|By Dana Gardner||
|October 22, 2013 11:00 AM EDT||
The next edition of the HP Discover Performance Podcast Series focuses on the big-data problem in the realm of politics. We'll learn how the Democratic National Committee (DNC) leveraged big data analytics to better understand and predict voter behavior and alliances in the 2012 U.S. national elections.
To learn more about how the DNC pulled vast amounts of data together to predict and understand voter preferences and positions on the issues, join Chris Wegrzyn, Director of Data Architecture at the DNC, based in Washington, DC.
The discussion, which took place at the recent HP Vertica Big Data Conference in Boston, is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]
Here are some excerpts:
Gardner: Like a lot of organizations, you had different silos of data and information, and you weren't able to do the analysis properly because of the distributed nature of the data and information. What did you do that allowed you to bring all that data together, and then also get the data assembled to bring out better analysis?
Wegrzyn: In 2008, we received a lot of recognition at that time for being a data-driven campaign and making some great leaps in how we improved efficiency by understanding our organization.
Coming out of that, those of us on the inside were saying this was great, but we have only really skimmed the surface of what we can do. We focused on some sets of data, but they're not connected to what people were doing on our website, what people were doing on social media, or what our donors were doing. There were all of these different things, and we weren’t looking at them.
Really, we couldn’t look at them. We didn't have the staff structure, but we also didn't have the technology platform. It’s hard to integrate data and do it in a way that is going to give people reasonable performance. That wasn't available to us in 2008.
So, fast forward to where we were preparing for 2012. We knew that we wanted to be able to look across the organization, rather than at individual isolated things, because we knew that we could be smarter. It's pretty obvious to anybody. It isn’t a competitive secret that, if somebody donates to the campaign, they're probably a good supporter. But unless you have those things brought together, you're not necessarily pushing that information out to people, so that they can understand.
We were looking for a way that we could bring data together quickly and put it directly into the hands of our analysts, and HP Vertica was exactly that kind of solution for us. The speed and the scalability meant that we didn't have to worry about making sure that everything was properly transformed and didn't have to spend all of this time structuring data for performance. We could bring it together and then let our analysts figure it out using SQL, which is very powerful, but pretty simple to learn.
Better analytic platform
Gardner: Until the fairly recent past, it wasn't practical, both from a cost and technology perspective, to try to get at all the data. But it has gotten to that point now. So when you are looking at all of the different data that you can bring to bear on a national election, in a big country of hundreds of millions of people, what were some of the issues you faced?
Wegrzyn: We hadn’t done it before. We had to figure it out as we were going along. The most important realization that we made was that it wasn't going to be a huge technology effort that was going to make this happen. It was going to be about analysts. That’s a really generic term. Maybe it's data scientists or something, but it's about people who were going to understand the political challenges, understand something about the data, and go in and find answers.
We structured our organization around being analyst-centric. We needed to build those tools and platforms, so that they could start working immediately and not wait on us on the technology side to build the best system. It wasn’t about building the best system, but it was about getting something where we could prototype rapidly.
Nothing that we did was worth doing if we couldn't get something into somebody's hands in a week and then start refining it. But we had to be able to move very, very quickly, because we were just under a constant time-crunch.
Gardner: I would imagine that in the final two months and weeks of an election, things are happening very rapidly. To have a better sense of what the true situation on the ground is gives you an opportunity to best react to it.
It seems that in the past, it was a gut instinct. People were very talented and were paid very good money to be able to try to distill this insight from a perspective of knowledge and experience. What changed when you were able to bring the HP Vertica platform, big data, and real-time analysis to the function of an election?
Wegrzyn: Just about everything. There isn't a part of the campaign that was untouched by us, and in a lot of those places where gut ruled, we were able to bring in some numbers. This came down from the top campaign manager, Jim Messina. Out of the gate, he was saying that we have to put analytics in every part of the organization and we want to measure everything. That gave us the mission and the freedom to go in and start thinking how we could change how this operates.
But the campaign was driven. We tested emails relentlessly. A lot of our program was driven by trying to figure out what works and then quantify that and go out and do more. One of our big successes is the most traditional of the areas of campaigns nowadays, media buying.
