Harper Reed — CTO for Obama’s Presidential Campaign 2012

Harper Reed — CTO for Obama’s Presidential Campaign 2012

The Chief Technical Officer for Obama’s presidential campaign in 2012 is an early innovator and made use of crowdsourcing before it was even a concept. His energy and enthusiasm was appreciated by the audience at the Internet Days — even though he was talking a lot about how the Obama campaign made use of “private information” in an integrity-defying manner. This is a short summary of the keynote held at the “Internet Days” conference.

“We used Ubuntu because we’re adults” – @harper.

Harper had a lot of questions for the audience: “In 2009 I realized I had accomplished all my goals so I quit my job. Who’s here to quit their job? How many are user experience people?” There was quiet before he continued: “Okay, how many of you have customers? Then you should all be user experience people!”

He went on to explain that the Obama campaign in 2008 was run like a start-up, while in 2012 they were “the Microsoft of campaigns” in terms of resources but “used Ubuntu because we’re adults”. They also used the open source methodology of shipping often, even if faulty, to deliver something instead of maintaining “fantasy users.”

Explaining how the campaign was run he said that one of the most important things to build a team is pruning it: “don’t be afraid to fire people”. Other important parts of building a team are to always be creative, hire smarter people than you, trust others, measure everything, maintain authenticity, stay on purpose, give credit and most importantly have diversity.

He talked about how it is much easier hiring someone similar to you than someone completely different, even if someone that can do things differently is needed. He also criticized the ratio of females in tech: “apparently red-haired people are getting extinct, so how come is it more difficult to find a woman to hire than a redhead?”

The Obama campaign made use of call tools, dashboard oversights, mobile apps (100% responsive to work on all devices), social media, big data and “boat-loads of e-mail”. They crawled Facebook data to get personal details for their voter targeting, such as finding common friends of activists in swing states.

The full keynote by Harper Reed can be watched online.


Featured image: Screenshot from keynote video