Electoral Datamining
March 9, 2012 7:25 PM   Subscribe

With a “chief scientist” specializing in consumer behavior, an “analytics department” monitoring voter trends, and a squad of dozens huddled at computer screens editing video or writing code, the sprawling office complex inside One Prudential Plaza looks like a corporate research and development lab — Ping-Pong table and all. But it is home to the largely secret engine of President Obama’s re-election campaign, where scores of political strategists, data analysts, corporate marketers and Web producers are sifting through information gleaned from Facebook, voter logs and hundreds of thousands of telephone or in-person conversations to reassemble and re-energize the scattered coalition of supporters who swept Mr. Obama into the White House four years ago.
posted by Trurl (59 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Like my earlier posts on the Navy's electromagnetic railgun or its next-gen aircraft carrier, this is - for my purposes - an apolitical post about Cool Tech.
posted by Trurl at 7:25 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Good luck guys. While he's been dealt a bum hand politically, and he is much better than the alternative both then and now, Obama has disappointed many of the people who thought he might herald a new direction for the nation. Instead, it's looked more like he's fighting a continual holding measure against the werewolves.

If Obama had campaigned on "QUIET PRAGMATIC COMPETENCE" instead of "HOPE" he wouldn't have gotten as many votes.
posted by JHarris at 7:32 PM on March 9, 2012 [15 favorites]


Totally read that as "chef scientist" and thought this was going to be about a molecular gastronomy startup.
posted by Sara C. at 7:38 PM on March 9, 2012


This is written by the two Times staffers whose last dozen pieces were analysis of the Republican campaigns before and after each primary, NOT by a 'Cool Tech' writer. They probably felt guilty about writing so much about Romney & Friends and not Obama that they had to figure out WHY he has provided so little campaign content... and this is why.

"And the Republican Party and its 2012 nominee are certain to employ the same techniques to the degree they have the time and money to catch up."
I think the Republican Party is much more likely to use 'the same techniques' as those Vladimir Putin used in Russia last week. They worked in 2000.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:45 PM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I promise you tasty hopeful cupcakes if your vote for me!
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 7:46 PM on March 9, 2012


This is written by the two Times staffers whose last dozen pieces were analysis of the Republican campaigns before and after each primary, NOT by a 'Cool Tech' writer.

I'll take your word for it. Nevertheless, the tech angle was the only thing of interest to me here.

So much so that I wished the writers had left the "largely secret" part out - since it has "ooga booga" connotations I in no way endorse. If Jill Stein had this kind of organizational muscle to work with, I'd want her to keep it a trade secret too.
posted by Trurl at 7:55 PM on March 9, 2012


They called me because I was a 2008 volunteer. I said "Ha ha no chance" and hung up. I wonder how many times per day that happens?
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:55 PM on March 9, 2012 [16 favorites]


If Obama had campaigned on "QUIET PRAGMATIC COMPETENCE" instead of "HOPE" he wouldn't have gotten as many votes.

"Hope" has a much longer shelf life, too. We can still hope he won't kill us with drones, ship us to Guantonamo, throw money at big green businesses months before they fail, or raid our medical marijuana dispensary.

"Quiet Pragmatic Competence" is harder to say without giggling.
posted by codswallop at 7:56 PM on March 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Some of the facts and figures in the article are impressive - apparently his machine is even bigger and more organized than in 2008, which is saying something.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:56 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Obama: The Movie
posted by empath at 8:01 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


drjimmy11: “They called me because I was a 2008 volunteer. I said 'Ha ha no chance' and hung up. I wonder how many times per day that happens?”

Probably not very often, given the numbers at the moment. For better or for worse, you are in the 'moral minority,' I believe. Most voters don't seem to give a crap about things like whistleblowers being railroaded or secret wars being waged right now; they care more about the economy.
posted by koeselitz at 8:05 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wait, we're fighting secret wars?

Sweet, now I'm definitely voting for Obama.

If we elect a Republican the wars are going to be totally blatant and up front again, like they were with Bush.
posted by Sara C. at 8:08 PM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


They called me because I was a 2008 volunteer. I said "Ha ha no chance" and hung up. I wonder how many times per day that happens?

President Romney thanks you for your support.
posted by empath at 8:09 PM on March 9, 2012 [20 favorites]


drjimmy11: "They called me because I was a 2008 volunteer. I said "Ha ha no chance" and hung up. I wonder how many times per day that happens?"

