Is the Precinct Map Dead?

by admin at 3:28am, May 30, 2012 | Micro-Targeting, Voter File

About six months ago I was talking with a client about the Vlytics mapping tool – our tool geocodes each address and integrates into Google Maps – from there we do some pretty neat stuff with screening and selecting voters directly from that interface.    The client asked if Vlytics did precinct maps?  I almost said “no” – its hard to keep up with the precinct boundaries on granular level – we are working on it but its not easy.

Instead I said why?
I mean what is the purpose of a precinct map really?  Precinct maps visually display ratios based on vote totals (i.e. how much you won/lost by) and more complex ones even have disparate data overlays (i.e. show the precincts that were won/lost but also have the a certain income level, homeownership levels or how many kids live there).  With micro-targeting as good as it is these days and with more and more tools out there making it cheaper why resort to long spreadsheets and colored markers?  Instead of hitting a precinct why not just hit the people/households who matter – no matter what the split was in that precinct?
My point is this;  the over abundance of data means that the only geographic boundary that matters is the state or district boundary.  Certainly zip+4, county and precinct lines will still play a role in walks and geographic sign placement (don’t get me started on political signs) but in the modern campaign that utilizes online ads, paid calls and television the precinct targeting of the 20th century is becoming obsolete.

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Oh Hey

by admin at 2:05am, August 1, 2011 | Vlytics

So yea, we haven’t posted in a long long time.

Actually since we last posted we have worked for Gov. Chris Christie, Senator Scott Brown, AG Bill McCollum, Senate Candidate Rob Simmons, Governor Rick Scott, several congressionals and non-profits and a few non-political clients.

Oh and we launched Vlytics 2.0.

We also spun off our political technical king-fu into a specialized consultancy called aPolit where we have taken all we have learned on the trail and with Vlytics to build custom solutions for clients.  Need something done with technology and it involves politics – we can or have done it!

Lots has happened and we’re super excited for the 2012 cycle!

P.S.  we are also looking for interns – are you it or know of someone?

Micro-Targeting: Not Just a Way to Target Short Voters

by admin at 10:46am, August 20, 2009 | Micro-Targeting

Since I began Vlytics in 2007 I have heard a lot thrown out about “Micro-Targeting” for political campaigns. More recently I have heard people describing Micro-Targeting as the magic that got Obama elected to those describing it as the over-priced snake oil that sunk Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Some other interesting musings I have heard:

1. “Micro-Targeting, that’s where you target short voters?”
2. “Micro-Targeting only works on a small/large scale”
3. “Micro-Targeting is too expensive”
4. “Micro-Targeting is the edge every campaign needs”
5. “Micro-Targeting is all about finding groups of voters – stuff I already know”

So with that in mind I will be doing a 5 part blog series introducing you all to Micro-Targeting using the above statements as guidance.

Lets start out with defining Micro-Targeting.

Micro-Targeting is the method of using various data attributes to profile common correlations of those attributes and patterns of behavior.*

Basically all that means is that consultants look at all recordable data on an individual level (i.e. Micro level) then look at a behavioral symptom by that individual and try and find correlations.

For instance, if a person buys Skittles (behavioral symptom) and generally speaking 90% of the people who buy skittles (are under the age of 23 (recordable data attribute) and live in suburban areas (recordable attributes). So if your trying to sell skittles and you want to try and contact those who are most likely to buy you would seek out the under 23 crowd who live in the suburbs.

The above is a way oversimplified example but the underlying principles remain the same, get a enough data on a large amount of people, define an action, then find singular or combinations of data attributes on those people and see if they overwhelming correlate to the defined action.

Usually focus groups, surveys, and lots of statistical modeling is involved as data must be recorded, normalized, and then extrapolated across millions of people. If the best way to figure out what someone likes or dislikes is to ask them then Micro-Targeting is the next best thing as they ask a smaller controlled group and then use mathematical models to extrapolate those findings across much larger datasets.

The interesting aspect of micro targeting as it applies to politics is much of it may come across as common-sense. If you’re a politician looking to sway voters on your refundable tax credit for leased condos then it’s pretty obvious you’re going to try and target those who rent a condo and are registered voters.

