Thursday, November 8, 2012

Obama's Super Power: Compatible Data

Campaign artwork, photographed at
180 Avenue of the Americas, New York
photo: Micki McGee
Many stories will be told about Tuesday's Democratic victories across the United States, but for those of us interested in data interoperability, compatible databases is the big story. Michael Scherer at Time magazine tells the story:
"For all the praise Obama’s team won in 2008 for its high-tech wizardry, its success masked a huge weakness: too many databases. Back then, volunteers making phone calls through the Obama website were working off lists that differed from the lists used by callers in the campaign office. Get-out-the-vote lists were never reconciled with fundraising lists. It was like the FBI and the CIA before 9/11: the two camps never shared data. “We analyzed very early that the problem in Democratic politics was you had databases all over the place,” said one of the officials. “None of them talked to each other.” So over the first 18 months, the campaign started over, creating a single massive system that could merge the information collected from pollsters, fundraisers, field workers and consumer databases as well as social-media and mobile contacts with the main Democratic voter files in the swing states."
If data interoperability and analytics can help elect the president, what will it be able to do for historical and sociological research?  Super powers indeed.