Deadline Demands

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2006-11-16 Print this article Print

Rubin said that because the DNC was working with an unmovable deadline—Election Day—the organization depended on the analysis speed of its database so that it could move faster and react more quickly to changing conditions. "They had over 900 fields for each one of the data records," Rubin said. "The challenge is to understand who these people are, and to figure out what kind of relationship there was in the past, and how to reach them in time for the election."
Rubin said that a lot of work was required to match voter lists with other databases to ensure that contact information was correct and complete.
"You can cause a lot of problems when you have the wrong information," she said. Making sure the information is actually correct is a big problem. "We have vast voter databases that we update and keep current and constantly tweaked to make sure they have optimal working value for each election cycle," said Josh Holmes, deputy press secretary for the Republican National Committee in Washington. "The information we can retain is all valuable in determining voting patterns," Holmes said. "Our database is not one where we feel that too much information is too much. The more information we can add and overlay is better." This means, of course, that the data being retained by the Republican Party is as vast as it is with the Democratic Party. Part of the reason theres so much information is that the parties both retain data that goes far beyond voter registration lists. "It starts with basic voter registration and party registration data," Holmes said. "Then there are things like hunting licenses and other publicly available information," he said, "and then theres consumer data information such as magazine subscriptions. Theres no one thing. Its a combination of information that gives you the picture you want to see." One of the reasons that Bickford and the DNC decided to use Netezzas database appliance is performance. In many cases, especially with the give and take of a close election, voter targeting at the last minute can pay big dividends. "It gave them something theyd never had before. We were able to turn [queries] around in a much shorter amount of time," Bickford said. Next Page: Handling data.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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