RootsCamp notes I, Catalist session

I arrived a bit late to the session, as Erik Brauner was opening it up to the audience with a question–“how can we improve your experience working with the data?”

Three main questions occupied most of the discussion, (1) the whether the new correlations in voting patters in ’08 implied causation or in other ways should be seen as probably long-term, stable trends (Latinos voting more Democratically, etc), (2) Catalist’s role as a repository for the kind of data that campaigns often gather, and then just throws away, and (3) where progressives stand vis-a-vis conservatives on data and tech.

(1) Brauner pointed out that Catalist are still in the process of breaking down their data on a media market level and campaign district level to better measure the impact of various initiatives. He slyly pointed out that many different players will always want to take credit for victories, and that data like Catalist’s can provide a reality-check on such claims.

(2) “For the good of the community, we view ourselves as a resevoir of all the data that campaigns generate and just throw away”. Clearly, there is much to be done here. For instance, if you want to move from registered voters to voting age population, most of Catalist’s data is from people’s commercial footprint, and when people move it is complicated and problematic to follow them. Brauner points out that there is a lot of room for improvement here, and that a lot of it has to do with channeling data that already exists and is gathered.

(3) On the progressive-vs-conservatives point, Brauner reminds the audience that one thing that conservatives still have in their favor is that they have been collecting this kind of data for years at a local level. Someone adds that things will become somewhat easier as there are now more sympathetic secretaries of state out there. Jim St. George from VAN argues that progressives have leapfrogged conservatives on the technology side, and are no longer behind.

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