Election Tech: 7 New Technologies that Shaped an Election

11 Oct 2008 2008-11-10 2125

Election Tech: 7 New Technologies that Shaped an Election

Posted by Mike Payne

One of the most historic elections in the history of the United States of America ended nearly a week ago.  While the result will go down as a defining moment in world history, this election also saw the introduction of many ground-breaking new technologies.  From internet fundraising to multi-touch election maps, here’s a list of 7 technologies that helped shape the most historic election of the internet generation.

The Election ATM: Internet Fundraising

When forming his campaign, then Senator Barack Obama took inspiration from the model of one-time presidential candidate Howard Dean.  Dean foresaw the internet as the fundraising tool of the future, but it was Obama who championed this concept in his own campaign.  Throughout his campaign, Barack Obama raised a record breaking $600 million in contributions from individual donors, the majority of which came from internet-based campaign contributions.  By the end of his campaign, Obama received contributions from over 3,000,000 donors.

Internet fundraising was used in prior elections, as was internet advertising.  But this was the first campaign in history to have taken the majority of its donations online.  In January 2008, 88% of Obama’s donations came from individuals donating online– to the tune of $28 million.  This more than doubled then-rival Hillary Clinton’s total fundraising for the month of only $13.5 million.  Barack Obama’s use of the internet as a fundraising tool gave his campaign a monumental cash advantage over both Hillary Clinton and John McCain, an advantage he rode directly to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The Debate Snap Poll: Pundits Begagged!

This was the first presidential election in modern history where snap polls were used to score debates.  In prior elections, each debate was followed by obsessive spin from the mouths of the pundits.  To propel their favored candidate, the pundits would spin the outcome of a debate in their favor.  Thanks to snap polling, it is now the people who decide who wins the debate, not the pundits.

During and immediately following each debate, news organizations poll a group of undecided voters about the outcome of the debate.  Once this data is compiled, it is delivered to news teams for reporting.  Should a pundit claim that their candidate was the clear winner in the debate, the snap poll data may or may not overturn this spin.  The pundits are held accountable, and it is the voice of the people that write the news headlines the following day.

The Text Message of History: Biden for VP

It was the text message heard around the world.  On August 23rd at around 3:00a.m., Senator Joe Biden was announced as Barack Obama’s running mate for the 2008 presidential election.  Not surprisingly, this was the first time that a Vice Presidential candidate was announced via SMS.  While this was news to many of its recipients, the campaign had failed to keep the news from leaking before the text went out.  However, this text message became the first of many news updates that were transmitted via SMS by the Obama campaign.  Later in the season, SMS was even used to organize and rally volunteers to help drive support for the Obama campaign.  Which leads us to…

The Internet as Campaign Manager: Organizing Volunteers

Not only was the internet a fundraising phenomenon for the Obama campaign, it also helped to organize an army of volunteers across the 50 states.  Through the Obama website, email newsletters and text messages, supporters were asked to volunteer for the Obama campaign in their own time.  Supporters were invited to make calls for the Obama campaign, to deliver flyers and talk to their neighbors about Obama’s message, to host Obama parties and events and to help get voters to the polls on November 4th.

Obama’s experience as a community organizer and his campaign’s understanding of the internet allowed Obama to turn out volunteers in unprecedented numbers.  Members of the Obama website had created over 30,000 events across the US to promote Obama’s candidacy for President.  In the weeks leading up to the election, Obama volunteers were everywhere: on the phones, door-to-door in neighborhoods and driving voter registrations in towns and cities across the country.  This turnout was only possible with the help of the internet as a communication and organization tool.

Display of the Future: The John King Multi-Touch

For the tech-minded, John King’s multi-touch election map on CNN was the reason for watching that network’s coverage.  This mammoth, multi-touch screen was paired with some visually stunning software developed by CNN.  From the Iowa Caucus to the general election, King’s map provided amazing visual displays of election data right down to the precinct level.  King could instantly pull up data from a tiny precinct in Indiana in real time, then compare it to the 2004 election, then pull up voter trends by demographics.