They called me and I said, sure. Not always happy with Mr. Obama but I'd vote for Nixon's floating head in a jar before I voted any of the Republicans running this year.
posted by octothorpe at 8:13 PM on March 9, 2012 [15 favorites]


Most of my job currently is doing this kind of data analytics for the private sector. My company's bread and butter is to take large reams of data from anywhere, social media, public records, private data aggregators and visualize that data so that people without PhDs in statistics can understand it and make decisions. Our biggest project right now is helping a few big media companies sell targeted advertising to political campaigns and car manufacturers.

After working for a few startups on a few different new technologies (i.e. video search systems, automated lifestyle coaching, machine translation) I have to say that for the first time I'm working on something that is going to carry me into the future. I feel like a pioneer on the edge of a vast, unknown territory. Doing data analytics on a nation-wide scale is more challenging and interesting than I could have imagined. The scale of the data is hard, the statistics are hard, and dealing with data quality issues is hard.

Anyway, if you want to work in this field and live in Pittsburgh (note: Pittsburgh is surprisingly great) you should memail me. We are desperately trying to hire software engineers right now and I am just a week or two from going down to CMU campus with a sandwich board and a bell.

Also, if you're at SXSW we have some cute versions of the stuff we're working on churning in the Pepsi Zeitgeist exhibit.
posted by Alison at 8:16 PM on March 9, 2012 [16 favorites]


You might notice how content-free this article actually is about what they're doing. People in this field know how to talk about their magic without telling you anything at all.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 8:32 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obama has been such a disappointment. Here we are 4 years later and we're still stuck in Iraq, there's been no health care or banking reform, gay rights have stagnated, all the TARP money was lost, GM and Chrysler are doing horribly, and Bin Laden is still plotting to kill us all.
posted by Blue Meanie at 8:36 PM on March 9, 2012 [21 favorites]


Obama has been such a disappointment. Here we are 4 years later and we're still stuck in Iraq, there's been no health care or banking reform, gay rights have stagnated, all the TARP money was lost, GM and Chrysler are doing horribly, and Bin Laden is still plotting to kill us all.

Better than the other guy.
posted by kurosawa's pal at 8:42 PM on March 9, 2012


That it would require any kind of planning at all to defeat the Republican candidates is what frightens me.
posted by odinsdream at 8:42 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obama has disappointed many of the people who thought he might herald a new direction for the nation. Instead, it's looked more like he's fighting a continual holding measure against the werewolves.

I was a county delegate for Obama and tried to go onto the state level, but was shot down. I contributed a small amount to his campaign. I am one of those disappointed people. It kills me that we still have Guantanamo and that the Justice Dept. under Holder won't even bother to investigate whether or not crimes were committed (let alone have the testicular fortitude to actually prosecute any crimes). I could go on for hours on why Obama has failed to live up to his promises, potential, and if you insist, hope.

This said, they could finally definitively prove he is a Muslim born in Kenya and has a love for Polka and he'll still have my vote. I really wished the Republicans could have managed to field a candidate that would made my choice difficult. They haven't.

The Republican primary has amazed me in that they have managed to field candidates that their own party hates more than the Democrats do. Seriously, poll a half dozen of your Republican friends. They all hate at least three of the top candidates with a passion. As far as I can tell the only one Dems hate all that much is Newt (there is a subset of the Non-religious or GBLT crowd that hates Santorum nearly has much as the Republicans do).

My dream is that just one time in my lifetime I would like the choice for President to be agonizing for me. Paul, Gingrich, Santorum, and Romeny don't make the choice difficult at all. I also don't see Romeny beating Obama and I don't see any of the other candidates beating Romney.

I plan to vote for Obama again, since I would so much rather have a President that doesn't live up to my expectations for the man than have a President that does and is happy with adequate. If it means anything I bet Obama is disappointed with himself too. imagine he wants to do so much more and has only 5 more years to do it in. If you disagree, I guess we'll see who is correct in November.

tl;dr? Fucking werewolves! Obama gonna bust a silver fucking cap in your hairy mother-fucking ass!
posted by cjorgensen at 8:44 PM on March 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


...and has a love for Polka...

Hey, now. Polka is awesome. Just ask MetaFilter Favorite "Weird" Al Yankovic.
posted by hippybear at 8:50 PM on March 9, 2012


I promise you tasty hopeful cupcakes if your vote for me!

