Handling Data

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

He also said that finding ways to handle large amounts of data, even in a high performance environment remained a problem. Part of the answer was to call in some people with the right experience.
"The key people had worked on the genomic project and figured out how to use large amounts of data," Bickford said.
"The data is able to be massaged at the field level, and it moved us into the next generation," he said. Holmes said that how the data is handled also has a big impact on performance. He points out that standard queries can be performed very quickly, for example. "It can be done just as quickly as you can sort through a spreadsheet," he said. "If you need to redo the search item to target a specific area you havent targeted before, then its longer." Holmes said that exactly how much longer depends on the data being searched for and the complexity of the query. Both parties have moved beyond the simple targeting of groups. "The piece that I would stress is the fact that its no longer that youre targeting neighborhoods, wards or districts," Holmes said. "You used to focus on them. Thats not as efficient as what we have now. Were able to turn out Republican votes, not only in Republican areas, but in areas that dont have high Republican support." Bickford said he had the same problem: "Who are the people who will vote, but are less likely unless you light a fire under them?" he asked. He said that in many cases, they would be voters who might have Democratic leanings, but who didnt get the information they needed because they werent identified as Democrats, or didnt live in Democratic areas. Bickford pointed to one New Hampshire election in which the party needed more than just the voters they always relied on. So the DNC used data mining to identify new voters and send them mail. "It was used in a seven-piece mail program," Bickford said. "It targeted older unenrolled men and all women," in other words, voters who were registered to vote, but not registered as being in a specific political party. "People not registered in a specific party are the swing voters," he said. Both parties are also continuously working on their databases. "You can never rest on your laurels," Bickford said. "The majority of the planning you do, and continue to question whether your plans are working or not." Holmes said that the Republican Party is already working on the databases for the next election. "There are people who are working today," he said. "Its a 365-day-a-year job, and it doesnt take a break after the election cycle. Theyre already matching database up with the voter outcome." Both parties drew much of what theyve learned from the business community, and they say they think that their lessons are directly transferable. Holmes said that micro-targeting is working well for his party, and he thinks it has applications outside of politics. Just like its important for companies to keep track of their customers wants and needs, he said, its also important to the political parties. "It allows you to not take a single voter for granted," he said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis of technologys impact on government and politics.

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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