The Obama campaign's technologists were tense and tired. It was game day and everything was going wrong.
Josh Thayer, the lead engineer of Narwhal, had just been informed that they'd lost another one of the services powering their software. That was bad: Narwhal was the code name for the data platform that underpinned the campaign and let it track voters and volunteers. If it broke, so would everything else.
They were talking with people at Amazon Web Services, but all they knew was that they had packet loss. Earlier that day, they lost their databases, their East Coast servers, and their memcache clusters. Thayer was ready to kill Nick Hatch, a DevOps engineer who was the official bearer of bad news. Another of their vendors, PalominoDB, was fixing databases, but needed to rebuild the replicas. It was going to take time, Hatch said. They didn't have time.
They'd been working 14-hour days, six or seven days a week, trying to reelect the president, and now everything had been broken at just the wrong time. It was like someone had written a Murphy's Law algorithm and deployed it at scale.
And that was the point. "Game day" was October 21. The election was still 17 days away,... (continue reading)
The Pew Research Center is out with a new report today looking at media coverage of the presidential campaign since this summer's conventions. It's got plenty of worthwhile tidbits and newsy nuggets, but the one that jumped out at us right away was this snapshot of just how segmented and partisan (and negative) cable news has been this election cycle:
The study ... reveals the degree to which the two cable channels that have built themselves around ideological programming, MSNBC and Fox, stand out from other mainstream media outlets. And MSNBC stands out the most. On that channel, 71% of the segments studied about Romney were negative in nature, compared with just 3% that were positive-a ratio of roughly 23-to-1. On Fox, 46% of the segments about Obama were negative, compared with 6% that were positive-a ratio of about 8-to-1 negative. These made them unusual among channels or outlets that identified themselves as news organizations.
Walk into the “filing center” at a presidential debate and you’ll see hundreds of reporters seated at tables doing two things: Watching the action on TV (reporters covering the debates aren’t actually in the same room as the candidates) and monitoring Twitter on their laptops.
They are hard at work on one of the most elaborate exercises ever undertaken in groupthink.
This was to have been the campaign when Twitter and other social media allowed new voices to enter the debate, delivering a more diverse array of opinion and helping candidates reach beyond the media filter. In reality, social media have had the opposite effect, causing conventional wisdom to be set, simplified and amplified, faster and more pervasively — and nowhere is that more evident than in the debate coverage.
From the first minutes, journalists at the site and back at home monitor each other’s tweets, testing out themes and gauging which candidate is ahead, point by point: “First section kind of a wash” . . . “Romney very soft on Libya” . . . “Obama is condescending here” . . . “Zing!” . . . “No laughs in the press file for that canned Obama line.” Somewhere around the 30-minute mark, the conventional wisdom gels — and subsequent tweets, except those from the most hardened partisans, increasingly reflect the Twitter-forged consensus. Well before the end, the journalists agree on a winner, a loser and which moments — Big Bird, binders full of women, horses and bayonets — should trend their way into the news coverage. (read on)
I haven’t heard much talk about it from the 2012 candidates, but there’s a scandal brewing in this country.
Monday through Saturday, uninvited messengers show up at households all across America and drop off unsolicited catalogues, credit card come-ons and other paper equivalents of spam e-mail. Americans get 84 billion pieces of this stuff every year — the vast majority of which they dump, unread, in the nearest trash can or recycling bin.
If homeowners are merely annoyed, local governments are furious; it costs them $1 billion per year to collect and dispose of the waste, according to a recent New York Times report.
Yet the federal government stands by and does nothing to stop this nuisance. Arguably, Washington is encouraging it.
I refer, of course, to the U.S. Postal Service. The digital age has rendered paper obsolescent and the postal service’s business model unsustainable. Buffeted by a 26 percent drop in first-class mail volume since 2006, it lost $15 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. (keep reading)
Last Updated (Tuesday, 20 November 2012 06:58)
When mapmaker Connie Brown went to Texas to visit the Terra Rosa Ranch, she returned to her studio with a clod of the red soil that covers the landscape there. The color found its way into the red-wash background of the finished property map.
For Ms. Brown, this type of scavenger hunt is all part of the process of making personalized, hand-painted maps. On past projects, she has brought back a turkey feather, the pattern for a Cherokee basket weave and a handful of minuscule hand-tied flies from a fishing ranch, all of which she worked into the final product. "I just feel like if I'm there, I can kind of catch the soul of the place," she said.
Ms. Brown is the woman behind Redstone Studios, a mapmaking venture based in Durham, Conn., that she launched nearly two decades ago. Her maps—which cost between $5,000 and $20,000 and have run as large as 10 feet by 10 feet—are celebratory "portraits" painstakingly plotted on canvas... (keep reading)
As 2012 campaigns across the country wind down, here’s a look at the 25 most memorable — funny, original or downright weird — non-presidential ads of the cycle.
It's becoming hard to remember life before digital news. We now take for granted instantaneous availability of news and information on devices ranging from desktop PCs to tablets to smartphones, We now break news, add commentary and interact with audiences on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Google has put access to an unimaginable collection of knowledge at our fingertips. The iPhone and Android have put a virtual newsroom—with writing, photo, video, Web research and communications capabilities—into our pockets. We gasp at the inexorable decline of the business models of once-mighty traditional media corporations, hollowing out newsrooms and throwing thousands of people out of once-secure jobs.
In short, we're living through one of the most remarkable revolutions in history, the complete remaking of how we cover and consume news and information. It's difficult to remember things the way they were.
But some of us were there when that revolution began. And what a long, strange trip it's been.
Twenty years ago, Robert G. Kaiser, newly appointed managing editor of The Washington Post, took a trip to California to learn more about the then-developing world of Silicon Valley. While there, he was invited by John Sculley, then Apple's CEO, to a conference in Japan about the future of digital media. Several dozen movers and shakers from the worlds of publishing and technology gathered in the resort town of Hakone, outside Tokyo, to discuss what it might mean to use computers to collect and distribute news and information, something described by the newfangled word "multimedia." (More)