The more elaborate micro-targeting examples go back to targeting “Soccer Moms” or “Nascar Dads.” It’s not as simple as finding a guy with a kid who watches Nascar, these names are titles that describe a whole subset of data attributes (dozens if not hundreds) and if a person clears the threshold with enough positive attributes they fit into that category (i.e. Nascar Dad) of people who may be persuadable to a candidate or political position. These large datasets and pools are often combined with focus groups. The focus groups help determine political views and then they’re attributes

This is a perfect time to bring up the difference between correlation and causation. Correlation is often not causation. In the Skittles example the fact that the likely buyers lived in the suburbs and were under the age of 23 are not causative rather correlative. In the condo example the fact that people who own condos and are registered voters is a causative attribute that indicates they’re likelihood to support.

So that’s your introduction to Micro-Targeting. Next up we’ll look at whether Micro-Targeting works on large scales, small scales, medium scales, or no scales.

*I should point out that this is my personal definition of Micro-Targeting and may differ slightly from others in the industry. Check out the Wikipedia page on Micro-Targeting to learn even more.

**I will periodically amend this post as needed.

Vlytics 2.0

by admin at 11:00am, May 18, 2009 | Uncategorized

While this blog has been fairly quite we have been working pretty hard on Vlytics.

We are in the midst of doing a complete overhaul of the entire application starting with a new and improved design. Dewey, our lead designer along with Mat our Art Director, put the finishing touches on the new look dashboard.

We are also working on a Remote Phone banking tool that is set to be released later this year – more details in future posts.

So is Vlytics 2.0 all just pretty graphics and charts? Nope, Justin and his team are working on some data enhancements and Scott is still working on Polimetric ratios (think financial analysis for political campaigns).

For those of you non-politicos you might think 2009 is hibernation period for political campaigns – wrong! There will be over 200,000 political campaigns this year and Vlytics will be active. We still maintain clients in CT and CA and working on adding clients in FL, VA, OK, TX, and MN. You might even see Vlytics partner up with some other innovative political startups in the near future.

For those of you wondering about the API, shoot us an email and let us know what you would use it for – we are looking for early adopters and innovators who need a solid data platform to jump start they’re idea.

Scott will be in New York City next week for some client meetings and if your around and want to meet up shoot him an email. Or if you want to surprise him you will probably find him at Shake Shack around 1pm on Friday.

Does the list make the candidate?

by admin at 1:09am, March 16, 2009 | E-Campaign, Email, Voter Contact, Voter File

The Washington Post recently did a story about how the organization “Obama For America” (OFA) is poised to flex their organizing muscle for the Presidents budget proposal. There are plenty of stories out there that talk about this move from a political aspect and whether it will be effective but many outlets are under reporting the premise that enabled OFA to mobilize millions in support of the Presidents agenda. Alex Vogel, a republican political consultant hits it on the nose at the end of the article,

“If mail lists made Karl Rove, e-mail and cell lists made Obama,” he said, referring to the former White House deputy chief of staff. “But what good is a list if your message is bad?”

The point is this – “the list” or database is the essential tool for a win. As Alex Vogel points out it was the list that made the candidate (or the consultant). I can’t stress the “tool” portion of that statement enough, a list is tool and nothing more – just as a good hammer can help you build a house simply having the hammer doesn’t mean you can build it.

According to Obamas email list is around 13 million email addresses. If you match that with the reported responses in the Wapo article (30k) that puts the conversion rate right around .23%. The article does note that only the people who “attended or hosted” an Obama house party would receive an email so it is safe to assume that not all 13 million email addresses were used – probably a lot less than half received an email.

I am going to go way off the reservation here and guesstimate that 1 million emails were sent out – at that number the OFA is looking at a 3% conversion rate. A rate that is incredibly low for an opt-in list like that. So, that begs the question, is the list bad (highly unlikely) or is the message not resonating? (and yea this is assuming I am right that they sent out around 1 million emails – even if they sent out 500k a 6% conversion rate is probably not great)

I will leave you all to debate that question, but OFA has the list/database which is half the battle and they will continue to wield it until it attrites away or the message resonates.

Vlytics Turns 1 – I think

by admin at 10:44pm, March 2, 2009 | Uncategorized

Yesterday, almost 1 year to the day of Vlytics’ 1 year anniversay, one of our clients won a very close race in CT.  As a first time entreprenuer in the notoriously difficult tech start-up arena I feel like a rookie baseball player hitting a walk-off homerun in they’re major league debut, I am ecstatic not only for the win but for also making it this far.