Fire that analytics department.

My "research" has shown that tasty mini pies have the support of the youth vote.

Although, I should double check my numbers. To the research and development lab!
posted by formless at 9:02 PM on March 9, 2012


That it would require any kind of planning at all to defeat the Republican candidates is what frightens me.
It seems like a no-brainer, but Obama won the last election because he was more organized than his opponent, and was therefore able to get out the vote.

From what I recall, something like 5% of voters are going to be swing voters, so, in reality, Obama's only chance in the coming election is to continue to out-organize and continue to make sure he gets his supporters to go to the polls.

While the Republicans might look like clowns, let's not forget they managed to win the 2004 election mostly by stealing it in Ohio.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:40 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the Republican Party is much more likely to use 'the same techniques' as those Vladimir Putin used in Russia last week. They worked in 2000.
...
While the Republicans might look like clowns, let's not forget they managed to win the 2004 election mostly by stealing it in Ohio.


You two appear to genuinely believe that this happened, so why didn't it happen in 2006 or 2008?
posted by Etrigan at 10:05 PM on March 9, 2012


President Romney thanks you for your support.
posted by empath


You know our country has been dragged so far to the right because the tea party is willing to lose elections to punish their party and get them to listen to their agenda. Maybe it's time that liberals grew a pair and did the same thing to faux democrats.

Romney is a lying snake and if he actually does anything more conservative than Obama has done in office I would be completely surprised. He was the governor or Massachusetts.
posted by dibblda at 10:29 PM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


You two appear to genuinely believe that this happened, so why didn't it happen in 2006 or 2008?

Well, the 2000 election was decided by a bad decision on behalf of the Gore campaign: to recount only select counties in Florida rather than the whole state. Once they decided to do that, the groundwork was laid for the court victory in the SCOTUS to be decided against Gore. He won the popular vote nationwide and won the vote in Florida, but this one bad decision (made largely in order to save money for the campaign) had negative consequences for his election.

As for the 2004 vote, there has been much speculation about the results and how they varied so widely from exit polls, which had until that particular election cycle been pretty accurate forecasts of voting results. Harpers Magazine ran an article in 2005 about things which were discovered. OpenElections.org has a more extensive autopsy about that election which shows a lot of problems with the election from beginning to end. Also damning is the documentary Hacking Democracy, which gets into electronic voting machine hacking in pretty hair-raising detail.

I'm not sure why you're suggesting that 2006 and 2008 should somehow be included in the examination of election fraud and stealing as some kind of counter-examples. Perhaps you believe that if one side works to pull an election to their side, they are ALWAYS going to do so? I'm not sure that's really the case, and I'm not going to speculate about reasons and motives why this particular team wouldn't do so in these particular election events. You certainly don't offer up the example of 2010 as some kind of "and why doesn't THIS year show difficult evidence of election stealing since THEY won", which would also be a logical conclusion to your argument. I suggest that perhaps overt manipulation doesn't happen every cycle or else it would be too obvious.

However, 2006 and 2008 were both election years in which there were large abnormalities concerning purging of voter registration lists based on "fuzzy matching" rather than exact matching, resulting in large numbers of legal voters having their votes cast aside as invalid, or being turned away at the polls altogether, because they had names or life situations which vague resembled names on ineligible-to-vote lists (such as lists of felons, etc).

So it's not like they weren't trying to find a way to pull the election in their direction. It's just that unless directly illegal maneuvering is employed, it can sometimes be difficult to manipulate outcomes in one's favor and still remain even vaguely under the radar of elections fraud investigations.

2012 will be no different from 2006 and 2008. The party out of power is seeking to find ways to pull the election in their favor in any possible, from redrawing district maps after the census in ways which favor their side (maps which are being widely challenged and in some cases redrawn under court order or even by the courts themselves), to instituting barriers to voter registration or voting itself (examples include the many states with new voter ID laws which include statutes which tend to penalize the poor, elderly, and minority voters above the middle-class-and-above white voters), to reduced or restricted absentee voting opportunities...

There are plenty of ways which elections can be limited, none of them truly representing the ideal in a democracy. That one party is willing to use those tactics above the other party is a sad commentary on which party feels its ideals are more truly representative of a majority of the populace, and which feels it requires technicalities and tricks to gain power.
posted by hippybear at 10:36 PM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


So any argument against your idea that the GOP can and will steal an election is because they didn't really want to steal that particular election. Why would anyone who had spent the mental energy to justify stealing an election ever stop doing so? Why was Barack Obama less offensive to Republicans than John Kerry? Why was it okay to lose both houses of Congress in 2006, when their standard-bearer was in the last two years of his presidency and had the chance to secure his place in history?

