|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
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, discussed how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to imp...
Jun. 30, 2016 04:00 PM EDT Reads: 998
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, provided an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profession...
Jun. 30, 2016 04:00 PM EDT Reads: 345
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
Jun. 30, 2016 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,264
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
Jun. 30, 2016 02:45 PM EDT Reads: 294
When people aren’t talking about VMs and containers, they’re talking about serverless architecture. Serverless is about no maintenance. It means you are not worried about low-level infrastructural and operational details. An event-driven serverless platform is a great use case for IoT. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Animesh Singh, an STSM and Lead for IBM Cloud Platform and Infrastructure, will detail how to build a distributed serverless, polyglot, microservices framework using open source tec...
Jun. 30, 2016 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 665
Connected devices and the industrial internet are growing exponentially every year with Cisco expecting 50 billion devices to be in operation by 2020. In this period of growth, location-based insights are becoming invaluable to many businesses as they adopt new connected technologies. Knowing when and where these devices connect from is critical for a number of scenarios in supply chain management, disaster management, emergency response, M2M, location marketing and more. In his session at @Th...
Jun. 30, 2016 01:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,336
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
Jun. 30, 2016 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,500
Cloud Expo, Inc. has announced today that Andi Mann returns to 'DevOps at Cloud Expo 2016' as Conference Chair The @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo will take place on November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "DevOps is set to be one of the most profound disruptions to hit IT in decades," said Andi Mann. "It is a natural extension of cloud computing, and I have seen both firsthand and in independent research the fantastic results DevOps delivers. So I am excited t...
Jun. 30, 2016 12:30 PM EDT Reads: 470
"We work in the area of Big Data analytics and Big Data analytics is a very crowded space - you have Hadoop, ETL, warehousing, visualization and there's a lot of effort trying to get these tools to talk to each other," explained Mukund Deshpande, head of the Analytics practice at Accelerite, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Jun. 30, 2016 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 532
"delaPlex is a software development company. We do team-based outsourcing development," explained Mark Rivers, COO and Co-founder of delaPlex Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Jun. 30, 2016 11:45 AM EDT Reads: 589
IoT is rapidly changing the way enterprises are using data to improve business decision-making. In order to derive business value, organizations must unlock insights from the data gathered and then act on these. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, and Peter Shashkin, Head of Development Department at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how one organization leveraged IoT, cloud technology and data analysis to improve customer experiences and effi...
Jun. 30, 2016 11:30 AM EDT Reads: 628
Basho Technologies has announced the latest release of Basho Riak TS, version 1.3. Riak TS is an enterprise-grade NoSQL database optimized for Internet of Things (IoT). The open source version enables developers to download the software for free and use it in production as well as make contributions to the code and develop applications around Riak TS. Enhancements to Riak TS make it quick, easy and cost-effective to spin up an instance to test new ideas and build IoT applications. In addition to...
Jun. 30, 2016 11:15 AM EDT Reads: 729
The idea of comparing data in motion (at the sensor level) to data at rest (in a Big Data server warehouse) with predictive analytics in the cloud is very appealing to the industrial IoT sector. The problem Big Data vendors have, however, is access to that data in motion at the sensor location. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Scott Allen, CMO of FreeWave, discussed how as IoT is increasingly adopted by industrial markets, there is going to be an increased demand for sensor data from the outermos...
Jun. 30, 2016 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 452
CenturyLink has announced that application server solutions from GENBAND are now available as part of CenturyLink’s Networx contracts. The General Services Administration (GSA)’s Networx program includes the largest telecommunications contract vehicles ever awarded by the federal government. CenturyLink recently secured an extension through spring 2020 of its offerings available to federal government agencies via GSA’s Networx Universal and Enterprise contracts. GENBAND’s EXPERiUS™ Application...
Jun. 30, 2016 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 483
The cloud market growth today is largely in public clouds. While there is a lot of spend in IT departments in virtualization, these aren’t yet translating into a true “cloud” experience within the enterprise. What is stopping the growth of the “private cloud” market? In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Nara Rajagopalan, CEO of Accelerite, explored the challenges in deploying, managing, and getting adoption for a private cloud within an enterprise. What are the key differences between wh...
Jun. 30, 2016 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,106
Presidio has received the 2015 EMC Partner Services Quality Award from EMC Corporation for achieving outstanding service excellence and customer satisfaction as measured by the EMC Partner Services Quality (PSQ) program. Presidio was also honored as the 2015 EMC Americas Marketing Excellence Partner of the Year and 2015 Mid-Market East Partner of the Year. The EMC PSQ program is a project-specific survey program designed for partners with Service Partner designations to solicit customer feedbac...
Jun. 30, 2016 10:45 AM EDT Reads: 685
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. He cited examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He also highlighted how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable ...
Jun. 30, 2016 10:30 AM EDT Reads: 575
There are several IoTs: the Industrial Internet, Consumer Wearables, Wearables and Healthcare, Supply Chains, and the movement toward Smart Grids, Cities, Regions, and Nations. There are competing communications standards every step of the way, a bewildering array of sensors and devices, and an entire world of competing data analytics platforms. To some this appears to be chaos. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate a...
Jun. 30, 2016 10:15 AM EDT Reads: 992
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2016 Silicon Valley. The 19th Cloud Expo and 6th @ThingsExpo will take place on November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Interne...
Jun. 30, 2016 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 556
In addition to all the benefits, IoT is also bringing new kind of customer experience challenges - cars that unlock themselves, thermostats turning houses into saunas and baby video monitors broadcasting over the internet. This list can only increase because while IoT services should be intuitive and simple to use, the delivery ecosystem is a myriad of potential problems as IoT explodes complexity. So finding a performance issue is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.
Jun. 30, 2016 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 452