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November 16, 2012 11:19 AM   Subscribe

"We worked through every possible disaster situation," Reed said. "We did three actual all-day sessions of destroying everything we had built."
posted by Brandon Blatcher (30 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting article, if a bit naive or removed from more tech-savvy readers. ("He supports open source. He likes Japan. He says fuck a lot." That's your thumbnail profile of "a cool hacker"?)

It was also nice to see some info on the Romney technology. Here's another article on Romney's efforts: For Romney's Digital Campaign, a Second-Place Finish
posted by filthy light thief at 11:32 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


There was a lot of speculation in the Motherthread about why the project was named Narwhale. A friend of mine that is an active Redditor pointed out to me today that the Narwhale features prominently in the Reddit coat of arms.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:42 AM on November 16, 2012


Interesting article, if a bit naive or removed from more tech-savvy readers. ("He supports open source. He likes Japan. He says fuck a lot." That's your thumbnail profile of "a cool hacker"?)
I also don't know any Ops folks who refer to DR drills as "Live Action Roleplaying" ... unless you're actually throwing stone, paper, scissors to determine if a backup cluster successfully comes online or not.
posted by bl1nk at 11:49 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wish Obama had lost, but I have been digging the hell out of all these behind-the-scenes-nerdery stories from the Obama campaign. It's like in sports, where I don't feel nearly as bad when my team loses to a flat-out better team. They thought a lot harder about integrating technology into their campaign and it paid off, so good for them.
posted by resurrexit at 11:52 AM on November 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


I spent a week in Chicago as a volunteer with these guys, and I just want to say that the whole thing was a class act from top to bottom. I particularly remember Harper reminding everyone that the team’s #1 job was getting the president re-elected, and ensuring that everyone understood that there would be no glory or spotlight for the nerds until After. One of the best professional experiences of my life.
posted by migurski at 11:57 AM on November 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


"I think the Republicans fucked up in the hubris department," Reed told me.

Me too, but it never occurred to me that that was a technological issue.

This article seems to imply that the fate of the election rested on whose network was stronger. Is that right? Does that bother anyone else as much as it bothers me? One guy is President only because his geeks were smarter?
posted by disconnect at 11:57 AM on November 16, 2012


One guy is President only because his geeks were smarter?

Winners surround themselves with winners. Losers surround themselves with losers.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:00 PM on November 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Being a compelling enough candidate to attract more smarter geeks is a way to help your campaign, yes.
posted by migurski at 12:01 PM on November 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


One guy is President only because his geeks were smarter?

I think the article paints a more nuanced picture than that:

"There is the egoism of technologists. We do it because we can create. I can handle all of the parameters going into the machine and I know what is going to come out of it," Reed said. "In this, the control we all enjoyed about technology was gone."

on preview, what migurski says also.
posted by juv3nal at 12:03 PM on November 16, 2012


There may not be perfect correlation between winning a presidential election and having the best geeks, but there's no way you can run an effective campaign in the 21st century without being able to handle massive amounts of information effectively.

Not alienating 47% of the electorate before the election doesn't hurt, either.
posted by tommasz at 12:05 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Being a compelling enough candidate to attract more smarter geeks is a way to help your campaign, yes.

No, it's being a smart enough candidate to to hire managers who can hire awesome "grunts". The tech team was dealing with the real world, they weren't bullshitting themselves or anyone else while they worked their tails off.

I love reading stories about groups who had a difficult task and then planned like hell to achieve the goal. People who rise to that challenge are awe inspiring.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:08 PM on November 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Agreed Brandon Blatchter, definitely, I actually can't read enough about the Obama campaign at this level for exactly that reason... though seeing people planning at that level and everything coming together doesn't exactly make me love my own professional world sometimes.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:16 PM on November 16, 2012


One guy is President only because his geeks were smarter?

Well, there were all those gifts, too.
posted by Aquaman at 12:18 PM on November 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


The grand technology experiment worked. So little went wrong that Trammell and Reed even had time to cook up a little pin to celebrate. It said, "YOLO," short for "You Only Live Once," with the Obama Os

Give me this. GIVE IT TO ME
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:22 PM on November 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


One of the advantages Obama has had in both campaigns was being charismatic enough to attract star-power people to these kinds of support positions in his apparatus. Can you imagine what it would cost if you had to pay market price for all those people?
posted by Forktine at 12:31 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder if any of the neckbeards pictured there had occasion to correct the president.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:40 PM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


According to CMAG/Kantar, the Obama's campaign's cost per ad was lower ($594) than the Romney campaign ($666) or any other major buyer in the campaign cycle.

#RomneyDeathRally
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:51 PM on November 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


This article seems to imply that the fate of the election rested on whose network was stronger. Is that right? Does that bother anyone else as much as it bothers me? One guy is President only because his geeks were smarter?

Well, we've had that kind of debate before. One of the selling points for W. back during his first election was, look, the guy is kind of a dumb rube, but look at the people he surrounds himself with. It's easy to forget this now that he's basically been disgraced for the Iraq thing, but Colin Powell used to have ENORMOUS credibility and lent considerable gravitas to the campaign. Likewise, Rumsfeld and Cheney might be assholes, but the perception was they were extremely competent assholes, so you might have reservations about Bush, but a lot of independent voters thought, well, Powell/Cheney/Rumsfeld/etc., won't let him screw things up too much.