Like the Apple iPhone or the Microsoft Surface, CNN’s “Magic Wall” is controlled by multi-touch.  John King could use one or both hands to move around on the map, to control different display elements and to draw and hightlight sections within.  While it wasn’t CNN’s only technological advancement in this election cycle, it was the only one that roundly impressed tech lovers across the US.

Tech Hype: CNN’s Holographic Interviews

While CNN’s Magic Wall was seen as a hit in the tech community, the network should have quit while they were ahead.  On election night, November 4th, CNN revealed their new technology, interviews via hologram.  By using an array of cameras, a subject would be recorded live and then merged with the studio feed to show viewers a holographic representation of that subject.  The technology appeared gimmicky to many viewers, and appeared less visually appealing than showing the subjects in their own location.

The quality of the holograms were poor– think Princess Leia to Obi Wan Kenobi.  While the technology will likely be improved upon to the point that they appear to be more compelling, it is now a bit too underdeveloped.  One interesting use of the hologram was when it was controlled by John King’s Magic Wall– the display on the magic wall would be shown in 3D, floating between two CNN anchors.  While there might be opportunities to build on, this was little more than an election night gimmick to keep viewers on CNN, not elsewhere.

The Metapoll: Combined Polling and Electoral Projections

The first known example of U.S. presidential opinion polling dates back to 1824, when Andrew Jackson led John Quincy Adams 2-to-1 in a straw poll conducted by The Harrisburg Pennsylvanian.  While that makes presidential election polling 184 years old, the way we use this polling data evolved in an extaordinary way in the presidential election of 2008.  In March of 2008, a baseball statistician named Nate Silver launched FiveThirtyEight.com, a meta-polling and electoral projection publication based on polling data from firms across the United States.  FiveThirtyEight not only accurately projected the outcome of the presidential election of 2008, it accurately determined the outcome of the primary battles earlier this year, with few exceptions.

Silver’s method involved gathering polling data at the state and national levels, weighing the poll provider based on accuracy, partisan lean and participant samples, then merging this data in one mammoth database.  Each day, as new polls were published, Silver would update his database to reflect the most recent data.  FiveThirtyEight would then publish this data with Silver’s analysis, including a map of projected electoral results for the November 4th general election.  On January 4th, Silver’s method gave John McCain a 1.1% chance of taking the election, but suggested Barack Obama would win with 349 electoral votes.

Nate Silver’s concept may not be new, but his execution and efficiency is.  Others like Pollster.com and RealClearPolitics.com have provided meta-polling projections, but both of them were taken to school by Silver’s methodology.  In future elections, this “Oracle of Elections” will likely be called on by the media elite to weigh in his very data-informed opinions.  He’s already risen to the top, having been featured in an interview with none other than Stephen Colbert himself…

Thanks for reading, GearCravers, Diggers, Stumblers and otherwise.  Please share this with those you think might be interested, and let us know if you think we missed anything.  This has been an historic election season on many, many levels– including the involvement of new technologies…

(images courtesy: ravedelay, adria.richards, perceval_tl via flickr)

Beer of the Week: Old Scratch Amber Ale

18 Sep 2008 beer, entertainment 509
Thursday, September 18, 2008 3:27PM – By Mike Payne

Flying Dog brewery, most famous for their partnership with Hunter S. Thompson’s visual counterpart Ralph Steadman, is featured again for GearCrave’s Beer of the Week.  We’ve been on an Amber kick lately, so we couldn’t go without trying Flying Dog’s Old Scratch Amber Lager.  Old Scratch (nicknamed “Gold Scratch”) pours a dark brown amber and gives off a grainy malt aroma with hints of caramel and nut.  The flavor is faithful to its scent, a rich amber with plenty of character.  For Ambers, this one is quite drinkable– so split a six with a friend and you’ll be inclined to ask for more.  Enjoy it, GearCravers, and as always– tell us what you think!