I realize that it's difficult to imagine that millions of people could have actually voted for George W. Bush twice, but it happened. That's the world we live in. Sorry. Throwing up your hands and saying, "Well, it doesn't matter how much work we do, they're just going to steal it," is worse than pointless, it's lunacy.
posted by Etrigan at 10:56 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


So about that tech...

I like the responsive design of barackobama.com and I agree that the attention to detail on there will increase conversion rates. I also agree that a site using up-to-date design principles will be attractive to the small, but possibly influential, minority of voters who do things like read the source code of campaign websites (and change user agents and, these days, resize the browser a lot.)

Conversion testing is something every organization should do once they reach a certain size. It's a multiplication game. With as many visitors as the campaign receives, spending a million in salaries to increase sign-ups by 5% is worth it in the same way it's worth it for a growing or established business. It's really not that hard to do and I hope journalists will stop treating he concept like dark magic (this article isn't too bad.)

Just some general thoughts.
posted by michaelh at 11:03 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why would anyone who had spent the mental energy to justify stealing an election ever stop doing so?

I've provided the reason behind the outcome of the 2000 election and plenty of possible evidence pointing to the reason behind the outcome of the 2004 election.

All you've provided is the idea that once a group steals one election, they will always do so.

I think the weight of evidence provided is on my side for now.

And I don't think I've stated once the conclusion which you've suggested I should draw from my arguments, so please don't put words in my mouth and thoughts in my head which have never been there. I'm merely reporting the actual facts, and not making any speculations about the future other than those supported by direct evidence which I've already seen reported.
posted by hippybear at 11:03 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're right -- you didn't state that conclusion. My apologies. It was heavily alluded to by the two posters I actually quoted, though -- the first of whom didn't say the 2000 election was due to a bad court decision or poor campaign work, but "'the same techniques' as those Vladimir Putin used in Russia last week." I should have said "Throwing up one's hands and saying..."

Am I utterly certain that the 2004 election was perfectly clean? No. But I also think that stating absolutely that it was a stolen election isn't supportable, given what we know as of this very moment. I could be wrong.

It's hardly an "idea" that once a group steals an election, they will always do so. Honestly, can you think of anyone who's stopped? Stalin kept ginning up numbers until he died. Saddam Hussein was cheerfully reporting a 99 percent referendum even after he got dragged out of the spider hole. Maybe the light shone on the 2004 election irregularities scared the fraudsters off, but I don't think it would happen like that. I've dealt with criminals. They're absolutely convinced that they're either right or justified in their wrongness, and they don't get scared off until they get caught. Not nearly caught, not missed-them-by-a-hair, but in the slam. When you're so far gone that you feel you're morally justified to steal an election, what internal switch is going to stop you from stealing the next one? Every election ever is The Most Important Election Of Our Lives, if not Of All History.
posted by Etrigan at 11:17 PM on March 9, 2012


Romney is a lying snake and if he actually does anything more conservative than Obama has done in office I would be completely surprised. He was the governor or Massachusetts.

Do you think he will appoint a pro-choice supreme court justice? Not start a war with Iran?
posted by empath at 11:31 PM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


After carefully explaining to Obama and Democratic fundraisers that President Obama does not have my vote based on his administration's deliberate embrace of Bush-era security initiatives and the failure to prosecute those responsible for them, they actually stopped calling me.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
posted by mwhybark at 12:31 AM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Empath, who now? Because I would like to think President Obama would both appoint a pro-choice Justice of the Supreme Court and not Start a war with Iran, but in frankness, I can't predict his actions in those respects. I think that he is capable of disappointing my desires on both counts.
posted by mwhybark at 12:34 AM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think knowing more about Michael Connell might give you some insight into why Ohio 2004 and not 2006 and 2008. A mix of guilt and a lawsuit over 2004 was making some headway.



http://www.bradblog.com/?p=7652

I think Obama has done really well with a limited hand in so many fronts, pragmatic competence indeed. Economics, health care, gay rights, strategic refocusing,

I find myself most let down and angry over the stuff most of the American public seems totally blase about - civil liberties and executive power grabs. The whistleblowers, the DOJ, the "we must look forward" about the worst of the Bush excesses, and the lack of reform over secrecy.