Given our thirst for accurate numbers and precise data you would think I would know the exact moment at which point Vlytics became more than just an idea.  Well I don’t, it could be when I couldn’t sleep and around 7:30am on July 7, 2007 after 8 hours of writing/diagramming came up with a 24 page document that served as the foundation for the Vlytics platform and algorithms.  It could be when I took my first meeting with some politicos to get some feedback on the idea in August 2007 or maybe it was when I filed my first patent on January 24, 2008?  It could be February 23, 2008 when I almost died driving to CT to pitch my soon to be first clients.  Rather I chose March 3, 2008 as the inception of Vlytics as a company as this is when I accepted my first round of private financing and thus crossed the threshold of theory to the realm of execute or fail.  

I am happy to say that Vlytics will be around for another year and we expect growth in both our platform as well in our revenue (and yes we had some significant revenue in 2008).  I read back in July of 2007 that only 1 in 10 startups make it longer than a year – I don’t know if its true but I certainly feel like I beat the odds.  

Google Analytics tells me that if your reading this you probably have read this blog before.  Common sense tells me that if your reading this I have probably met you and told you about Vlytics, because of that I owe you thanks – thanks for listening, contributing, criticizing, and using Vlytics – without you I wouldn’t be looking back at the past year as a success.  

Since Vlytics is all about stats I figured I would give you some from the 2008 election cycle:
These are aggregate across all of Vlytics clients so as not to give away any campaign methods. 

Some campaigns knocked on a lot of doors and some didn’t.  Some sent out A LOT of email or relied on mail more than phones.  More in depth stats on what seemed to work later – we are rolling in vote histories so as to get some real in depth aggregate data so we can figure out the effectiveness of these methods – keep an eye out for that report later this spring/summer.

One thing for sure is that every single one of my clients now has the best database in they’re respective districts – the next person who runs in that district will have the benefit of knowing who turned out and who didnt and what issues motivated them and what issues didnt. The goal is to create a truly invaluable information source that gets more intelligent as the years go by – a true foundation for success now and in the future.  

RNC Tech Summit – Presentation

by admin at 7:41pm, February 12, 2009 | Uncategorized

Due to a few traveling mis-haps it looks as though I will be attempting to present at tommorows RNC Tech Summit.   I have put my Powerpoint Presentation below as well as the text of my speech.  

The timing/format/and AV setup was not made very clear and I wasn’t too sure if this was more about general ideas or a “hard sell” so I spoke generally about my philosphy of approaching political data and management, namely keeping data stupid simple, fully integrated, actionable, and increasingly intelligent.  

Anyways, check it out and let me know if you got any questions/comments.

Click here to download/read the text of my remarks (reads along with the slides below).

Vlytics Open API in 2009

by admin at 1:03am, February 4, 2009 | Open API, Vlytics, Voter Contact

Fact: Vlytics will provide some sort of open API for voter files in the 2009 Calendar Year.

As witnessed in political tech articles over the past year both democrat and republican techtivists (what I like to call technology inclined political activists) have been calling for some sort of freely available open API so they can build data driven applications.

If you don’t know what an open API is or what it can do for you than it probably won’t matter to you right away. But down the road an Open API will lead to free mobile apps, google map mashups, and maybe even an easy way to get some basic stats on a district.

For those of you who do know what an open API is, rest assured I want to allow you to be able to pull all sorts of data based on Vlytics Voter Files.

Why is Vlytics doing this? Honestly, not sure yet other than I see a need for freely available data feeds for budding techtivists looking to take campaigns into the next generation. As I hash this idea out I will post here my thoughts and thoughts from others.

I have to be somewhat careful to protect my business model as well as my hosting costs but I see an opportunity here for Vlytics to do something for the techtivist community at large – hey maybe someone will build an App I might want to buy/integrate into the Vlytics platform?

If you want to know when I will release it, what data will be available, and if there will be call limiting than I can tell you those questions aren’t answered yet. I do want to hear from you, just leave a comment below.