There have been a bunch of articles that have come up recently talking about what the campaign did. So I'm not giving anything away. We were able to take what we understood about the electorate and who we wanted to communicate with. Rather than taking the traditional TV buying approach, which was we're going to buy this broad demographic band, buy a lot of TV news, and we are going to buy a lot of the stuff that's expensive and has high ratings amongst the big demographics. That’s a lot of wasted money.
We were able to know more precisely who the people are that we want to target, which was the biggest insight. Then, we were able to take that and figure out -- not the super creepy "we know exactly what you are watching" level -- but at an aggregate level, what the people we want to target are watching. So we could buy that, rather than buying the traditional stuff. That's like an arbitrage opportunity. It’s cheaper for us, but it's way more valuable.
So we were able to buy the right stuff, because we had this insight into what our electorate was like, and I think it made a big difference in how we bought TV.
Gardner: The results of your big data activities are apparent. As I recall, Governor Romney's campaign, at one point, had a larger budget for media, and spent a lot of that. You had a more effective budget with media, and it showed.
Another indication was that on election night, right up until the exit polls were announced, the Republican side didn't seem to know very clearly or accurately what the outcome was going to be. You seemed to have a better sense. So the stakes here are extremely high. What’s going to be the next chapter for the coming elections, in two, and then four years along the cycle?
Wegrzyn: That’s a really interesting question, and obviously it's one that I have had to spend a lot of time thinking about. The way that I think about the campaign in 2012 was one giant fancy office tower. We call it the Obama Campaign. When you have problems or decisions that have to be made, that goes up to the top and then back down. It’s all a very controlled process.
We are tipping that tower on its side now for 2014. Instead of having one big organization, we have to try to do this to 50, 100, maybe hundreds of smaller organizations that are going to have conflicting priorities. But the one thing that they have in common now is they saw what we did on the last campaign and they know that that's the future.
So what we have to do is take that and figure out how we can take this thing that worked very well for this one big organization, one centralized organization, and spread it out to all of these other organizations so that we can empower them.
They're going to have smaller staffs. They're going to have different programs. How do we empower them to use the tools that we used and the innovations that we created to improve their activity? It’s going to be a challenge.
Gardner: It’s interesting, there are parallels between what you're facing as a political organization, with federation, local districts for Congress, races in the state level, and then of course to the national offices as well. This is a parallel to businesses. Many businesses have a large centralized organization and they also have distributed and federated business units, perhaps in other countries for global companies.
Is there a feedback loop here, whereby one level of success, like you well demonstrated in 2012, leads to more of the federated, on-the-ground, distributed gathering and utilization of data that also then feeds back to the larger organization, so that there's a virtual adoption pattern that will benefit across the ecosystem? Is that something you are expecting?
Wegrzyn: Absolutely. Even within the campaign, once people knew that this tool was available, that they could go into HP Vertica and just answer any question about the campaign's operation, it transformed the way that people were thinking about it. It increased people's interest in applying that to new areas. They were constantly coming at us with questions like, "Hey, can we do this?" We didn't know. We didn’t have enough staff to do that yet.
One of our big advantages is that we've already had a lot of adoption throughout campaigns of some of the data gathering. They understand that we have to gather this data. We don't know what we are going to do with it, but we have them understanding that we have to gather it. It's really great, because now we can start doing smart things with it.
And then they're going to have that immediate reaction like, "Wow, I can go in there now and I can figure out something smart about all of the stuff that I put in and all of the stuff that I have been collecting. Now I want more." So I think we're expecting that it will grow. Sometimes I lose sleep about how that’s going to just grow and grow and grow.
Gardner: We think about that virtuous adoption cycle, more-and-more types of data, all the data, if possible, being brought to bear. We saw at the Big Data Conference some examples and use cases for the HAVEn approach for HP, which includes Vertica, Hadoop, Autonomy IDOL, Security, and ArcSight types of products and services. Does that strike a chord with you that you need to get at the data, but now that definition of the data is exploding and you need to somehow come to grips with that?
