched for the President, but Mitt Romney isn't getting the same treatment. That's the result of a Wall Street Journal investigation into the search company's algorithm, which found that terms such as "Iran," "Medicare," and "gay marriage" would all return results related to President Obama if an "Obama" query had previously been entered. These results were marked in gray type stating "You recently searched for Obama," but the same reportedly did not happen for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. It's unclear if there are any terms that would return similar results based on a prior "Romney" search.Read Article >
The Journal found no indication of deliberate bias in Google's algorithm, and the company said that its customized results are simply a function of what people are already searching for. Since more people apparently search for Obama in conjunction with various topics such as the ones mentioned above, the President joins the ranks of terms like "iPhone," "sports," and "Twilight" that have the power to influence future search results.
Nov 4, 2012
Democrats more than twice as likely as Republicans to donate via cellphone
Democrats are more than twice as likely as their Republican counterparts to make presidential campaign contributions via text message or a mobile app, according to a study published by the Pew Research Center last week. Using data taken from two national telephone surveys in September, the report concludes that 15 percent of Democrat donors have made contributions using the above means, while just 6 percent of Republicans have done similarly. Democrats also lead Republicans 57 percent to 34 percent in the use of email and conventional online donation.Read Article >
The figures play into a familiar narrative that has emerged over the last four years, beginning with Barack Obama's much-vaunted reliance on small, online donations in the 2008 campaign. Both Obama and Mitt Romney have attempted to court the internet electorate through social media in recent months, with the President arguably coming out on top — while Twitter engagement peaked at 14,355 tweets per minute during Romney's speech to the Republican National Convention back in August, Obama topped 52,000 during his equivalent Democratic National Convention speech. Whether this engagement will translate into votes on Tuesday remains to be seen.
Nov 3, 2012
New Jersey will let citizens displaced by Hurricane Sandy vote by email or faxRead Article >
New Jersey has announced that it will allow registered voters in the state who were displaced by Hurricane Sandy, and first responders assisting in recovery efforts, to vote over the internet by email or fax. New Jersey, along with several other states, already allow military and overseas voters to cast ballots over the internet. Some states offer remote voting options more broadly, including Oregon, which uses mail-in ballots statewide, but remote online voting is rare and controversial in the United States. Still, it's no doubt a relief to those voters who were evacuated from their homes so close to election day. Registered voters in New Jersey must submit a mail-in ballot application by email or fax to their county clerk, and will then receive a ballot that must be submitted by 8PM on November 6th, 2012.
Nov 1, 2012
Twitter's Political Engagement Map tracks how people respond to the candidates' tweets
Twitter has been particularly active this election cycle, offering tweet-based popularity charts of Romney and Obama and selling its first political trending topic. Today, it's added the Political Engagement Map, another effort to harness Twitter's potential as a polling platform. The map is conceptually simple: it takes each recent tweet from Romney and Obama and checks the number of favorites and retweets it's received, then checks location to plot it by US state. Clicking on a given tweet displays where engagement is strong, and entering a keyword brings up the most popular tweets that include it. In practice, seeing a map that's entirely red or blue is initially confusing, but being able to sort by individual tweets and states is a great idea.Read Article >
It's important not to see the Engagement Map as equivalent to a poll, at least in this campaign cycle. Broadly, there's no guarantee that "engagement" means "agreement," even if replies — where most rebuttals take place — aren't counted. And no matter what the engagement of a given tweet, the results are heavily skewed by Obama's Twitter lead. @BarackObama has about 7,600 tweets and 21.6 million followers, while @MittRomney has only 1,300 tweets and 1.6 million followers, and Romney has tweeted far less frequently during the election. That means virtually every keyword brings up a long list for Obama and a handful of tweets from Romney. As long as you keep those caveats in mind, though, it's a fascinating way to see how well the candidates' platitudes play in real time.
Oct 30, 2012
Google launches Voter Information Tool ahead of presidential electionRead Article >
Google this week launched its Voter Information Tool, an online resource for information on this year's presidential election. On the site, users can locate their nearest polling place, as well as nearby early vote venues. The tool also includes information on voting rules and requirements, in addition to basic details on each presidential candidate, with links to their respective social media sites. The tool is essentially a revamped version of the US Voter Info site Google launched ahead of the 2008 presidential election, and, like its predecessor, is open source and easily embeddable.