But I think that's the case for Presidency, too. I think Romney might be a decent guy (I also don't think W was Hitler, just an oblivious doof), but the campaign he built always felt to me like the classic corporate structure of yes-men too afraid to tell their boss what was really going on, which I think has born out considering he apparently was genuinely surprised he lost when if you ignored the media spin and horserace narrative, it was always close, but he was never really ahead. For all that I might disagree with Obama on a lot (massive left-winger here), I've always gotten the impression that he surrounds himself with people who tell him the truth and are good at what they do, which is how he always manages to appear on top of things.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:56 PM on November 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


One team did disaster preparation, had a constant release cycle, was able to failover for multiple diasters, and spent their time integrating with the rest of the campaign.

The other team sent out an untested application on the night before the election, did no preparation, had their subpar network shut down at one point during election day due to their service provider thinking it was a DDOS attack, and spent all of their time talking about how they were winners and superior.

Remind me again which one was the one that was supposedly run by a business and knew how to plan? I shudder to think what the #romneyshambles administration would have done to our country.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:04 PM on November 16, 2012 [17 favorites]


Amen, fifteen schnitzengruben. Some businesses DO conduct their IT like the Romney campaign, however.

This article describes a tester's dream. I would have loved to help them cook up failure modes, although it sounds like they didn't need too much help doing that!
posted by Currer Belfry at 1:17 PM on November 16, 2012


than the Romney campaign ($666) or any other major buyer in the campaign cycle.

$666

CONSPIRACY!
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:26 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Remind me again which one was the one that was supposedly run by a business and knew how to plan?

Actually, I think Romney ran his IT like any other really big business. He didn't consider it core to being elected, so he outsourced and paid the price. The Obama team's big insight was that this election would be won on turnout, and to get turnout, you have to reach and motivate people, and to do that, you needed technology, as there was no other way to get to scale.

Romney was counting on America being as anti-Obama as the GOP echo machine told him we were, and figured all he needed to do was look presidential and not too crazily right-wing. And he was very nearly right. Obama's lucky that Romney's gaffes and primary positions prevented him from being a plausible alternative in many people's eyes.
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:39 PM on November 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


"He supports open source. He likes Japan. He says fuck a lot." That's your thumbnail profile of "a cool hacker"?

Well, he did say "fuck" a lot before it was cool.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:08 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


filthy light thief: "("He supports open source. He likes Japan. He says fuck a lot." That's your thumbnail profile of "a cool hacker"?) "

"he wears fingerless gloves and mirrorshades. He said a cuss at the President and Obama laughed it off. He can do a kickflip."
posted by boo_radley at 2:28 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I had a very small, five-weeks-leading-up-to E-day-part on the data team for Obama in North Florida, mainly doing tech support and training for the Field Organizers, and quite a lot of spreadsheet-monkey work. I am loving all the media attention about Narwhal (and all the ORCA schadenfreude.) I hope all that media attention helps me get a job soon.

I'd like to speak a little bit to why Obama attracts high-quality geeks. I don't really count myself as one, other than I'm willing to put in 18 hour days for a good cause. But I did work with a lot of high-quality geeks. And we all talked about why we were working these insane hours for below-market-for-private-sector wages. And there was consensus on this: the Democratic Party has, for years, been the party of SCIENCE! The Republicans have been the party of ANTI-DARWIN ANTI-STEM-CELL ANTI-VOLCANO-MONITORING and CLIMATE CHANGE DENIAL. We had Bill Nye stumping for Obama on the Space Coast in Florida. Romney had old Meat Loaf, talking nonsense metaphors about storms and Russia.
posted by Cookiebastard at 3:37 PM on November 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


Being a compelling enough candidate to attract more smarter geeks is a way to help your campaign, yes.

No, it's being a smart enough candidate to to hire managers who can hire awesome "grunts".


I've worked with a lot of good tech people over the years. If you can't hire gays, lesbians, immigrants, or children of immigrants, you've just lost a good chunk of the competent nerds out there, and running as a Republican gives you that handicap by default. And most of the rest of us nerds aren't too sympathetic to the Republican party either. I believe that if technology continues to grow in importance, conservative political candidates will suffer because the nerds they need to work for them to win office will instead go with the more liberal candidates. And I'm happy about that.
posted by A dead Quaker at 5:38 PM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you want the geeky details, check out "Built to win: Deep inside Obama's campaign tech"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:58 AM on November 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thanks Brandon. That internal ad for their Dashboard tool made me tear up a little. The swooshing crossfades from cool social Web tech to hugs and smiles and community, with the driving, goosebump-inducing soundtrack, felt like ads for any number of apps and Web sites and gadgets, but instead of having to protect myself from its bullshit promises of a better, more connected life, I could submit a little, knowing that their Web app had in some measure actually helped to deliver a better, more connected life—or avert a worse one, anyway.

I'm finding these post-election articles about the Obama campaign at least as inspirational as anything that happened during the actual campaign. Nerds and hipsters getting validation at this level and scale is deeply gratifying.
posted by absqua at 10:41 AM on November 18, 2012


I love the look on Harper Reed's face as he gets hugged by the President.

The dashboard sounds really amazing. I donated several times to the campaign (small amounts) but only stumbled across the dashboard the day after the election.
posted by mecran01 at 6:00 AM on November 19, 2012


Related thread: Romney's Technical Foul
posted by homunculus at 2:53 PM on November 20, 2012


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