Wegrzyn: That's something that we only started to dabble in, things like text analysis, like what Autonomy can with that unstructured data, stuff that we only started to touch on on the campaign, because it’s hard. We make some use of Hadoop in various parts of our setup.
We're looking to a future, where we bring in more of that unstructured intelligence, that information from social media, from how people are interacting with our staff, with the campaign in trying to do something intelligent with that. Our future is bringing all of those systems, all of those ideas together, and exposing them to that fleet of analysts and everybody who wants it.
You may also be interested in:
- Need for quality and speed powers Sentara's applications modernization journey
- Big data changes the customer analysis game for Yammer, Spil Games, Jobrapido
- Application development efficiencies drive Agile payoffs for healthcare tech provider TriZetto
- MZI Healthcare Identifies Big Data Patient Productivity Gems Using HP Vertica
- Thought Leader Interview: HP's Global CISO Brett Wahlin on the future of Security and Risk
- Panel explains how CSC creates a tough cybersecurity posture against global threats
- Risk and complexity: Businesses need to get a grip
- HP's Project HAVEn rationalizes HP's portfolio while giving businesses a path to total data analysis
- Advanced IT monitoring Delivers Predictive Diagnostics Focus to United Airlines
- HP Vertica Architecture Gives Massive Performance Boost to Toughest BI Queries for Infinity Insurance
One of the biggest impacts of the Internet of Things is and will continue to be on data; specifically data volume, management and usage. Companies are scrambling to adapt to this new and unpredictable data reality with legacy infrastructure that cannot handle the speed and volume of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and president of Infobright, will discuss how companies need to rethink their data infrastructure to participate in the IoT, including: Data storage: Understanding the kinds of data: structured, unstructured, big/small? Analytics: What kinds and how responsiv...
Mar. 2, 2015 05:00 AM EST Reads: 2,515
Since 2008 and for the first time in history, more than half of humans live in urban areas, urging cities to become “smart.” Today, cities can leverage the wide availability of smartphones combined with new technologies such as Beacons or NFC to connect their urban furniture and environment to create citizen-first services that improve transportation, way-finding and information delivery. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Laetitia Gazel-Anthoine, CEO of Connecthings, will focus on successful use cases.
Mar. 2, 2015 04:00 AM EST Reads: 2,946
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
Mar. 2, 2015 03:30 AM EST Reads: 2,538
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
Mar. 2, 2015 02:00 AM EST Reads: 3,064
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...
Mar. 2, 2015 12:00 AM EST Reads: 3,002
Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, had reached 30,000 page views on his home page - http://RobertoMedrano.SYS-CON.com/ - on the SYS-CON family of online magazines, which includes Cloud Computing Journal, Internet of Things Journal, Big Data Journal, and SOA World Magazine. He is a recognized executive in the information technology fields of SOA, internet security, governance, and compliance. He has extensive experience with both start-ups and large companies, having been involved at the beginning of four IT industries: EDA, Open Systems, Computer Security and now SOA.
Mar. 1, 2015 04:00 PM EST Reads: 1,288
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
Mar. 1, 2015 03:15 PM EST Reads: 1,376
Operational Hadoop and the Lambda Architecture for Streaming Data Apache Hadoop is emerging as a distributed platform for handling large and fast incoming streams of data. Predictive maintenance, supply chain optimization, and Internet-of-Things analysis are examples where Hadoop provides the scalable storage, processing, and analytics platform to gain meaningful insights from granular data that is typically only valuable from a large-scale, aggregate view. One architecture useful for capturing and analyzing streaming data is the Lambda Architecture, representing a model of how to analyze rea...
Mar. 1, 2015 02:00 PM EST Reads: 1,368
SYS-CON Events announced today that Vitria Technology, Inc. will exhibit at SYS-CON’s @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Vitria will showcase the company’s new IoT Analytics Platform through live demonstrations at booth #330. Vitria’s IoT Analytics Platform, fully integrated and powered by an operational intelligence engine, enables customers to rapidly build and operationalize advanced analytics to deliver timely business outcomes for use cases across the industrial, enterprise, and consumer segments.
Mar. 1, 2015 01:45 PM EST Reads: 1,245
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...
