The presidential campaign thankfully is over. Indeed, it is likely that the only people who are upset are the cable operators and broadcasters who can’t sell any more advertising spots.
There is, however, an important post mortem on the election that should be of interest to IT departments both in their professional capacity and in their more important role as citizens and (hopefully) voters.
Nate Silver — who gained fame during the past couple of election cycles by morphing from a baseball stat geek to a highly accurate election stat geek — has a blog on The New York Times suggesting that the high preponderance of IT folks in Silicon Valley and elsewhere are Democrats. For instance, consider Google:
Among employees who work for Google, Mr. Obama received about $720,000 in itemized contributions this year, compared with only $25,000 for Mr. Romney. That means that Mr. Obama collected almost 97 percent of the money between the two major candidates.
Two other examples: The Obama percentage for Apple was 91 percent and eBay was 89 percent.
An interrelated item is the disastrous night the Romney campaign had on Nov. 6. — no, not the vote. That was bad enough. What IT folks noted was the total melting down of the hyped get-out-the-vote initiative called Orca. Ars Technica has a fascinating description of the missteps the planners took, from inadequate testing to lack of redundancy. The bottom line is a system that was woefully inadequate:
This sort of failure is why there’s a trend in application testing (particularly in the development of public-facing applications) away from focusing on testing application infrastructure performance and toward focusing on user experience. Automated testing rigs can tell if software components are up to the task of handling expected loads, but they can’t show what the system’s performance will look like to the end user. And whatever testing environment Romney’s campaign team and IT consultants used, it wasn’t one that mimicked the conditions of Election Day. As a result, Orca’s launch on Election Day was essentially a beta test of the software—not something most IT organizations would do in such a high-stakes environment.
The story is even more damning than that paragraph. Essentially, nothing went right. DevX.com also chimes in, contrasting the goals of Orca and Narwhal, which was the Democrats’ system. (Narwhals are orca predators.) The bottom line goes beyond the fact that one functioned and the other didn’t. The Republican approach was simply to find folks who didn’t vote and get them to the polls. Narwhal, in turn, sought a relationship with the voter. Getting to the polls was but one element of that effort. Common sense suggests which is likely to be more effective.
The results of the election spoke for themselves, and it is unlikely that a better approach to IT would have changed much in the final analysis. It also is clear that if the GOP hires a company to mount an IT project, its employees will do as effective a job as they can no matter who they vote for. So many of the most egregious elements of the Orca debacle probably can be avoided.
However, there is a great value in being favored by folks with the initiative, entrepreneurial spirit, influence and money of the IT community. In the immediate aftermath of the vote, it was made clear that the GOP needed to reach out more effectively to the Latinos, women, and gay and other communities. It would be wise for the GOP leadership — and, in the final analysis, far better for the health of our political system — to build bridges to the information technology sector as well.