Liberals, conservatives and tech

Buzzfeed has a fascinating little piece about a "Liberty Hackathon" that the Koch's organized in order to bring more "techies" into working for conservative causes. The idea was to appeal to the libertarian side of techies and have them gather and work with actual voter information.

The CEO of StumbleUpon agreed for the Silicon Valley company to host the event. Then, things got weird.

It created a big debate among the employees - and more broadly among techies in Silicon Valley - about working with the Koch Brothers. The end result was a big walk-out by StumbleUpon employees with 15% (about of dozen) quitting the company.

“There is insane anger to the point where people are willing to walk out from their jobs. And management isn’t willing to do anything,” the source told BuzzFeed at the time. “People are looking for other jobs and taking days off to go interview. They have lost all faith in management.”

“The CEO said he didn’t he do his homework in order to realize what he accepted,” the source said. “The [public relations] guy was never told and he is having to try to clean up.”

The Liberty Hackathon changed locations to another company.

The Republicans used to have an edge with technology. This video, showing the "behind the scenes" of the Nixon campaign for President (and a young dirty trickster Karl Rove with hair) shows how the bright minds of the mainframe IBM age got involved in politics.

But not any more.

There were several pieces in the news about the Obama campaigns use of "big data" and well organized social media campaign in the last election cycle and pointing out how behind the times the Republicans are in using technology. (Here's one example from the NY Times blog.)

The recent flap over the Civitas's use of Moral Monday protestor mugshots for a "game" at their website also highlighted this technology divide - when I was browsing the site, it crashed a couple of times and I had to reload it. The "game" and the database about the Moral Monday protestors was done in Shockwave, a web technology that's becoming quickly outdated and not even accessible on most mobile devices or tablets. The storyboarding, logic flow, and graphics all scream "I was cutting edge in 1995!"

I will give kudos to Civitas on one aspect of the website. It lets you download the full Moral Monday protestor database in different forms - PDF, csv, and Excel. They were careful enough not to offer an actual Excel file - that link just gives you a plain text .csv, which hides any metadata in the original Excel file about deleted text and the name and information on the person that created it.

Civitas might not be able to make a cutting edge website, but they know how to protect their privacy when using Microsoft products!

What I'm getting at here is that there's a lot of cutting edge technology talent in North Carolina. I'd encourage progressive organizations to do some outreach to see if that talent can be tapped to do some of the kinds of things the national Democratic Party and the Obama campaign have been doing - effectively using social media, mining "big data" about voters or campaign funding or legislation, and pulling it all together with a website that doesn't crash and doesn't look like something your next door neighbor's teenage "techie" kid could do when Hammer Pants or Rachel haircuts were a "thing".