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Patrick Ruffini
Bits over atoms
Bits over atoms


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We're very excited for this week's +TWiL, fantastic topics and guests with +Patrick Ruffini and +Joshua Stearns joining us.  You should too, we're live NOW!

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Some of the smartest, most entrepreneurial people I know are on the left. And they're the ones most angered by the failure of But it's not enough just to blame procurement. What happened was the inevitable consequence of big bureaucracy meeting crony capitalism. And ultimately, of a governing philosophy that says when it comes to government, bigger is better.

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Stuart Stevens argues that the Republican Party doesn't have a 140-character problem. He's right about that. What the Republican Party actually has is a problem with an intellectually incurious and cautious operative class that stifles technology innovation, policy innovation, and everything in between. (These are portrayed as separate problems, but they're actually the same problem.)  

What really troubles me about Stevens's comments is his dismissive statement that "technology is something to a large degree you can go out and purchase." No, it's not. Technology is not about the tools. It is about people. It's about creating a culture that drives metrics over hunches and BS "message of the day" fire drills. 

Stevens will be the last general strategist of his kind not because he didn't tweet, but because he thought of technology and data as some cool toy you could buy, not as the very foundation of a strong organization. 

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People who follow my work should probably know that I've been an outside consultant to Google's DC policy team for a few years now. Nonetheless, this piece posted by Ben Howe on RedState touches another nerve and something I've spent countless hours since November agitating on: the Right's broader failure to understand how technology works, and the seeming fear of it that this piece tries to stoke. 

Howe's rant may be about a client, but these are my personal thoughts that touch on something very important I've been trying to get across in the last few weeks. 

Howe correctly stipulates that Republicans could well get beat by a Democratic machine powered by "breathtakingly large, real-time data that could be used for real-time trend analysis, predictive modeling and even behavioral manipulation." And imagine if Google randomly happens to merge their search data with Democratic predictive modeling! Because Google executives support Obama! Because they can read your email, and stuff you write on Google Drive! (Where have we heard that before? Because Joe Biden once hosted a Google+ Hangout, and this is proof of a nefarious conspiracy! 

The results? "The real threat is that Google, or perhaps just a few people within the leadership of Google, may be quietly operating as a private intelligence agency for the left." 

Yes, this is exactly what global technology companies do. Operate as private spying operations for political parties with dingy headquarers on South Capitol. (Rather than make money by working with everyone.)

Beyond the sheer hackery and technical illiteracy of this piece, the fact that someone thought this narrative could be successfully peddled to people on the right is dispiriting. Because the truth is actually scarier than Howe admits. Because the Obama campaign actually built something to successfully predict the behavior of individual voters on their own. And because we seem to be completely unaware of the fact that you don't need massive technology companies to build a hugely powerful political database. 

You can build it yourself. 

Or at least the left can. Because they have developers and technologists who actually build real things of value, instead of bellyaching about how Silicon Valley doesn't like them, or how they can't get permission from the higher ups for their non-idea.

Want the stuff Obama has? Don't play the victim. Just build it.

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Choose to believe.

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I had the chance to collaborate with Aaron in the fight to keep the Internet free. Despite his prodigial achievements (he wrote the spec for RSS 1.0 at 14!) what makes this painfully sad is the knowledge that he had yet to reach the mountaintop, and could have if he wanted to. I didn't know him that well, but he seemed to be an insatiably curious guy who had his hands in a lot of things. I like that. 

Aaron's case should also force us to re-examine our laws and ensure they are consistent with the incredible opportunities afforded by sharing on the Internet. Let a free Internet with open access to knowledge be his legacy.

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We're partnering with +BuzzFeed on this awesome series of graphics correlating your cultural tastes to your politics. Up today food: Cracker Barrel and Five Guys fans are on Team Romney, while Chipotle fans lean Obama.

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I want hourly tracking polls. Here's how we do it. 

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The downside of mastering a certain way of being is a tendency to judge others who are different. The real value lies not in pushing your own way but in understanding people who have the opposite strengths, and crafting the right balance. Extremes and rough edges are essential to making interesting things happen.
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