Google, Obama & the Power of Data

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Internet | Posted on 03-04-2011

1

All hail the power of data.

Today’s Politico email shared a great anecdote from “In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives” by Steven Levy:

“Google was Obama territory [during the campaign], and vice versa. With its focus on speed, scale, and above all data, Google had identified and exploited the key ingredients for thinking and thriving in the Internet era. Barack Obama seemed to have integrated those concepts in his own approach to problem solving. Naturally, Googlers were excited to see what would happen when their successful methods were applied to Washington, D.C. They were optimistic that the Google worldview could prevail outside the Mountain View bubble. … [A]nyone visiting the Google campus during the election year could not miss a fervid swell of Obama-love. While some commentators wrung hands over the Spock-like nature of the senator’s personality, Googlers swooned over the dispassionate, reason-based approach he took to problem solving. … ‘It’s a selection bias,’ says Eric Schmidt of the unofficial choice of most of his employees. ‘The people here all have been selected very carefully, so obviously there’s going to be some prejudice in favor of a set of characteristics – highly educated, analytic, thoughtful, communicates well.’ …

“[O]ne of the company’s brightest young product managers, Dan Siroker [the Chrome browser], … got permission to take a few weeks off. … At [Obama] campaign headquarters in Chicago, Siroker began looking at the web efforts to recruit volunteers and solicit donations. … [H]e returned to Google to help launch Chrome. But over the July 4 weekend, he went back to Chicago to visit the friends he’d met on the campaign. Barack Obama walked through headquarters, and Siroker was introduced to him. He told the senator he was visiting from Google. Obama smiled. ‘I’ve been saying around here that we need a little more Google integration.’ That exchange with the candidate was enough to change Siroker’s course once more. Back in Mountain View, he told his bosses he was leaving for good. He became the chief analytics officer of the Obama campaign. …

Just as Google ran endless experiments to find happy users, Siroker and his team used Google’s Website Optimizer [tool for testing site content] to run experiments to find happy contributors. The conventional wisdom had been to cadge donations by artful or emotional pitches, to engage people’s idealism or politics. Siroker ran a lot of A/B tests and found that by far the success came when you offered some sort of swag; a T-shirt or a coffee mug. Some of his more surprising tests came in figuring out what to put on the splash page, the one that greeted visitors when they went to Obama2008.com. Of four alternatives tested, the picture of Obama’s family drew the most clicks.

Comments (1)

As far as me being a member here, I wasn’t aware that I was a member for any days, actually. When the article was published I received a notification, so that I could participate in the discussion of the post, That would explain me stumbuling upon this post. But we’re certainly all members in the world of ideas.

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.