Back when I was a San Francisco City Hall reporter, I saw lots of little pink pads in lawmaker's offices. They were printed with a phone call message form and interns ran them back and forth from front office to back and stacked them up in tidy organizers.
Lawmaking may get most of the press attention, but consistent constituent service is the hallmark of a truly successful government office. Staffers spend most of their time answering questions, following up with departments, and otherwise making sure the people who voted for the boss or might in the future get what they need out of their government.
But those pink pads just don't cut it, and neither does a spreadsheet or email folder. Tracking issues and followup effectively in an age where tweets and emails can initiate a new requests takes sophisticated constituent management software. For the past several months, I've been working with iConstituent, which focuses exclusively on government communications and efficiency software tools - unlike other products that try to pick up government business for tools designed for sales teams. Can we make government better through software? I think so.
At NationBuilder, community and mission are really important. Many of our employees come from community organizing backgrounds, so that makes sense - what do you think motivates engineers about intentional community in the workplace?
I don't have any background in community organizing. But, just like anybody else, I want to work on a product that "feels like it matters." It's really hard to pin this down, but really easy to see when it isn't there.
Usually it boils down to how easy it is to describe my job to a grandparent. How much excitement do I have to add to make this translate to someone who doesn't care about technology. Communicating "product vision" can be really hard. When it's hard to explain to your grandma, it's probably hard to pin down in general.
When it's easy to explain "why my product matters," you and your coworkers don't have to waste energy learning how to "buy into the vision." It's hard to build an insightful, diverse, excited community around idiosyncratic goals. NationBuilder's goals are human. We have it easy.
Some of us on Thursday noticed your Tinder sweatshirt. You're off to a honeymoon soon that includes Machu Picchu, which has to be one of the most featured place in Tinder photos. Congrats on your marriage! Care to share how you and your wife met?
No, we didn't meet on Tinder, but I did work there before coming to NationBuilder. My wife Karen and I met in college at Tufts 8.5 years ago. We got married a few months ago. Yeah, it's about time. And no, we didn't choose Machu Picchu because it's the selfie capital of South America. We're actually stopping on the way to the Galapagos because we'd kick ourselves if we didn't.
You're working on Thunderdome with the Autobots. Can you share some of your thoughts on what the project means for NationBuilder and what personally interests you about the project?
For reference, Thunderdome is an internal name for a project that statistically links records. "Two go in, one comes out." That's the joke (we can thank Scott for that gem). It's pretty early, but Thunderdome might be a really big win for NationBuilder. At least I hope it will be.
NationBuilder is a sink for tons of partial data. Customers import big chunks of their communities from tons of different places- petitions, walk-sheets, facebook-likes, donations, voting records. In one nation, the same person may be reflected by 5 or 6 different records, each describing a slightly different piece of granular, partial information. It's easy to say "link records if they have the exact same email address." It's hard to say "these two records are extremely likely to reflect the same person, even though they don't technically share much data." That's the problem we're trying to solve.
As our customers add bits and pieces of information from here and there, they don't just add more data - they get better, more insightful data.
Who would you like to know more about NationBuilder? Who should Notes interview?
Friday over food truck fries, Jon pointed out one of the biggest gaps in Humankind as it relates to NationBuilder. While Dr. Yuval considers the internet as one of the greatest unanticipated inventions of modern history, he gives scant attention into its real and potential impact (discounting the brief discussion of the Singularity). If the Cognitive Revolution 70,000 years ago propelled humankind into a new era, what will be the real result of connecting humanity through the internet? A new U.N. report says that 3 billion of us will be linked by the end of 2014. ...
The reporter met a Palms resident today and was reminded that all LA HQ folks should ask Turkell about this up-and-coming Westside neighborhood. ...
Bugis Street Brasserie, the Singaporean restaurant on the corner of Olive and 5th, has a happy hour, 3-6 p.m. ... The Humankind lunch discussions ended today - we'll next convene on the lecture series at the Summit. Matt (new engineer, not Pants) had an interesting commentary on the stories that construct our societies. A child isn't concerned about a full glass on the edge of a chair or playing in the street because she hasn't yet learned the story of the glass falling or the risk of a car from afar. For our own good, we start learning stories early and they become our realities. ... Training has kicked off a pair of Twitter training sessions. Valerie finds herself tweeting more, and Scott joined Twitter for the first time. ...