Let's Improve DPVA - Tech Edition

Friday, November 25, 2011

by Dave

I've received quite a few inquiries in the days since I launched the petition demanding change from DPVA. People have asked me specifically "what would you do differently?" Many people have presented many different ideas here in the last week, but since I'm an expert on political tech, I'll present my thoughts on what DPVA can do to tech-wise to clean up their act. Hopefully this will generate some useful discussion that we can telegraph to the Central Committee ahead of their meeting. I'd encourage others to do the same in their areas of expertise.1. The one that's easy to say, but hard to do - raise more money to provide more tech resources. We have a Tech Director who is maxed out providing VAN tech support to campaigns and therefore has no bandwidth to be proactive on anything else. We could do so much more for committees and candidates if we only had one other person working full time. The times when we've had two people working at DPVA, we've been more successful, especially with our online operations. There's a direct correlation there.
2. We waste our money on stupid online baubles and website makeovers that accomplish nothing because they have no goals other than to line vendor's pockets. I'm not even criticizing the current website - it's attractive and functional. But DPVA has a history of revamping its online presence without putting any actual content behind it. We should be focusing on GOTV tech improvements like the folks innovating in Fairfax. They're buying used iPod Touches so their canvassers can run MiniVan instead of carrying paper. That's what we need to be doing state-wide.
Dave :: Let's Improve DPVA - Tech Edition
3. We have no webmaster, and haven't for at least 5 years. So we have no original online content, advocacy, or directed message. We'll never be able to have a coherent externally-facing narrative without a chief messenger. And a press person isn't the same as an new media director - a remedial campaign mistake that we don't need to reproduce at the state level.4. The DPVA actively shuns the Netroots community. And it's current Chair was personally responsible, during the '09 primary, for destroying the only concerted effort to coordinate that community with DPVA.
5. The DPVA lacks real tech leadership. The last several tech chairs have not provided the necessary leadership, direction, or new ideas. This is not to demean them personally - it's quite possible that they weren't given the mandate to do so, and if that's the case, it just reemphasizes points made here in the last few days. But when the Tech Chair is setting up and managing the wireless router at Central meetings rather than setting statewide tech policy, we have a problem of leadership.
6. We have a private online group where the Tech Directors for the biggest committees discuss tech innovation. I organized it, yet that's the kind of thing I'd expect from DPVA. We had to start the discussion ourselves because the DPVA doesn't care. Meanwhile there are people around the state, mostly in Hampton Roads and Nova, doing truly innovative things that aren't being shared.
7. This may sound too in-the-weeds, but it's probably the #1 issue facing nascent Dem campaigns in VA. The situation with our statewide VAN contract and the way DPVA works with candidates is ridiculous, over-expensive, and untenable in the long-term as more candidates start becoming more technically savvy. Just to us VAN with DPVA's voter data costs $400 as an Arlington County candidate, for example, and $1500 for a senate district. We have to bring those prices down. We also only update our voter data once a quarter which makes it very hard for active campaigns to make use of that data. Arlington County Dems buy their own data to make up for that.
8. You want to involve youth? Foster tech! Youth involvement online is exceptionally high. You tap into that, and you'll see an uptick in youth involvement.
These are my initial thoughts, and I think all of these points are glaringly obvious to anyone paying attention. As an expert in this field, despite throwing myself at DPVA regularly, I've never been consulted on any of this. And why would they ask? I've never received my gilded invite to Central that allows magic access to our state-wide decision makers. Where's the Tech Caucus? Where's the Tech Steering Committee? Where's anything other than our DPVA Tech Director working his butt off trying to hold things together while the party leadership casts about without direction?
This state of affairs needs to be rectified. People like to argue that the marginal benefit in financing political tech is minimal. But in Virginia, we know that's not true. Look at Deeds' AG loss, Webb's senate win, and Edd Houck's loss a few weeks ago. When things are this close, this purple, everything we do counts.