Oct 26, 2012
TechCrunch debuts CrunchGov, a guide to tech policy developed with Silicon Valley's help
Silicon Valley news blog TechCrunch just launched a beta version of CrunchGov, a policy information hub that will reflect the interests of the technology industry, specifically internet and consumer electronics companies. The mini-site was inspired in part by the coordinated online protest to the Stop Online Piracy Act at the beginning of the year, founding writer Greg Ferenstein said.Read Article >
"First and foremost, this is a media experiment," he told The Verge. "We're not getting into advocacy, but we think the government process should be more interactive, and we're trying to be helpful. Ultimately we're a media company, and we represent our readers as constituents."
Oct 24, 2012
In 2012 election, the meme factory hones its assembly line
About 100 people had gathered for a generously-catered, open bar party in the West Village offices of Livestream, which was co-hosting a viewing of the third presidential debate with Tumblr. The night’s official theme was "Live-GIFing the 2012 Debates," and, despite the free flow of wine, the audience was initially discouraged by the dry debate's dearth of meme-able moments.Read Article >
The startups had commissioned six digital artists to live-GIF the debate. They sat around a table in the middle of the room, eyes intent on their screens, as they silently doctored and remixed the debate in real time. Large screens around the office streamed the infinite loops next to the candidates, making it difficult to follow the discussion about Syria without being distracted by Mitt Romney repeatedly smacking his lips or Barack Obama motioning over a crystal ball. By the end of the 90 minutes, the artists had produced 80 animated GIFs.
Oct 19, 2012
Reddit's road rules: trolling America's heartland, one startup at a time
13 strangers. 6 wheels. John McCain’s bus. A parade of startups among infinite cornfields in America’s heartland. 10 days, 2,000 miles, and a goal to promote open internet policies in the United States. A documentary crew filming every waking moment. Throw out your rules — these are Reddit’s Internet 2012 road rules.Read Article >
True believers file into St. Louis’ “T-Rex” communal startup space: a gargantuan, brutal looking structure renovated with only the bare essentials like plastic plants and internet access — a place “oriented to the nascent IT startup entrepreneur.” After a late arrival to this campaign pit-stop, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian seizes the podium. He gives his now-perfected stump speech on SOPA and PIPA and internet freedom — the impetus for Reddit’s tour — but the crowd is most riled by his insidery rant on a particularly “boring” part of Northern California. “One of the things I cannot shut up about,” Ohanian says, “is that the myth of Silicon Valley being the only place for tech innovation needs to go away. It really needs to go away.” The audience claps before Ohanian can finish his sentence; one man decides the line deserves a standing ovation. “I think we should completely get rid of software patents,” Ohanian says a few minutes later. The crowd eats it up. It’s the same in every city.
Oct 17, 2012
Obama wins second presidential debate, Xbox Live users say
President Barack Obama won last night's presidential debate with Governor Mitt Romney, according to more than 100,000 Xbox Live users who answered poll questions as the debate was broadcast on the service's Election 2012 hub.Read Article >
According to the data collected by Microsoft and analyzed by market research firm YouGov, an average of 35,000 to 40,000 respondents per question sent in "well over" 2 million total answers to about 70 questions. Microsoft said that level of participation made the debate "one of the largest single-screen interactive TV experiences in history." In general, the responses "clearly favored" Obama, said Microsoft — a sharp turnaround from the first debate two weeks ago, which Xbox Live users said Romney won. In last week's vice-presidential debate, Xbox Live respondents favored Vice President Joe Biden over congressman Paul Ryan.
Oct 17, 2012
Obama and Romney clash over Apple, Made in China
Tuesday night's feisty presidential debate covered largely familiar ground, as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney traded jabs over hot-button issues such as immigration, tax plans, and foreign policy. The discourse became more pointed toward the end, however, when moderator Candy Crowley confronted both candidates about the outsourcing of tech manufacturing jobs.Read Article >
"iPad, the Macs, the iPhones, they are all manufactured in China," Crowley said, citing low labor costs as a primary driver. "How do you convince a great American company to bring that manufacturing back here?" Romney, taking the floor first, responded with the following:
Oct 12, 2012
Xbox Live community gets political during interactive Vice Presidential debate
The Xbox Live community had their say during last night's Vice Presidential debate between candidates Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, in offering over 800,000 responses to poll questions asked through Xbox Live's Election 2012, it was revealed by Major Nelson.Read Article >
Those with Xbox Live gold membership were able to access Election 2012, which invited Xbox users to answer poll questions posed by users on Twitter during the course of the debate.
Oct 11, 2012
Why can't you vote online?