As for Iran, I'd be as worried that he might have his hand forced by outside forces and events as I'd worry about his own decision making on that issue.
posted by C.A.S. at 1:35 AM on March 10, 2012


Here we are 4 years later and we're still stuck in Iraq, there's been no health care or banking reform...

Wait, you think these 3 are sarcastic?
posted by DU at 2:27 AM on March 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Do you think he will appoint a pro-choice supreme court justice? Not start a war with Iran?

I think Romney is a corporate stooge. I think Obama is as well. If it is bad for business then a war won't happen. If more money can be made by going to war then we likely will.

I think Romney is probably more socially liberal than he lets on or at least he is indifferent to christian totalitarianism. Why do you think he is having such a weak showing in the primaries?

If we had enough actual liberals in the Senate then Romney wouldn't be able to nominate a complete wack job to the supreme court. Frankly, so what? We already have a conservative court so what's one more conservative on the bench? This is the court that gave us the citizens united ruling.

As it stands now the president can have American citizens executed without trial and arrested by the military on secret evidence. Even conservative Bush II didn't go there. Sure gays can openly serve in the military now which is good but he has actively taken away my civil rights and I can't vote for him. Sure we have the beginnings of a health care plan, Romney's health care plan.
posted by dibblda at 2:38 AM on March 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Regarding election "stealing" - just because party X tries to steal an election, doesn't mean they are always successful. And by party I don't necessarily mean a monolithic political party, I mean individual actors in individual areas who try to mess with things in whatever small way they think might help without getting caught. Such practices might push the vote a few percentage points one way in a few areas - that might be a constant pressure, year to year, but it's obviously not always going to translate into a victory - therefore, the fact that Republicans didn't win in years X and Y doesn't mean people didn't try in those years.

And from an outside perspective, there's so much noise in American elections anyway, where more effort seems to be put into getting your own supporters to turn up, than in trying to convert people on the other team to your cause.
posted by Jimbob at 4:08 AM on March 10, 2012


Is anyone discussing the article down here? Or, is this going to be another tired replay of the same political bickering that's so prevalent nowadays?
posted by mightshould at 4:23 AM on March 10, 2012


That was hard to read on an iPad.
posted by unliteral at 4:23 AM on March 10, 2012


My dream is that just one time in my lifetime I would like the choice for President to be agonizing for me.

That old cliche about being careful what you wish for applies here. It's wholly conceivable that the Dems might put up some Blue Dog asshole, and the Repubs choose a slightly less-rabid candidate than the current crop. Assuming you're committed to voting for one of the two, having to choose between really bad candidates could definitely be agonizing.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:46 AM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Obama's people called me about a year and a half ago looking for money. I told 'em I'd entertain the idea when they closed Gitmo & to call me back then. Haven't heard from 'em since. Sure, I'll vote for the better candidate in the general, but they can't have my money with that bullshit still going on.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:39 AM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


They called me because I was a 2008 volunteer. I said "Ha ha no chance" and hung up. I wonder how many times per day that happens?

Voting for Santorum or Romney?
posted by Ironmouth at 5:40 AM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


As for the article, I like the photo with one volunteer sitting on a giant silver ball.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:42 AM on March 10, 2012


Is anyone discussing the article down here? Or, is this going to be another tired replay of the same political bickering that's so prevalent nowadays?

No, because the article is really pretty superficial. For example this is laughable:
...with the help of Web developers recruited from the private sector, it has dedicated considerable hours creating technology that can make its Web site, barackobama.com, fit perfectly onto any screen, be it an iPhone, Blackberry or Droid...
So they made a mobile version of their website. OK.
But the Obama team does claim to be building perhaps the biggest such wheel ever made, with a scale officials called “unprecedented.”
Which officials? Why is it unprecedented? Are they supposed run a campaign like its 1972?
“What is new is the power of the Web, the sophistication of what you can do to target people on the Internet, which is 100 percent new and continues to evolve,” said Sara Taylor Fagen, a senior strategist in the 2004 Bush campaign who is now a specialist in online advertising and analytics.
The web is new now? Marketers have been targeting individuals for quite some time now. So is the message that now the Obama campaign is using standard techniques from the private sector?

