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Civic Tech and Engagement: In Search of a Common Language

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, September 5 2014

Marten van Valkenborsch, Construction of the Tower of Babel (c. 1600)

We need much clearer language to describe civic tech. Too often, people working in this field struggle to put into words what it is they are striving for. It's not enough to assume that, like the Supreme Court and obscenity, we know good civic tech when we see it. And if we can't say why something is good (or even great), how can we know what to design for? Indeed, how do we even know if we're after the same design goals? Read More

Jim Messina and Blue State Digital on Opposite Sides of British Election Campaign

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, August 2 2013

(Conservative Party/Facebook)

Organizing for America's Jim Messina will be working as a campaign strategy advisor for the 2015 general election campaign of British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party, BBC News reported today. This puts him in competition with Blue State Digital, the consulting firm known for its work on President Barack Obama's 2008 and 2012 elections. BSD signed the Labour Party as a client earlier this year. Read More

Blue State Digital Has Nabbed 16 Former Obama Staffers

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, March 27 2013

Blue State Digital announced Wednesday that 16 staffers from the 2012 Obama campaign will be joining its team. Blue State's co-founder, Joe Rospars, who worked as chief digital adviser for the campaign, will be taking on the newly created role of Chief Executive Officer. Read More

Headed to Startup Land, Obama's Tech Alumni Take the Ground-Game Mentality With Them

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, February 21 2013

With the campaign behind them, Obama for America Technology alumni are scattered across the country — some still in Chicago, some making a new start in a new city, others still taking time off for travel. In interviews, some of these coders, designers, and product managers said that the campaign was a political break in a career otherwise spent in the tech sector. Others told me their time working for Obama has convinced them to focus on civic life. All of them expressed a connection to their campaign colleagues and to OfA's test-everything, data-driven organizing ethos that, they say, is likely to inform everything they do next. Read More

Democratic Politics and The Innovator's Dilemma

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, January 2 2013

Photo: Max Braun / Flickr

In a recent blog post, progressive technologists Jim Pugh and Nathan Woodhull argue that Democrats should institutionalize the software development that came out of the second Obama campaign. This sets up the same innovator's dilemma faced by major players in other industries: Democrats can allow competition internally, potentially creating greater innovation but putting their control at risk, or they can focus on consolidating their advantage. What decision they make will say much about what the Democratic Party will become. Read More

Obama Campaign Creating Organizing "Best Practices" Document for Democratic Party

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Tuesday, December 4 2012

With its thousands of staff and volunteers, its breakthroughs in organizing, voter-registration, fundraising and get-out-the-vote techniques, Barack Obama's re-election campaign in 2012 as a whole was definitely ... Read More

How Analytics Made Obama's Campaign Communications More Efficient

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Monday, December 3 2012

Last Friday in Washington, D.C., both Evan Zasoski, Obama for America's deputy director for data production, and Michelangelo D'Agostino, the campaign's senior analyst for digital analytics, showed their progressive ... Read More

How Obama for America Made Its Facebook Friends Into Effective Advocates

BY Nick Judd | Monday, November 19 2012

During the summer, OfA chief data scientist Rayid Ghani and analyst Matt Rattigan brought the technology team a prototype piece of software. More a simple script, really, the prototype took a given supporter's Facebook ID, scanned the supporter's Facebook friends, checked what the campaign knew about those friends and returned content the campaign might want to put in front of them. By midsummer, they had a tool to spread content for the campaign that staff say was more than twice as effective as a traditional banner ad. Read More

So You Just Got the President Re-Elected. What Do You Talk About Next?

BY Nick Judd | Monday, November 12 2012

Obama for America's technologists have new obsessions: Rediscovering sleep, moving out of Chicago and pondering the wondrous world of unemployment. Read More

Where Obama's Ground Soldiers Were, and Who They Are

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, November 8 2012

Ryan Enos / Eitan Hersh
A just-concluded research project studied thousands of Obama for America ground volunteers as they knocked on doors and made phone calls in their effort to get Barack Obama into the White House for another four years. Field organizers and volunteers answered a survey presented to them as they accessed a common piece of campaign software. This map shows where they were as they were answering the survey — campaign data exhaust that proves Obama's ground game was at its strongest exactly where Mitt Romney's campaign needed it to be weak. Read More

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