Elections in the United States aren’t perfect. Between rare instances of voter fraud, attempts to make it harder for people to vote, voter intimidation, egregious manipulation of voting districts by major parties, and regularly low voter turnout, there’s plenty of room for improvement — leading governments at all levels in the US federal system to examine alternative voting mechanisms that could alleviate these issues. In the age of the internet, an obvious solution for many is remote internet voting — an option that seems more palatable every year given the adoption of PCs, mobile devices, and broadband internet. And in 2012, more citizens than ever will have access to online voting assistance: more than 30 states and the District of Columbia will offer registration or provide absentee ballots for overseas voters using email or an internet portal. But can internet voting really solve problems in US elections?Read Article >
New voting technologies face a mountain of scrutiny. Elections in the United States require a high level of integrity, across multiple dimensions, either by public expectation or by law. These requirements include secrecy (so people can’t find out how you voted), privacy (so people can’t stand over your shoulder at the ballot box and coerce you), accountability (so votes can be verified as authentic), uniqueness (so people can only vote once), and accuracy (so votes are recorded correctly). Good voting systems should also be reliable, flexible, convenient, and cost-effective. For remote internet voting to be feasible and meaningful, it has to fulfill all of these criteria adequately, and experts are skeptical that an internet voting system could meet all of these needs.
Oct 5, 2012
Beta-testing democracy: Reddit's plan to drop an open internet 'geek bomb' on lawmakers
The Verge is onboard Reddit's "Internet 2012 bus," which is driving between the presidential debate in Colorado to the vice-presidential debate in Kentucky. Stay tuned for more dispatches from the road, as Reddit and its allies gather and share stories about the open internet in America's heartland.Read Article >
In one of the first stops on the Internet 2012 bus tour, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian spontaneously offered an idea to the public of Boulder, Colorado: "what if we chose a day to geek bomb DC, a national geek summit?" The idea is to gather folks from the right constituencies — specifically the startup community — to talk to their representatives in Washington. And while Ohanian insists the idea was improvised on the spot, the idea isn't new: "lobby days" are a classic tactic for many organizations that work to influence the government. It's also a sign, however tentative, that Reddit's foray into politics is now serious business.
Oct 2, 2012
The 'future of polling' on Microsoft's Election 2012 Xbox Live hub
Microsoft's Election 2012 hub on Xbox Live launched in late August, and since then, the company has been using it to collect data. That data, in aggregate and in specific subsets, will power "the future of polling" as well as "the future of TV," said Jose Pinero, senior director of marketing and public relations for Microsoft, in a phone interview with Polygon conducted yesterday.Read Article >
The company also wants to use the data to engage with and galvanize its Xbox Live user base in an unprecedented way: to "establish a two-way dialogue" and "get more people involved in the civic process," said Pinero. Through polling conducted daily and during the upcoming campaign debates, Microsoft seeks to provide Xbox Live users with instant interaction between them, their fellow Xbox Live members, and the 2012 election, and educate those users about the issues at stake in this campaign so they can vote on November 6th as informed citizens.
Oct 1, 2012
Tumblr assembles a team to create live animated GIFs from the 2012 presidential debates
In a move sure to cause unprecedented levels of excitement among editors of The Verge, Tumblr has announced plans to pump out live GIF animations from the 2012 presidential debates. Tumblr says it's hired a "crack team of GIF artists" that will provide "instant animations of the best debate moments, from zingers, to gaffes, to awkward silences." To broadcast the GIFs to the world, Tumblr has built a special page called "Gifwich," and warns that following the page will flood user Dashboards with animations "on a minute-to-minute basis."Read Article >
The 2012 debates will also have live coverage in the more buttoned-up parts of the internet. YouTube announced today a partnership with ABC news that will allow it to stream live coverage of the presidential and vice presidential debates. The debates will appear on YouTube's Election Hub, and the first debate starts on October 3rd at 9PM ET. And thanks to the wonder of the internet, you can opt to watch Tumblr's live coverage while you listen to YouTube's in the background.
Sep 24, 2012
Denver judge rules voters have no 'fundamental right' to a secret ballot
While many of us work under the assumption that our votes should be kept secret, a recent federal court ruling in Colorado challenges that common belief. As the Denver Post reports, on Friday a US district judge in Denver recently dismissed a lawsuit filed in response to counties printing ballots with identifying barcodes. Judge Christine Arguello ruled that voters don't have a "fundamental right" to a secret ballot, and thus dismissed the suit. Back in August the Aspen-based Citizen Center filed a restraining order to temporarily ban the use of the barcodes, which it described as both "traceable" and "voter-identifying."Read Article >
At that time Citizen Center attorney Robert McGuire said that, based on Colorado Supreme Court rulings, votes with identifying marks "will be in jeopardy of being thrown out" come time for the presidential election in November. The group says that the barcodes are currently standard in at least 44 counties across the state, and it's currently deciding whether to appeal the federal ruling or take the case to a Colorado district court, with founder Marilyn Marks calling Fridays decision "absolutely shocking."