The vast majority of the talk about how technology will affect the presidential elections has focused on how the candidates use modern tools to manage their campaigns and voter outreach. One company is turning this arms race on its head by equipping voters with advanced data analytics tools to better aggregate and interpret the messages put forth by the candidates.
Cloud-based data analytics company Atigeo released red2012blue.com and blue2012red.com earlier this week as a free online tool that allows voters to research the presidential candidates positions on key issues. The sites apply Atigeo’s contextual semantic search platform xPatterns against the candidates’ and their national political committees’ social media feeds including Facebook, Twitter, and RSS.
The results give genuine insight about the candidates’ positions on a wide range of issues that matter most to the electorate. Categories include the economy, national defense, health care, immigration reform, national security, civil rights, education, and the environment, among others. The company released a video tutorial demonstrating how to best use the sites to extract maximum value from the new voter sites.
As I wrote previously, data analytics and reputation management are two of the critical technologies being used by the candidates in their fight to win the White House this year. The candidates employ hundreds of engineers to dissect the online behaviors of voters to best target and control the message that is shared — often in opaque and distasteful ways.
By providing the Red/Blue sites free of charge to voters, Atigeo is swooping in like Robin Hood, taking a measure of technical power from the rich, and giving it to the poor. The goal of the initiative is that voters will “move beyond linear search and make meaningful connections with the information being shared by each party and their candidates’ social media channels.” In other words, to extract the meaning that is buried within the various carefully crafted messages.
“The problem of linear search is not only felt by industry, but also by everyday people yearning for more information about the candidates running for public office,” says Atigeo COO and chief security officer Christopher Burgess. “With red2012blue.com/blue2012red.com, Atigeo has put the power of big data analytics into the hands of every voter in an agnostic manner, without the additional input from the political pundits or analysts.”
XPatterns uses fancy semantic and data analytics methods to unlock hidden correlations in the candidates’ social media channels. The system assigns relevance scores and organizes the seas of information into relevant domain clusters. These clusters are then presented visually for easy navigation. Through the magic of machine learning, the platform gets smarter and more finely tuned each time voters use it.
Atigeo calls itself “a compassionate technology company” and is known for rethinking the way people navigate large pools of information. This is not the first broadly beneficial contribution it has made. The company recently made it possible to search the more than 400,000 archived research papers within the National Institute of Health’s PubMed library using a more intuitive graphical “hub and spoke” interface rather than standard scrollable lists of search results.
According to an SEC financing, Atigeo raised $5.4 million in 2010 in an undisclosed financing round. The company is based in Bellevue, Washington and was founded in 2005 by its now CEO and chairman Michael Sandoval.
The elections and general political chatter can be inordinately difficult to navigate. Atigeo’s Red/Blue sites have the potential to create a better informed and therefore more effective voting public. Given what most would admit is the sorry state of the US electorate, this is fantastic news.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]