Emerging Tech

The community organizing geeks who could revolutionize campaign tech

Nationbuilder.com

The websites for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney look practically the same: sleek, snazzy, red-white-and-blue. But peel back a layer, and there's a difference -- the fundamental difference, in fact, between how Democrats and Republicans use technology.

Obama's site was custom-built starting in 2008 by the consulting firm Blue State Digital. It's a fully integrated platform for everything from fundraising to social networking -- the Rolls-Royce of campaign tech, complete with price tag. Romney's interface, on the other hand, didn't even originate with the campaign; it was based on a platform purchased off-the-shelf from a corporate customer-service vendor called Salesforce.com, then modified (also starting in 2008) to meet the needs of a political campaign.
 
In short, Team Obama has home-grown its tools, while Team Romney has bought commercial products and taped them together. But both approaches are labor-intensive and hugely expensive, and neither approach is really optimal. One requires devoting a big chunk of the campaign's energy to essentially functioning as a tech start-up; the other requires settling for off-the-shelf tools that don't have politics in their DNA.
 
Now, two visionary geeks want to change that.
 
Joe Green and Jim Gilliam, the founders of a new software platform called NationBuilder, envision a world where any campaign -- from local school board to issue-based protest movement, without regard to ideology -- could access the same versatile, inexpensive suite of software and instantly have at its fingertips the ability to connect with voters and donors online, a capacity that was supposed to reshape American politics in the age of the Internet, but has yet to be fully realized.
 

Threatwatch Alert

User accounts compromised

False Air Force One Crash Reported on Hijacked WSJ Facebook Page

See threatwatch report

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
// July 22