In mid March, the RNC announced that it would hire a high-profile Silicon Valley CTO by May 1st:
"The RNC will significantly restructure our digital strategy, moving to center the RNC around digital and data, and fully integrate within the entire organization," RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski announced Tuesday.
May 1st has come and gone, and it appears that this deadline was missed, but, there have been three names floated for this position: Katie Harbath (Manager, Public Policy for Facebook), Rob Saliterman (Senior Account Executive at Google), and Mindy Finn (Head of Strategic Partnerships, Politics & Advocacy for Twitter). Whereas these three candidates are most assuredly highly talented individuals in their fields, and they do possess the a top tier web company pedigree, they don't appear to have the skills necessary to apply technology to impact the political landscape. At a minimum, the RNC should make sure that all serious candidates can address the following issues:
- Data is the central asset to be created, maintained, and protected. How will the candidate create a data strategy that at a minimum incorporates information on voters, candidates, relationships among people, logistics/scheduling, legal/compliance issues, and campaign performance metrics. How will the candidate build systems to gather structured as well as unstructured data.
- How will the candidate incorporate security measures to protect the data from hackers. How will the candidate structure access levels to balance security and access issues. How will the candidate make sure that the data and associated systems are highly available such that it can still respond while being hit with DOS attacks. Is the candidate familiar with DNS management issues? Does the candidate know how and why honey-pots are used?
- Does the candidate have experience supporting or running SEM campaigns. How will the candidate use data mining to provide keyword guidance to campaign teams. How will data be used to determine if the SEM campaigns are being effective.
- How will the candidate address dynamic scalability of the infrastructure such that the footprint is small during low usage, and scales much larger when it's being heavily utilized during the later stages of the campaign. How will the candidate manage the costs associated with the infrastructure? Is the candidate familiar with cloud implementations and virtualization techniques?
- What experience does the candidate have in building abstracted visualization models of complex data structures? Is the candidate comfortable managing teams generating user interfaces? Does the candidate possess any intuitive skills with respect to understanding data?
- Does the candidate have any experience in SEO, so as to influence content pages produced by the RNC and partners to show up in search results for important keywords? Does the candidate know why this is important?
- Does the candidate understand how the web interfaces with social media functionality?
- Is the candidate familiar with Mobile Platforms (iOS, Android) including their strengths and limitations as platforms?
- Is the candidate familiar with development methodologies like Agile, Extreme Programming, Spiral and Waterfall, and does the candidate have the ability to map appropriate methodologies to tasks?
The job of a CTO in this type of an organization is primarily building detailed specifications for systems, and then managing a collection of employees and contractors to deliver fully working systems in a timely manner. This requires an extensive experience base, which is critical for avoiding design mistakes as well as in completing projects successfully. It's a really difficult job, and it can't be farmed out to consultants, as we've experienced in the last election cycle.
This new CTO needs to deliver a system that is different than what the Democrats have, because Republican and Independent voters are substantially different than Democrat voters. Republicans don't have an unlimited supply of paid election workers like the Democrats have (union workers), and Republican voters can't be herded on buses like Democrat voters can, and Republican voters won't typically sell their votes for cigarettes and lottery tickets. Republicans have to build systems that are smarter, systems that get micro-targeted information to voters that convince them in the importance of their vote and that demonstrate how the candidate matches their criterion. Also voters need to have timely micro-targeted information about voting logistics such that they are able to follow through and vote. The RNC raised the profile of this position with their bold announcement. It's now time to deliver a quality hire that can significantly increase Republican/Conservative voter participation.