Woo a Voter

by admin at 12:02am, December 9, 2008 | E-Campaign, New Media, Political IT, Voter Contact

Interestingly enough the internet and the buzz word of the last year “new media” (I personally dislike the term but for lack of better option I will use it here) has brought back retail politics. Retail politics involves knowing everyone in the community in which you get elected and as of late has been replaced by brute force political machinery where quantity over quality is king.

If there is one thing people have learned from the most recent election is that the electorate needs to be “wooed” not blasted. “Woo” means talking to single mothers about health care and not second amendment rights, talking to home owners about loan assistance and not just tax credits – “woo” means intelligently speaking to voters on an individual level not just finding the most common denominator among the electorate.

The capabilities of internet and new media replaces chicken dinners, pancake breakfasts, coffee clatches, school symposiums and state fair booths with facebook pages, blog updates, twitter feeds, youtube videos, and the ever popular email news letters. The key for campaigns it that these tools accomplish the exact same principles as retail politics but at a micro-fraction of the cost, time, and campaign infrastructure.

Let me be clear, the answer is not to open up 5 social networking accounts, pick up a twitter account and populate it with regurgitated press releases, or send out incessant emails of the same canned dribble. Rather come up with a top to bottom strategy that fits your style and more importantly your electorate – if you don’t think you can handle this there are plenty of great people out there who can help you do it.

A top to bottom strategy includes not only communicating outward but gathering information. Keep this in mind as one of the great things about “new media” is the multi-way conversation that goes on and if you can’t store, analyze, and subsequently act on that gathered information its like talking with someone and forgetting every word they say as soon as it hits your ears.

All those voter contacts you made, emails you collected, and analysis you performed – do you really want to do it again in a year or two? Could you use it in an upcoming 2009 election (there will be over 50,000 in 2009)?

If your wondering whether this is veiled sales pitch to use Vlytics – than you guessed right but I will remind you that one of the best political operations in the last 50 years spent the weekend trying to figure out how to keep the grassroots, voter contact, and all the data gleaned from the last election going – so shouldn’t you?

Technology and Winning

by admin at 10:30pm, September 30, 2008 | E-Campaign, Political IT

A lot of hay has been made about effective “e-campaigning” in recent election cycles.  

Having advised campaigns on “e-campaigning” and “political IT” in the past I can say the two need to be seperated and clearly defined.   

Given the nature of political campaigning they are all short-staffed, overworked and often times underqualified (not a bad thing just a reality).  So often you find the youngest guy/girl on the campaign who has no more experience than they guessed right when setting up the wireless network in the office be annointed “tech person” – the “tech person” becomes the defacto point of contact for everything IT (fax machines, emails, data management, website, etc.).  

No matter how you look at e-campaigning or political IT, those portions of the campaign are no longer considered the geeky guys in the corner who send out emails rather they are integral parts to winning campaigns (emphasis on the winning)

Candidates, campaign managers, and political directors often demand esoteric mail lists of just 1/4 Independants in a certain zip code who vote absentee and believe those things appear out of thin air – think about it for a second if you had to do that personally how would you do it?  Others think that a donor database is well catalogued and safe if its sitting in an excel file on the C drive of some desktop computer that sounds like its taking off everytime you turn it on.  While even more think that if you buy an email list it will send itself.  

The above are some examples of critical tasks involved with campaigning and intersect heavily with Political IT.

You will find many campaigns believe that a website can be built in a day, cost $500 and be as functional as Barrack Obama’s because they saw the neighbor kids website and if he can do it so can we.  Others think that a viable email strategy is to load the body up with HTML, pictures, and lots of “Click Here to Contribute” buttons and send the same email to your list 2 times a day for 2 months – then wonder why they get no responses and the messages end up in SPAM folders.  More surprising to me is the fact that more campaigns spend thirty minutes setting up a myspace/facebook account and nothing more and wonder why they have no followers.  

The above are some examples of critical tasks involved with campaigning that intersect heavily with E-Campaigning.  

As you can tell there is a clear difference between E-Campaigning and Political IT and until campaigns realize that and spend equal/time and resources at it they won’t see the maximum benefit.  

Furthermore the difference in a race can be how effectively it handles E-Campaigning and Political IT.  Think about it, the very core purpose of IT is to do tasks more efficiently and effectively – if you do it right every $1 you spend optimizing your work on IT  is like spending $2 doing the same task the non-IT way – if you do it right it can be the difference maker in every  election.