#chair: A Tech Agenda

[Well, this has been an fun series to write, and a great way to get back involved. While I have very strong opinions on many matters for the party, I am going to conclude with a Technology Roadmap for the MassGOP. Whomever wins tonight, they could do a whole lot worse than this. This document marks my return to the State Committee Technology Sub-Committee, if they are still interested. In any case, this will be the last I have to say publicly about party direction for a long time.]

A few general thoughts:

Yes, we are in a time of great innovation in information technology. Amazing things could be built. But that would require a great deal of time and money and people. The best strategy now is to harness all of the great things that have already been built into effective tools that are free, or inexpensive to rent. The cost of our technology should be in monthly rentals and paying people to customize these solutions. The party could be completely revolutionized without writing much computer code at all. Yes, eventually, we may get to a point where we might have to create some new technology to move forward, but that is a long ways off. Right now, we need to make greater use of social media and things like NationBuilder, Wufoo, North Social, Basecamp, Highrise, Google Apps, Eventbrite, Good Data, GitHub, and Bedework.

Do we need to hire people to do this kind of work? Well, we need to pay people to do some of it. That could be short-term contractors, long-term ones, a consulting shop that provides developers, and eventually, an in-house developer. But not right away. Right now, we just need people to get things set up and configured. That will be a lot of work. But we can break it into pieces, do a cost-benefit analysis, and then do them one at a time.

(Read more…)

Several Great Technology Goals



1. Provide great technology tools to any Republican candidate that needs them

2. Educate activists, committee members, and candidates on how to use inexpensive campaign technology to offset the Democrats’ fundraising advantage

3. Organize Republicans on a statewide basis, allowing activists from all over the state to help wherever they are needed

4. Increase the effectiveness of RTCs and Wards and provide an easy way for them to share best practices

5. Increase the number of donors, especially small donors and younger Republicans.

6. Gather the activists who know technology all over the state into a collaborative environment where they can work on shared infrastructure projects

7. Establish methods of better sharing data between committees and campaigns

Note: Each of these goals will be rated on three characteristics: cost, time, and impact – on the following five-point, increasing scale:

Cost: “free” / 2,500 / 10K / 50K / 100K

Time: one week / one month / three months / six months / one year

Impact: stabilize / boost / parity / ahead / leadership

I will make rough estimates, not intended to be accurate, but to judge one activity versus another. I will provide a brief description under each one as to what would be involved. (Details aren’t important at this level.)

1. Provide Great Technology Tools to Candidates  (Cost: “free”, Time: One Month, Impact: Ahead)

This is about creating one big NationBuilder “nation” site and then coming up with configuration guidelines for candidates and committees that want to create sub-sites (sub-nations) underneath that banner. Also, there will be other standardized tools recommended, such as a Facebook application suite (perhaps North Social) and some social media management tools. Karl Weld recommended a self-service collateral environment to create great campaign materials. I have always liked that idea.

2. Educate activists, committee members, and candidates on how to use inexpensive campaign technology to offset the Democrats’ fundraising advantage (Cost: $50K, Time: Six Months, Impact: Parity)

This would be setting up a learning management site using an open source tool like Moodle, and putting in various videos and web pages with the content we needed. Some of the videos would be ones that already exist for tools we want to use. But we would have to make some video and pair some content and quizzes with training goalsl.

3. Organize Republicans on a statewide basis, allowing activists from all over the state to help wherever they are needed

(Cost: $50K, Time: Six Months, Impact: Leadership)

This would involve creating new NationBuilder sites around statewide interests (professions, campaign skills, demographic groups) and then creating the structure in there to get people doing things to help the party. I also think we should create a statewide calendar of calendars with the open source tool Bedework.  (Very difficult to get configured right, but when it works, it is exactly what we need.)

4. Increase the effectiveness of RTCs and Wards and provide an easy way for them to share best practices

(Cost: $2,500, Time: Three Months, Impact: Ahead)

This would be about getting all of the RTCs and Wards into a single collaboration environment. Everyone could have their own space, but observe what all of the other committees were doing. State Committee members would also be able to see what activity was happening. This would probably be done best with the $149/month option for Basecamp, a wonderful, easy-to-use hosted collaboration tool that has been around for years.

5. Increase the number of donors, especially small donors and younger Republicans.

(Cost: $50K, Time: One Year, Impact: Ahead)

This would involve new fundraising drives for small donors, it might involve a gamification site with a leader board that people could compete to be on. (That would probably be done with a site like Big Door – which is pretty cheap, or an open source combo like Elgg with Hype Game Mechanics.)

Another project here would be to build something on top of a product like Fundraise.com to create a Massachusetts-wide ActBlue type of site. That would take a few months, at least, but it would be phenomenal!

6. Gather the activists who know technology all over the state into a collaborative environment where they can work on shared infrastructure projects

(Cost: “free”, Time: One Month, Impact: Ahead)

This is pretty simple and I would probably just go set up the free and inexpensive tools to create a workspace to invite in all techies to brainstorm about what we could build to get things started. (GitHub, etc.) We could get ahead because all of the great tech talent in this state goes national – almost nobody wants to help out locally.

7. Establish methods of better sharing data between committees and campaigns

(Cost: $2,500, Time: Six Months, Impact: Leadership)

If we have many organizations using NationBuilder, it won’t be hard to use their data formats as a baseline for sharing between non-linked sites. Even if organizations don’t use it, the standard is still close enough to other kinds of voter data that it wouldn’t be a big deal to do the transformation. We would have to publish out some guidelines about how the data will be shared between organizations. My guess is that we would have a separate special interest site for campaigns where this could all reside.

We might also consider some software-as-service analytics and sharing, such as with a site like GoodData, where you upload spreadsheet and other formatted data and can create great charts and graphs.

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Well, that is all for now.. at least publicly. Let’s all hope we become that younger, more tolerant, more diverse, tech-savvy party we all know we need to be. We need this kind of infrastructure to do all that.  

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