Inside the Cruz “Oorlog Project”; on Microsoft’s role in the Iowa caucus; and more.
Tech and the presidentials: Sasha Issenberg, pretty much owning the data-driven campaign beat again in 2016, reports for Bloomberg Politics on Ted Cruz’s voter targeting operation in Iowa, known inside the campaign as the Oorlog Project (taken from the Afrikaner word for “war”—and as far as we know not an endorsement of apartheid, just some staffer’s delight in the word’s sound). Some nuggets: Cruz came against Iowa’s fireworks law because his analysts had identified 60 votes who could potentially swayed by it, something they discovered by experimenting putting micro-message ads in the Facebook feeds of self-identified Iowa Republicans. Ah, democracy at work.
Perhaps a day late on its relevance, here’s Ben Smith, editor in chief of Buzzfeed, reporting on how dethroned GOP frontrunner Donald Trump dominates the media, new and old.
Here’s a fun story about edit wars on the Wikipedia pages of various presidential candidates, written by Jeremy Merrill for the New York Times.
This is civic tech: Re/Code’s Dawn Chmielewski reports on Microsoft’s behind-the-scenes role in the Iowa caucus vote-counting by both parties, a “showcase” for the company’s expanding efforts in the civic tech arena.
Our Jessica McKenzie interviews New America fellow Hollie Russon Gilman about her new book, “Democracy Reinvented: Participatory Budgeting and Civic Innovation in America.”
Crypto and privacy: A new study from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard argues that the fears of government agencies that strong encryption will let evildoers “go dark” are outdated by the emerging Internet of Things, where user privacy is essentially non-existent. As Xeni Jardin cogently points out on BoingBoing, “Basically, they’re saying the government won’t have any problem tracking us and surveilling our communications, because we’re freely sharing a lot of very revealing personal data and metadata to third parties, all day, every day, security be damned.”
Life in Facebookistan: Facebook has started sharing more “audience optimization” data and from that Dieter Bonn and Brian Abelson at The Verge have produced “the definitive list of what everyone likes on Facebook.” Bad news: Government ranks just below Gyms, but ahead of Animated films. Politics is way, way down: just below Justin Bieber but above France.
What sharing economy? Hundreds of Uber drivers in New York City went on strike yesterday to protest cuts in fares made by the company, the New York Times Marc Santora and John Surico report. One driver, Tsering Sherpa, said the lower rates would force him to work 10 to 14 hour days, declaring, “They call us partners. But they’re treating us like slaves.” Uber says it has lowered prices “to get more people using Uber, which is good for drivers because it means less time waiting around for trips.”
Don’t miss Steven Johnson’s eloquent rebuttal of Paul Graham’s defense of inequality as the engine of Silicon Valley’s tech innovation. Most intriguing is Johnson’s argument that the tech sector is actually more egalitarian than most American businesses for how well it rewards employees at all levels, and suggests that a maximum income ratio of 40-to-1 would fit quite easily within the parameters of what most Valley companies now provide their workforces. Johnson writes:
Right now the tech market, even with its admirable pay ratios, is signaling to the world that inventing a new app for teenagers to flirt and banter can be thousands of times more valuable than becoming a high-school principal in a troubled district. That is a ratio with real costs to society. And I say that as a believer in these technologies!
Opportunity knocks: The OpenGov Foundation is looking to hire a senior web application developer.