Mar. 1, 2015 12:00 PM EST Reads: 1,295
SYS-CON Events announced today that Open Data Centers (ODC), a carrier-neutral colocation provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Open Data Centers is a carrier-neutral data center operator in New Jersey and New York City offering alternative connectivity options for carriers, service providers and enterprise customers.
Mar. 1, 2015 12:00 PM EST Reads: 1,938
Mar. 1, 2015 10:30 AM EST Reads: 2,629
PubNub on Monday has announced that it is partnering with IBM to bring its sophisticated real-time data streaming and messaging capabilities to Bluemix, IBM’s cloud development platform. “Today’s app and connected devices require an always-on connection, but building a secure, scalable solution from the ground up is time consuming, resource intensive, and error-prone,” said Todd Greene, CEO of PubNub. “PubNub enables web, mobile and IoT developers building apps on IBM Bluemix to quickly add scalable realtime functionality with minimal effort and cost.”
Mar. 1, 2015 10:00 AM EST Reads: 4,793
Mar. 1, 2015 09:45 AM EST Reads: 938
In the consumer IoT, everything is new, and the IT world of bits and bytes holds sway. But industrial and commercial realms encompass operational technology (OT) that has been around for 25 or 50 years. This grittier, pre-IP, more hands-on world has much to gain from Industrial IoT (IIoT) applications and principles. But adding sensors and wireless connectivity won’t work in environments that demand unwavering reliability and performance. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ron Sege, CEO of Echelon, will discuss how as enterprise IT embraces other IoT-related technology trends, enterprises with i...
Mar. 1, 2015 09:00 AM EST Reads: 2,213
When it comes to the Internet of Things, hooking up will get you only so far. If you want customers to commit, you need to go beyond simply connecting products. You need to use the devices themselves to transform how you engage with every customer and how you manage the entire product lifecycle. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, will show how “product relationship management” can help you leverage your connected devices and the data they generate about customer usage and product performance to deliver extremely compelling and reliabl...
Mar. 1, 2015 09:00 AM EST Reads: 1,343
The Internet of Things (IoT) is causing data centers to become radically decentralized and atomized within a new paradigm known as “fog computing.” To support IoT applications, such as connected cars and smart grids, data centers' core functions will be decentralized out to the network's edges and endpoints (aka “fogs”). As this trend takes hold, Big Data analytics platforms will focus on high-volume log analysis (aka “logs”) and rely heavily on cognitive-computing algorithms (aka “cogs”) to make sense of it all.
Mar. 1, 2015 09:00 AM EST Reads: 1,079
With several hundred implementations of IoT-enabled solutions in the past 12 months alone, this session will focus on experience over the art of the possible. Many can only imagine the most advanced telematics platform ever deployed, supporting millions of customers, producing tens of thousands events or GBs per trip, and hundreds of TBs per month. With the ability to support a billion sensor events per second, over 30PB of warm data for analytics, and hundreds of PBs for an data analytics archive, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Kaskade, Vice President and General Manager, Big Data & Ana...
Mar. 1, 2015 09:00 AM EST Reads: 1,306
SYS-CON Events announced today that GENBAND, a leading developer of real time communications software solutions, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's WebRTC Summit, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The GENBAND team will be on hand to demonstrate their newest product, Kandy. Kandy is a communications Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that enables companies to seamlessly integrate more human communications into their Web and mobile applications - creating more engaging experiences for their customers and boosting collaboration and productiv...
Feb. 28, 2015 05:00 PM EST Reads: 1,436
From telemedicine to smart cars, digital homes and industrial monitoring, the explosive growth of IoT has created exciting new business opportunities for real time calls and messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ivelin Ivanov, CEO and Co-Founder of Telestax, shared some of the new revenue sources that IoT created for Restcomm – the open source telephony platform from Telestax. Ivelin Ivanov is a technology entrepreneur who founded Mobicents, an Open Source VoIP Platform, to help create, deploy, and manage applications integrating voice, video and data. He is the co-founder of TeleStax, a...
Feb. 28, 2015 03:30 PM EST Reads: 4,045