And then there's this whole vaguely sinister tone that flows through the article. The Obama campaign is running some kind of "secret engine" where "Web producers" and a staff "larger than any ever assembled for a presidential race" are "sifting through information gleaned from Facebook" led by a "chief scientist" whose background is in "gleaning consumers’ personal interests from available data online, and then developing messages to entice them to buy certain products based on predictive models of human behavior."
posted by euphorb at 5:43 AM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


While he's been dealt a bum hand politically,

Is the analysis of who's the dealer VS the player correct?

During the NDAA event the claim was made that one of the objected to parts was insisted on by Obama team members.

An argument about the hand dealt strikes me as the people being played are the electorate.

and he is much better than the alternative both then and now,

All depends on what things are important. Take anti-war. Now here on The Blue many posters spent many hours on the various nations that were to be subjected to the new turn of a phase 'a kinetic action'. How many of these same voices are speaking out in the same tones for the last 3 years of events? How many 'attacking Iran is a bad idea' voices during the Bush administration are making the same arguments in the latest Iran attack discussion? (And how many hypocrites who spent time wailing, gnashing their teeth and beating their breasts will re-appear with the same fervour when the label D becomes R?)

Over on the R side of the wet cats ins a sack cat-fight only one guy getting millions in donations is making anti-war noise. From a war POV there IS a better stated* alternative.

Obama has disappointed many of the people who thought he might herald a new direction for the nation. Instead, it's looked more like he's fighting a continual holding measure against the werewolves.

Thus the only way to express the actual hope for change is to vote a new bum in?

If Chalmers Johnson is right - collapsing the military back to a "Constitutional" level will collapse the economy. Not only from the volume of employment but also from lack of the effective gunboat diplomacy of Commander Perry which is still practised. And when it comes to using explosives as an economy booster almost everyone is in favour of that. Just like the local social activists are in favour of drugs in their local community if the alternative is the collapse of their IRAs. The collapse of the economy is what the actual change will be.

One way the collapse will happen (because collapse does happen to everything ) is via pulling Federal support from various things like the DOD, bailouts of car companies, bailouts of banks, stop paying 300K for drone copters. Another way is the public getting sick and tired of being profiled be it programs like Total Information Awareness or even having their Facebook comments analysed to figure out how to manipulate them in a panaopticon totalitarian state. Perhaps a lack of cheap energy (oil) to keep inputting into the system or designer DNA/natural plague.

*stated because who knows what they will actually do when they get in.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:12 AM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you are going to have a huge information aggregating and computing organization, the only building better suited for it than Pru-1 might be this or this.

As for the complaints about Obama, and I have plenty, one has to take a pragmatic approach about it: we should vote for who, among the viable candidates, matches our desires most closely. We are never going to get a perfect candidate, even if we *are* the candidate, because governance requires compromise. At least Obama is trying, and making some progress. Not voting, or voting for a vanity candidate, gives power to the opposition. At some level, voting isn't about selecting a winner, but about canceling out the votes for the more objectionable candidate.

The one thing that frightens me about the upcoming presidential election is that I've been seeing a lot of people from dependably Democratic states saying things like "It doesn't matter if I vote, because Obama is *going* to win my state." Not if everyone thinks like that, and you better hope just as many Republicans have the same opinion as you, or we could end up with President Romtorich.

Things may not be getting better as quickly as we like, but that's a sure way to make things worse.
posted by gjc at 6:13 AM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is anyone discussing the article down here?

Only one post about - I'm going trough peoples public jetsam and flotsam and figuring out how to manipulate them into buying the crap that is being sold and I see it as my lifestyle choice for my life.

For The Blue to discuss the idea of taking what they might want private that they made public being used not for connecting with other humans but instead by Corporations to manipulate would hit too close to home and would require doing things like stop posting to public sites like The Blue.

The post is wonderful - if you are worried about data mining, stop posting data on a site that is dedicated to posting data. And to talk about that in a meaningful matter would be a self inflicted wound for many to note they are doing something that helps those they do not like use their own words/feelings against them.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:47 AM on March 10, 2012


Is anyone discussing the article down here?

I did what I could for the framing. When that failed, I considered asking the mods to pull the plug. But I took Phil Lynott's advice: "If the boy wanna fight, you'd better let 'em."

Still, those posts about the railgun and the aircraft carrier elicited - in addition to some predictable political comments - lots of interesting stuff about physics and battle strategy. My hopes here for an equal amount of hive-mind goodness with respect to datamining were disappointed.

