"obama" entries

The Narwhal and the Orca

The two campaign systems highlight the stark differences between DevOps and traditional models.

Leaving politics aside, there’s a lot that can be learned from the technical efforts of the Obama and Romney campaigns. Just about everyone agrees that the Obama campaign’s Narwhal project was a great success, and that Romney’s Orca was a failure. But why?

I have one very short answer. If you follow technology, you don’t have to read between the lines much to realize that Narwhal embodied the best of the DevOps movement: rapid iteration, minimal barriers between developers and operations staff, heavy use of “cloud” technology, and constant testing to prove that you can handle outages and heavy load. In contrast, Romney’s Orca was a traditional corporate IT project gone bad. The plans were developed by non-technical people (it’s not clear what technical expertise Romney had on his team), and implemented by consultants. There were token testing efforts, but as far as I could tell, no serious attempts to break or stress the system so the team understood how to keep it running when the going got tough.

It’s particularly important to look at two factors: the way testing was done, which I’ve already mentioned, and the use of cloud computing. While Orca was “tested,” there is a big difference between passing automated test suites and the sort of game day exercise that the Narwhal team performed several times. In a game day, you’re actively trying to break the system in real time: in this case, a fully deployed copy of the actual system. You unplug the routers; you shut down the clusters; you bombard the system with traffic at inconceivable volumes. And the people responsible for keeping the system up are on the team that built it, and the team that ran it in real life. If you read the Atlantic account of Narwhal’s game day, you’ll see that it involved everyone, from the most senior developers on down, sweating it out to keep the system running in the face of disaster. They even simulated what would happen if one of Amazon’s availability zones went down, as has happened several times in the past few years (and happened again a few days before the election). Game day gave the Obama team a detailed plan for just about every conceivable outage, and the confidence that, if something inconceivable happened, they could handle it.

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Four short links: 16 November 2012

Four short links: 16 November 2012

Obama's tech listened for feedback, undervalued books, transcribe music from videos, 3D printable copter

  1. Under the Hood of Team Obama’s Tech Operation (Mother Jones) — The new platform allowed OFA to collect feedback from the ground on an enormous scale, and respond accordingly. In short, it made the flow of information bidirectional. “What it did was it listened, and it trickled up information.”
  2. Surprisingly Undervalued BooksI’m not necessarily talking about obscure books/authors here. I’m talking about the ratio of how good the book is to how good you expect it to be. These are the outliers, the ones that most people don’t talk about very much or haven’t heard of, and yet turn out to be profoundly brilliant.
  3. SoundSlice — Adrian Holovaty’s new tool to help transcribe music from YouTube videos.
  4. 3D Printable Copter — it’s all that. See also assembly instructions.

Visualization of the Week: Four ways to look at Obama's 2013 Budget

The New York Times visualizes Obama's proposed budget.

A New York Times visualization offers a compelling alternative to wading through pages of President Obama's 2013 budget.

W. David Stephenson on the Federal CIO: Vivek Kundra

W David Stephenson discusses his experiences with the new Federal CIO: Vivek Kundra. Stephenson talks about his experiences working as a consultant for Kundra in the DC government and he outlines what we can expect from Kundra during his tenure as Federal CIO in the OMB.

The Paradox of Transparency

In his memo on transparency and open government, President Barack Obama made a down payment on his transparency promise by hiring Vivek Kundra, the CTO of Washington D.C., for the new post of government CIO. Kundra’s visionary application of technology to the procurement process had attracted national attention, and with recovery.gov the centerpiece of his plans to give the public a view into how stimulus money was being spent, it looked like we were off to a good start. Then reality intervened.

Hope Art

The Capitol Hill Seattle blog has produced a short video about the surge of Obama art around Seattle. On the street you can find Shepard Fairey's Hope image has been put on garage doors and merged with donuts. It's also being used to advertise for local businesses (as seen in these coffee posters). The other day I heard an…

Inauguration Moments and Links

Like many people around the world, I was stirred by the inauguration of President Obama. Listening to his speech, I wanted to share a couple of the bits that stood out for me, as well as a few related links that caught my eye during the day. I already shared most of these links via twitter but thought they deserved…

It's Not Over: We are "the change we need."

Like a lot of people, I was feeling a bit of post-partum letdown after the election. Those of us who were really engaged, following the polls, making calls to undecided voters, arguing out the merits of the candidates, experienced a bit of a vacuum after the election. Doonesbury summed it up pretty well: "I've been on a constant news drip…

The Barack SlideShow

When archives are built incrementally on top of access, instead of access being born of hard labor from accumulated storage, the nature of the archive is transformed. The possibilities for an Obama Presidential Library — built from today and onwards — are transformative.

Why I Support Barack Obama

In my talks this year, I have been outlining some of the world's great problems, highlighting some of the things that are being done by technology innovators to solve them, and urging my listeners to "work on stuff that matters." We are in unprecedented times. And folks, I'm sorry to say that the current financial meltdown is not the worst…