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Does Even Amazing Partisan Tech Deserve Applause? 209

theodp writes "The press has been filled with wide-eyed articles about how Obama's tech team pulled out the stops in their race against the Republicans. But as exciting as some of the new techniques dreamed up may be, Tom Steinberg points out it's important to reflect on the difference between choosing to use tech skills to win a particular fight, versus trying to improve the workings of the democratic system, or helping people to self-organize and take some control of their own lives. 'I am still filled with an excitement about the prospects for non-partisan technologies that I can't muster for even the coolest uses of randomized control trial-driven political messaging,' writes Steinberg. 'The reason why all comes down to the fact that major partisan digital campaigns change the world, but they don't do it in the way that services like eBay, TripAdvisor and do. What all these sites have in common – helping people sell stuff they own, find a hotel, or a life partner – is that they represent a positive change in the lives of millions of people that is not directly opposed by a counter-shift.'"
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Does Even Amazing Partisan Tech Deserve Applause?

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  • by PPH (736903) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @10:54AM (#42087143)

    Its a matter of who manages to leverage it to their advantage that makes a difference. At one point, the GOP and Karl Rove were ahead of the Democrats at using databases and software to rally support and gerrymander voting districts. But it appears that they have run out of steam.

    One wonders why the Republicans haven't been the ones pushing publicly funded broadband. They are missing quite a bit of their base out in the trailer parks.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 25, 2012 @11:02AM (#42087205)

    In short, they used data mining to tailor messages to the specific recipients. For example, if you're a thirty five year old white woman who attends church (but only a few times a year) then it might be that even though you're nominally pro choice that's not an effective campaign strategy with you. Instead, appeals to a sense of economic justice or fair play might work better. So what the Obama campaign in particular would do is call and talk to you about tax policy and not mention abortion at all, knowing that you're just as likely to be turned off by a strong pro choice defense.

    So the question posed by the story is whether this is good for the country. After all, in the above case, it's not like Obama's politics are actually any different. He's just making them seem different by selectively sharing only certain parts of his campaign. And everyone gets a subtly different message.

    Personally, I think that anyone who didn't have a pretty good idea of where all the candidates stood on all the major issues doesn't get to complain. Maybe this is a little sleazy, but so is politics in its entirety.

  • Re:WTF is this? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by medv4380 (1604309) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @11:05AM (#42087223)
    That's because it's just a Libertarian or Republican anti-Obama Won because of tech argument. It's not even a question for Slashdot, but rather a Troll post to see how much flame or non-flame will be generated. From my position, since my job is in survey research, I'm happy that Obama's team has figured out how to poll the Youth and Young Adult groups. Those groups have always been hard, but because of trends over the last 10 years its become a big blind spot in research. Complaining that Obama won because they figured out how to measure 18-30 year old better is foolish.
  • by JWW (79176) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @11:17AM (#42087293)

    Yeah, one party rule works great EVERYWHERE it's tried. The Soviets thought they were righteously correct too.

    The Democrats in 2008 scared the hell out of me. They were spouting things like "we will rule for a generation". They scared everyone else too, when you look at what happened in 2010.

    And as for libertarians, they happen to be the only poeple to have enough principle to be pissed about Bush's torture AND Obama's drone executions.

  • by davydagger (2566757) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @11:57AM (#42087543)
    if you seriously think that our government or any government the democratic party would reasonbly instate represents public intrest, you gotta be shitting me.

    The democratic party is just as corporate sponsored as the republican party, if only exceptions being to make government a private non-corporate entity that responds of a few with connections instead of money.

    Where were they on SOPA and PIPA?

    What about with monsanto's little debacle?

    I am sure its "public intrest" where they completely ignored there campaign promises to stop the world wide war on civil liberties with the stated goal of fighting terrorism, and scale back domestic spying and unconstitutional policing.

    By "popular intrest" you mean worship to whatever celebrities who normally tell people what products they should buy told them, so a few leaders can sit around paying $20 for drinks and not face consequences of insane social mores.

    Or mabey you still believe in privlidege for a stated upper class.
  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @12:00PM (#42087561)

    Obamacare, which was designed to cut back the 45,000 deaths annually due to lack of health insurance.

    If all government programs did what they were designed to do, the world would be a perfect place.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 25, 2012 @12:02PM (#42087569)

    As a libertarian, and someone who can do something called math, and who understands at a moderate level this thing called economics, I can assure you that libertarians are in the right for having issues with obamacare. Answer this honestly, how is it going to improve health care? Making insurance mandatory, according to basics of economics means you've increased demand for insurance, and by making it required by law, created a very, very inelastic supply curve. According to economics 101, the only thing that can happen is that prices will sky rocket.

    Then throw in the whole concept of health insurance. I'm pretty sure it's meant to cover extremely expensive, yet fairly unlikely disasters. Car accidents, house burning down, etc. I don't expect my car insurance to pay for regular maintenance for my car such as oil changes or putting gas in it. That's just adding an unneeded middle man which will do nothing but increase the price without need. Why not pay for maintenance straight up? Then rather then employer offered health insurance, that gets changed to employer offered health account, used to directly pay for care, doesn't go through middle men, and keeps everything cheaper. But NO. Libertarians are idiots for identifying that the real problem with our system is that everything is covered through insurance, rather than in any sane way everything else is handled. Leave health insurance for catastrophic care, and pay for basic care the same way you would for everything else in life.

    You will undoubtedly counter that all health care should be run by government, well now all health care workers are government employees, now you're heading down the path of communism, and history has already told us how well that works.