The Ray Watch by QuikSilver

25 Aug 2008 2008-08-25 979

The Ray Watch by QuikSilver

Posted by Mike Payne

Friendly to your eyes and the environment, the Ray Watch by Quiksilver is as progressive as timepieces come.  Built from sustainable ebony wood, stainless steel and fully recyclable parts, the Ray Watch symbolizes Quiksilver’s approach to pollution neutral design.  The visual philosophy of the Ray Watch takes its inspiration from the classic Art Deco radios of the 1940s.  Its unique display styling only shows the time above the fold, using double-ended spinning dials that move across the time markers twice in 12 hours.  If you want a statement on your wrist, a sustainable watch with a bold new design, you’re looking at it.

Buy: $500

Davone Rithm

7 Aug 2008 2008-08-07 1470

Audiophiles and design buffs alike are getting pretty excited about the Davone Rithm speakers.  Hell, so are we! This smoothly curved speaker has some serious sound behind it, sporting a 1-inch dome tweeter placed in the center of an 8-inch woofer. Even if the sound hardware doesn’t impress (which it does, according to reports), we’d still want a set of these just to show off. The Danish design touches of the Rithm provide a minimalist look built from specialized wood molding techniques. The look and performance of the Davone Rithm will surely be turning heads at your next cocktail party… [thanks cnet]

Buy: $TBA

Top Floor Ethereal Rug

30 Jul 2008 2008-07-30 6720

This is a first for our eyes, GearCravers.  We’ve never seen a rug design that involves two dimensions of negative space– the blank mid-section of this rug and the floor below it.  The Top Floor Ethereal Rug is an instant favorite.  An organic floral pattern reaches into the whitespace on this rug, yet this pattern is more than grooves and layers.  Designer Esti Barnes has cut these layers right through the rug itself, exposing the bare wood below.  This is one concept that certainly needs to be explored further…

Buy: $TBD


18 Jul 2008 2008-07-18 580

Local River Plant Aquarium

French designer Mathieu Lehanneur has a high fashion way of dealing with the global food crisis. His “Local River” Plant Aquarium is part fish hatchery, part vegetable garden, part modernist marvel. This refrigerated aquarium breeds freshwater fish and vegetables, where the development of both creates a symbiotic environment. The vegetables strip minerals and nitrates from the water, effectively purifying it for the development of the fish. While the concept of a food-productive fish tank might be unsettling to some, local food fanatics can get their dinner from a body of water in their own home. Check out video of the Local River’s recent installation at Artists Space in NY after the jump…


Lifestyles of the Digger Famous: 3 Top Diggers on Social Fame

17 Apr 2008 interviews 1690

Whether you are new to Digg, a seasoned pro or Kevin Rose himself (Hi Kevin!), these three men have a powerful influence on what you read. Msaleem, MrBabyMan and Zaibatsu have established themselves as a “Digg Trinity”, three unlikely friends whose names are synonymous with social media, their submissions appearing on the front page of digg on a daily basis, driving millions of readers to sites they discover.

GearCrave joined the trio to discuss Digg, social media and their latest project, the Drill Down Podcast…

GearCrave: What is your name, digg username, location and job title?

Msaleem: My name is Muhammad Saleem and I go by the user name msaleem on almost all social media sites (except for StumbleUpon where my user name is msaleem-stumbl. I live in Chicago and I work as a strategy and product/business development consultant to startups.

MrBabyMan: My name is Andrew Sorcini, I go by MrBabyMan on Digg (and other social networks), and I’m a film editor.

Zaibatsu: I’m Reg Saddler, I go by Zaibatsu on Digg, mixx, and everywhere else. I’m a retired tech consultant.

GC: How did the three of you originally come together? When was the idea for the Drill Down Podcast created?