That might be because - as euphorb suggested - the article was too thin. (Though that in turn might be explained by - as Hollywood Upstairs Medical College pointed out - the actors in the story aren't giving away the candy store.) But whatever the merits of the article, I think the subject is fascinating and important to an understanding of how our democracy - such as it is - will be engineered in the 21st century.

My own views on the administration's record have been aired extensively - some would say: too extensively - elsewhere, so I won't bother repeating them. But I'll permit myself the observation that when the pull-quote spoke of CREEP 2.0 sifting through hundreds of thousands of phone calls, it remained an open question as to whether the participants in those calls knew they were being recorded.
posted by Trurl at 7:38 AM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


You two appear to genuinely believe that this happened, so why didn't it happen in 2006 or 2008?

I'm pretty sure the consensus is that there was election fraud in Ohio in 2004, but I had no intention of stirring up a hornet's nest!

I would say, however, that the close race in 2004 made it easier for election fraud to influence the overall results of the election, which is why Obama has to work like hell to create a huge and sophisticated machine to organize his vote. Every vote counts when there are active dirty tricks campaigns aimed at invalidating the votes of poor and black voters.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:53 AM on March 10, 2012


Hey, I read the article! And I'm basing my comments on what I read in the article!
posted by KokuRyu at 8:54 AM on March 10, 2012


automated lifestyle coaching

Please tell me this is not really A Thing.
posted by spitbull at 10:31 AM on March 10, 2012


Automated lifestyle coaching? If it's a Mother Box, awesome. If it's a Mother-In-Law Box, less than awesome.
posted by JHarris at 11:19 AM on March 10, 2012


election fraud in Ohio in 2004, but I had no intention of stirring up a hornet's nest!

If one wants to follow that issue http://blackboxvoting.org/ still exists.

Stealing votes has been going on for some time and somehow I doubt it came to an end in 2006/2008.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:47 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Automated lifestyle coaching sounds a lot less terrible in context. I worked on a project aimed at children that helped evaluate their snacking, soda drinking and exercise and then set goals if they needed help to improve. Participation would yield extra animated, interactive modules and meeting goals would help to unlock educational mini-games. The main mascot was a little tubby talking penguin and the character who demonstrated fitness exercises was a decidedly non-skinny-mini African American girl. It was a lot less about thinness and more about finding tasty alternatives to soda and ways to exercise that could even be done in a locked apartment.

I left soon after we did our test run with real kids at a summer camp in the Hill District in Pittsburgh, but we ended up getting some really positive results and the kids really liked the format.
posted by Alison at 1:53 PM on March 10, 2012


the idea of taking what they might want private that they made public being used not for connecting with other humans but instead by Corporations to manipulate

Isn't this the main reason social networking sites were first developed? This may be a product of the fact that Friendster and Myspace happened when I was a far-left Black Bloc type liable to believe all sorts of conspiracy theories and urban legends about what The Man was up to, but my understanding is that, if sites like Myspace weren't specifically developed for datamining and viral marketing purposes, they were very quickly adapted in that direction.

Isn't this why venture capital was funneled so intensely into Facebook? Because it's basically a massive database of meta-information about how people consume things?
posted by Sara C. at 2:04 PM on March 10, 2012


If Obama had campaigned on "QUIET PRAGMATIC COMPETENCE" instead of "HOPE" he wouldn't have gotten as many votes.
He would have beaten McCain. He might have still been able to beat Hillary, but it would have been more difficult.
I think the Republican Party is much more likely to use 'the same techniques' as those Vladimir Putin used in Russia last week. They worked in 2000.
That's not very easy to do when you're not in Charge. The GOP ran Florida in 2000, and Catharine Harris specifically fucked up the election. The real theft, by the way, wasn't on election day but purging the voter rolls of non-felons in order to keep innocent people from voting. A lot more then 580 people (or whatever) were turned away.
They called me because I was a 2008 volunteer. I said "Ha ha no chance" and hung up. I wonder how many times per day that happens?
It would be interesting to see.
Probably not very often, given the numbers at the moment. For better or for worse, you are in the 'moral minority,' I believe. Most voters don't seem to give a crap about things like whistleblowers being railroaded or secret wars being waged right now; they care more about the economy.
Which you realize is in the tank, right? It's improving, but for most of Obama's presidency it's been terrible.
From what I recall, something like 5% of voters are going to be swing voters, so, in reality, Obama's only chance in the coming election is to continue to out-organize and continue to make sure he gets his supporters to go to the polls.
If that were true, Obama wouldn't need to do anything, since he won with 7.2% of the vote.