  • Re:WTF is this? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @12:08PM (#42087627) Homepage Journal

    It's a horribly corporatist troll. Commercial tech is nothing but good, because it makes people's lives better "without opposition". Political tech is bad because there's opposition, or because it doesn't fix everything. What a load of CXO worshipping propaganda.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @12:34PM (#42087795) Homepage Journal

    Because Obamacare does a lot more than just insure more people. Though for those newly insured, it has improved their healthcare by funding what couldn't be bought before, already proving you wrong.

    Obamacare also requires insurers provide contraception for the price of insurance premiums, which is preventive medicine that reduces costs due to unexpected pregnancies and STDs.

    You're pretty sure that health insurance is meant to cover only catastrophes, but it's not. It's to cover spikes in health care costs that come from occasional expensive events. It's just like car collision insurance: it's a financing strategy that allows people to keep moving through life in a way they can afford, based on statistics. In fact car insurance should pay for routine maintenance that prevents catastrophic costs like engines seizing or bald tires skidding into something.

    The financing costs money to operate, plus salaries and profits to motivate people to dedicate the time it requires to do it properly. Though not as much as the insurers charge (up to 20% of premiums, even under Obamacare). What every one of our foreign competitors has chosen over the past several generations is a public health insurance system like unemployment insurance, which we already have for a lot of Americans in either Medicare, Medicaid, VA insurance and some others.

    In fact you have called for public health insurance in what you have detailed. Except for some reason you want an "employer offered health account". Why should the employer have anything whatsoever to do with health? Why should an employer even know when you have drawn on payments for medicine? Why should you have to move it when you change employers? Why should employers spend one minute administering health financing when their business is totally unrelated? Obviously that "account" should be Medicare/Medicaid/VA insurance, paid by taxes, administered without profit by the government that already does so very well for many millions of Americans.

    What's wrong with you libertarians is that you cannot accept that government is the people joined together to protect ourselves, at a great scale economy. You're obsessed with authoritarian private corporations that demonstrate daily the vast waste they layer atop most widespread services, especially those that are equally available to all. You reduce actual life experiences demonstrated everywhere to inane sloganeering like "heading down the path of communism, and history has already told us how well that works". No, you have merely cherrypicked history and called things names without regard to their meaning.

    There's more to economics than economics 101. There's more to reality than the libertarian mayor of Sim City bothers to carp about.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @12:37PM (#42087819) Homepage Journal

    It's a crisis of governance. Republicans are committed to terrible ideas about how to govern the country. The ideas that they executed for years with trifecta control of the US government, and perpetuated in years after by minority interference with goverment action to reform what they installed.

    I hope that Priebus and the Republican Party stays committed to them. They belong on the dustheap of history, along with so much American greatness they destroyed.

  • by demonlapin (527802) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @12:44PM (#42087867) Homepage Journal
    East Germany?

    You know, I understand that history can be a bit bewildering at times, but it is generally agreed upon that Communist regimes are left- rather than right-leaning. Probably not a place for a conservative of any stripe.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 25, 2012 @12:51PM (#42087915)

    You actually sounded very lucid and correct until that last paragraph where you displayed your staggering ignorance about universal healthcare. Obamacare just furthers the agenda of crony capitalism (which is the only type of capitalism that ever has or ever CAN arise). A true UHC would put all aspects of healthcare back in the hands of the people who are getting that care, as evidenced by every civilized nation in the world with UHC that is vastly popular with said nation's citizenry.

  • by demonlapin (527802) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @01:05PM (#42088007) Homepage Journal
    Your proof is a USA Today opinion piece? Yes, 3.6 million people more had insurance - great for them. But the overall insured percent went from 83.7% to 84.3%. That's what we can expect? 0.6%? For laws that have effectively removed almost any limit on what the Federal government can and cannot tell you what to do, for billions of dollars spent, and for literally destroying private practice medicine, that's what we get?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 25, 2012 @01:46PM (#42088301)

    It's cute how you think the horde of red-staters who make up the base of the Republican party are all about laissez-faire, as if that is also the defining characteristic of "conservatism".

  • by Chirs (87576) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @05:08PM (#42089361)

    You're pretty sure that health insurance is meant to cover only catastrophes, but it's not. It's to cover spikes in health care costs that come from occasional expensive events. It's just like car collision insurance: it's a financing strategy that allows people to keep moving through life in a way they can afford, based on statistics. In fact car insurance should pay for routine maintenance that prevents catastrophic costs like engines seizing or bald tires skidding into something.

    Sorry, but no. Insurance, by definition, is there to cover events that are too expensive to be able to afford the immediate expense, and unlikely enough that you don't actually expect to need it very often.

    Routine maintenance is by definition routine, and therefore shouldn't be covered by insurance. If you start using insurance for routine events, then the overall cost goes up because the insurance company will want to take a share of the profits.

  • Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JPMH (100614) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @06:35PM (#42089743)

    Steinberg is really thinking about the low-budget, non-commercial, very effective sites that his charity MySociety [] has set up over the last 10 years in the UK, which aim to help non-party democracy at a grass roots level, by helping make citizens more powerful against government at all levels, by creating systems that give them more information, help them work together, and track and share the outcomes of what happens when they tangle with power.

    What Steinberg is saying is that systems like that, that make the citizen more powerful, are far more impressive to him than systems which make a particular political party more effective. It's a bit surprising that so far seemingly every poster here has missed Steinberg's point.

I have a very small mind and must live with it. -- E. Dijkstra