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A tech focus on the Presidential Race

Friday 5 – Obama vs Romney, Data the Winner

Chris Mayer
White-House

We take a glance at some of the data stories to emerge out of the race to the White House

We might be across the pond, but the team at JAX Towers were monitoring proceedings across the United States of America eagerly. You’ve likely seen the endless amount of Tumblr’s dedicated to Tuesday’s events, all the parody Youtube videos and you’ve probably seen Obama’s speech (SPOILER). But we won’t be going over those. Sorry.

Now with the ticker tape settling and the Romney supporting boards being discarded, we’ve scoured the world for all those tech stories you may have missed whilst casting your vote. Here they are…

1. We Need A Programmer for President

Before the US went to the voting booth, DZone’s Mitch Pronschinske offered his own take on the White House race, offering up a potential third candidate for President – a software developer. His reasoning is fairly sound – this new candidate would introduce programming into the curriculum like in Estonia, abolish software patents and extra support for space exploration. Perhaps we’re getting tired of the same old names and need someone more innovative – and who is more innovative than a developer?

2. Precog Sentiment Tweet Analysis

With this being the first election to have Twitter as the truly international soapbox for everyone to air their opinions on candidate (2008 doesn’t really count as the masses weren’t using it), we were intrigued to see how companies would use the social media site, and put their own spin on events. We talked to Precog this week and were impressed by this – their Twitter Sentiment Analysis.

Turning the raft of data into a cool real-time dashboard that gives an inkling how each state is thinking is a nifty idea and one executed brilliantly. 

“The Geo Chart above displays the attitude of Twitter users toward the presidential candidates over the past hour. The total number of non-neutral tweets gathered is displayed by day in the barchart. Twitter’s API is used to search for geo-located tweets that mention Obama and Romney. The text of these tweets is then analyzed using AlchemyAPI’s sentiment analysis API. These results are then stored using Precog’s API. This data is then analyzed using Labcoat and displayed using the ReportGrid visualization library.”

 Looking at the dashboard display, it looked like it called America’s thinking through Tweets correctly. Kudos.

3. How Twitter survived during the Election

Speaking of Twitter – just how did they manage to make it out of Election Night unscathed without even a hint of a Fail Whale? The answer appears to be Java. Yes, Java.

In a post on Twitter’s Engineering blog, Mazen Rawashdeh, VP of Infrastructure Operations Engineering gave us the tale of the tape. During the day, there were 31 million Tweets, working out to be a staggering 327,452 Tweets per Minute (TPM). Then you factor in Barack Obama’s most popular tweet ever…


As you might be aware, Twitter is currently in infrastructure transition – diverting mobile clients to the JVM, opposed to Ruby. Given how many people use Twitter on mobile devices, that’s surely a seal of approval to Java. 

It may not be 24/7 active as they want, but Twitter did a damned fine job during the biggest surges.

4. The Data Scientists Behind Obama’s Win

A very interesting article from TIME Magazine’s Michael Scherer praising the ‘little people’ who helped Barack Obama secured the win on Tuesday – the data analysts. It’s amazing how the Obama team used data to secure the 44th President’s victory and importantly four more years in the White House. Well worth your time reading.

5. Nate Silver bang on the money

Arguably the second biggest winner this week was NY Times blogger and seemingly statistician extraordinaire, Nate Silver. His blog FiveThirtyEight established itself in 2008 as the place to get a near-perfect electorate forecast, with only one state in 50 guessed incorrectly. Rather than shrugging his shoulders, Silver bowled the perfect game this year, correctly predicting every state. He did get the North Dakota Senate Race incorrect, but in the grand scheme of things, Silver is supreme really. He’s even become a minor celebrity, appearing on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and proclaimed Lord of the Algorithms. Let’s hope it doesn’t go to his head, eh?

That’s your lot for this week, have a safe weekend wherever you are!]

Image courtesy of Tom Lohdan

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