The 21st Century President

I'm sorry, but I have to say this: It's nice to finally have folks in the White House that embrace technology instead of being terrified of it. Hallelujah.

I don't know about Obama personally, but the team he assembled "gets" tech better than any political operation in our history, hands down.

I've written before about YouTube and its effect on the elections. Obama's camp not only kicked the Elephant's rump on viral video, they also had a big presence on all the major social networks and some I've never heard of. (MyBatanga? Glee? Faithbase? Obviously, I need to get out more.)

There's a great article in the current Newsweek about the backroom machinations of both campaigns, including this delicious bit of geekitude:

The Obama campaign's New Media experts created a computer program that would allow a "flusher"—the term for a volunteer who rounds up nonvoters on Election Day—to know exactly who had, and had not, voted in real time. They dubbed it Project Houdini, because of the way names disappear off the list instantly once people are identified as they wait in line at their local polling station.

But while the national campaign was all up on Facebook, YouTube, and text messaging, the local campaigns were a slightly different story.

Full disclosure: I volunteered for the Obama campaign in North Carolina, mostly driving people to the polls for early voting and on election day. In my town, the local offices were still operating like it was 1979.

As I arrived to the transportation HQ on election day, another volunteer was on her way out to the local Kinkos to make paper copies of the voter rolls -- all 195 pages -- because "it was easier" than using a computer.

There was one laptop, donated to the campaign by the attorney who also donated his office space. There were two people who knew how to use it -- me and a guy named Cliff -- and we fought over it. (I'd brought my own laptop, but nobody in the office could tell me the passkey for the secure WiFi network.)

I knew the Obama campaign had a searchable database of registered voters at, but it was slammed and impossibly slow to use. So as everyone else pored over paper lists and squinted at big wall maps, trying to tell voters where to go, Cliff and I searched a PDF file matching street addresses to local precincts, then dialed up the addresses on Google Maps to get directions to drivers.

It was an imperfect system, but a lot better than what the other volunteers were doing.

My point: Outside big high-tech areas like San Francisco and Boston, many people still aren't getting all the benefits tech can bring. It would be wonderful to see the next administration actually lead us into the Web 2.0 century -- setting national goals and creating a true (and secure) e-government.

I believe we finally have an executive branch that's willing and able to do it.

Yes we can.

Got geeky suggestions for the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Post them below or email them to me: dan (at) dantynan (dot) com. I'll make sure BHO gets them.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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