MBM: We’re all submitters on Digg. It’s a natural occurrence amongst Digg submitters (and I really can’t explain why) that as they become more and more successful, they begin to connect with each other outside of Digg. For the most part, all the top submitters know each other and chat with each other fairly regularly. This is how Mu, Reg and I first connected.

Mu and I would occasionally chat about the tech stories we saw on Digg, and our conversations were so free and insightful, I began to wonder if anyone else would be interested in eavesdropping in on them. Mu suggested we make it a threesome with Reg, and we started to record our chats.

GC: What is The Drill Down Podcast? What does it mean for the world of social media?

MS: The Drill Down podcast covers technology-related and web-related news and often reviews new social web apps. As for social media, the podcast is a place for people to come together and discuss all the latest social media happenings. We don’t ‘run’ the show, in fact we take recommendations from the audience and often invite them to co-host the show with us.

GC: What doors has Digg opened for you and your respective careers?

MS: I don’t think it’s Digg specifically that has opened doors for any of us, but via Digg, it’s our respective understanding of some of the most important properties in the social web sphere that has opened doors for us. In fact it is this same understanding that allows us to utilize Digg to its maximum potential.

MBM: My entertainment industry career is independent from my involvement on Digg, and outside of the realm of social networking, my co-workers, friends and family are unimpressed, uninterested or just don’t get it. That’s fine by me.

Z: Digg has definitely introduced me to a lot of wonderful people in social media I otherwise wouldn’t have met. Since being on Digg, I’ve developed great relationships with them.

GC: What do you believe is the key to your success on Digg?

MS: There is no big secret to success on Digg. Submit good quality content and participate actively on the site and anyone can be just as successful on the site. The new crop of power-Diggers prove just that.

MBM: I think my success is due for the most part to the Digg community finding an affinity with many (roughly about 27%) of the stories I submit. And for that, I’m grateful to be able to choose and submit content they connect with.

Z: I think people really like me and my posts. Also I have a, shall we say, distinctive title/description style that I think people dig (pun intended)

GC: For each of you, what are a few of your all-time favorite personal submissions to Digg?

MS: My favorite submission so far was the announcement of Al-Gore being awarded the Nobel Prize.

MBM: That’s tough to say, but I’d have to say my favorites are the ones that really moved people, engaged them in heated debate, or inspired them to consider a viewpoint they hadn’t previously.

Z: So neighbors steal your wi-fi net access, kill the connection or have fun or anything with treefrogs.

GC: If you could change any one thing about Digg, what would it be?

MS: I would make it much more transparent.

MBM: I would call for more transparency in the

missile silo

How to Buy Your Own Missile Silo

23 Mar 2008 2008-03-23 6992
Posted by J. Wallace

So, you are interested in your own missile silo? Well first, check out these videos to learn the basics…

Building Your Own Missile Silo

During the Cold War, America was full of holes, and each one contained a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile. For every missile there was an underground command center (called a capsule) with two military officers on duty for 24 hours at a time, each one holding a launch key. If the officers got the right command from on high, they would verify with a countersign, insert their keys and launch the missile– bye bye bad guys. It takes two keys to launch, insuring that a rogue maniac couldn’t start his own WWIII, at least not without driving his partner in the capsule to the same brand of crazy.

missile silo
(image courtesy: Seth Woodworth)

Fortunately, nobody ever had to turn their keys in real life, only in training missions that simulated an underhanded attack by dirty commies. Now a lot of these sites are abandoned, decommissioned under anti-nuclear proliferation treaties and other negotiations. When the government sold these off at bargain-basement prices, savvy investors scooped them up and now resell them to anyone with an urge to live underground and with no windows. GearCrave got the scoop…after the jump learn how you can track down and bid on your very own post-nuclear missile silo home.

missile silo tour
(image courtesy: Kerinin)

Buying a missile silo for your very own is really like purchasing any piece of real estate. You need to scope out the property, see if you like the area and check out the neighbors. Well, chances are there won’t be ANY neighbors anywhere close by. Missile silos were built away from populated areas, behind miles of fenceline and under armed guard. Some people like the idea of all that solitude, and if that’s you, life on the (former) nuclear prairie could be for you. If you are in the market for one of these throwbacks to the Cold War, here’s some food for thought:

  • Buying a missile silo means buying multiple acres.
  • Silos are on decommissioned military bases or military annexes and are often far away from towns or cities.
  • Your missile silo may be located near an EPA Superfund pollution cleanup site. Do your homework before buying.
  • Have the site appraised by a real estate professional, but understand that your costs for the property may be inflated due to the unusual nature of the property. You may pay “seller’s market” rates for such a site rather than realistic prices.
  • You may need a generator or a special arrangement with a local power company for electrical service.
  • Certain features such as blast doors and other unique missile silo construction may require structural evaluation after 30 years or more of disuse.

A missile silo site is what real estate types call “a real fixer-upper.” Some sites are flooded, need serious mold abatement, and will definitely require you to do a renovation. After all, once upon a time, it looked like this:


Now imagine this space flooded with water, stripped of its electronics, and 30 years of stale air. Yuck. That’s not to say that it can’t be done. In Dover, Kansas, Edward and Dianna Peden converted a missile facility into Subterra Castle, an interesting underground home and event space. Check out what the Pedens did with their site, originally purchased for about $40K back in the 80s.

If you aren’t a DIY type, the renovations for a missile silo could wind up costing plenty, but if you have the spare change to throw around, why not? The only trick now is to find a seller. If you want to investigate, fear not–we’ve saved you a bit of time. Here are two of the key players in missile silo real estate:

  • Siloworld.com –the only drawback here is that you get seller phone numbers and prices, but no photos or other info. Still worth looking into for those seller details.
  • MissileSilos.com–the terms on the properties listed here vary from slightly dodgy sounding (no financing allowed on one site priced at nearly two million–full payment only) to more realistic sounding terms such as investment partnership in exchange for half ownership. This site has photos and descriptions, and is quite helpful if you’re considering going underground. Some prices near a reasonable quarter mil, others closer to two million.

The best advice if you’re looking for a missile silo? Get in touch with these two web sites and ask plenty of questions. Bring a structural expert and appraiser to any site you are thinking about owning and check out the area to make sure there are no serious environmental problems. Does your missile silo have a problem with Radon gas leaking into the facility? Is there a lead paint or asbestos issue in the structure? Know BEFORE you buy. Some additional things to think about:

  • The military stored hazardous waste in some decommissioned nuclear sites. Is the one you’re looking at in need of a serious decontamination?
  • If a particular site is flooded and needs to be drained, is the flood issue a cumulative water problem or the result of a single structural failure somewhere in the facility?
  • How much will it cost to reconnect to utilities such as power, gas and water?
  • How is trash removal and sewage to be handled?

Knowing the basic answers to these questions will help you figure out whether the purchase is worth the asking price. You should also check to see how the area in question is zoned in case you want to run a business from your former missile silo.
Owning a missile silo isn’t impossible–just ask Edward and Dianna Peden. Just remember there are no windows down there and you’ll need to figure out what to do about getting an Internet connection up and running. That and a fridge full of beer. If you wind up buying one of these, by all means drop us a line and let us know what happened.

Enjoy this article? Read about How to Buy Your Own Private Island here on GearCrave.

ASCII Curtains

17 Mar 2008 homeware 2216

ASCII Curtains

Tuesday, March 18, 2008 9:00AM


Designer Nieke Sybrandy has come up with a great concept with her ASCII curtains. Many of today’s blog kiddies and Nintendo Wii-heads are too young to remember the great old computer BBS systems of the late 80s and early 90s, with their crude-but-endearing ASCII graphics and ancient green and amber color schemes. These curtains are a direct throwback to those days of yore, but in a much more sophisticated way. Stylish, organic-looking, but realized with the creative arrangement of old fuddy-duddy computer code. Amazing. [JoshSpear]