Turnout matters, getting people to the polls matters, but in order to do that, you need to have people be enthusiastic. Hard-core political junkies will go to the polls, but people who don't care that much, and might have been excited in 2008 might not show back up to the polls, even though if they did they'd vote for Obama.
I realize that it's difficult to imagine that millions of people could have actually voted for George W. Bush twice, but it happened. That's the world we live in. Sorry. Throwing up your hands and saying, "Well, it doesn't matter how much work we do, they're just going to steal it," is worse than pointless, it's lunacy.
Even if they could steal elections, it still makes sense to vote. Even with all the crap going on in Florida, gore only lost by a few hundred votes. Which means Cathrine Harass' and Jeb Bush's plot nearly failed. Had it not been for the bad ballot design in Palm Beach (which they had nothing to do with) it wouldn't have worked.
Do you think he will appoint a pro-choice supreme court justice? Not start a war with Iran?
It's not that clear that Romney would be any more likely to start a war with Iran. Abortion is not the only issue that the supreme court deals with, and I wasn't really a fan of Elaina Kagen.

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Automated lifestyle coaching sounds a lot less terrible in context. I worked on a project aimed at children that helped evaluate their snacking, soda drinking and exercise and then set goals if they needed help to improve. Participation would yield extra animated, interactive modules and meeting goals would help to unlock educational mini-games. The main mascot was a little tubby talking penguin and the character who demonstrated fitness exercises was a decidedly non-skinny-mini African American girl. It was a lot less about thinness and more about finding tasty alternatives to soda and ways to exercise that could even be done in a locked apartment.
Sure, computers and AI can be used to help people, but the problem is if the "life coach" is really just a marketing thing, interacting you and talking to you about your problems and strongly hinting that they can all be solved with right bath soap, on sale on amazon.com, two for $29.95. And don't forget the aromatherapy candles chalk full of natural probiotic bioidentical enzymes! Just 6 for $2!
The Man was up to, but my understanding is that, if sites like Myspace weren't specifically developed for datamining and viral marketing purposes, they were very quickly adapted in that direction.
I don't think myspace had much of a plan.
posted by delmoi at 8:19 PM on March 10, 2012


If Obama had campaigned on "QUIET PRAGMATIC COMPETENCE" instead of "HOPE" he wouldn't have gotten as many votes.

Hope is about making things better. It isn't about your issue being addressed in exactly the way that you want it to be addressed. Many who attack Obama from the left are woefully uninformed about what his platform was when they voted for him. I've seen people here claim they were done with him when (1) he put more troops into Afghanistan; (2)put in the HCR plan instead of universal health care; or (3) killed bin Laden, all three of which he expressly said he was going to do before he got elected.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:17 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know our country has been dragged so far to the right because the tea party is willing to lose elections to punish their party and get them to listen to their agenda. Maybe it's time that liberals grew a pair and did the same thing to faux democrats.

I hear this so often, and it's so, so wrong. The Tea Party never "punished" insufficiently conservative candidates by boycotting them in a general election -- they took them out beforehand by primarying their asses. Doing "the same thing to faux democrats" would mean making sure people like Elizabeth Warren get the Democratic nomination. But even if the Democratic candidate is a blue dog, you hold your nose and vote for them anyway, because their loss guarantees the election of an even more conservative Republican.

Obama's people called me about a year and a half ago looking for money. I told 'em I'd entertain the idea when they closed Gitmo & to call me back then. Haven't heard from 'em since. Sure, I'll vote for the better candidate in the general, but they can't have my money with that bullshit still going on.

I hear this all the time, too. Obama signed an executive order mandating the closure of Gitmo on day one of his presidency. It's still open not because he decided it's actually a cool idea after all, but because both houses of Congress passed multiple pieces of legislation with veto-proof majorities legally barring the Obama administration from closing the base or relocating any of the detainees to US soil. Blame Congress, and preferably vote to change your little piece of it instead of giving up.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:06 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll check my assumptions on that one, Rhaomi, thanks. There's enough to be justifiably disappointed with that I could at least get that part right.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:13 AM on March 14, 2012


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