Chicago Sun-Times
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By Andy Ihnatko

The software development community had never been entertained by its own equivalent of a "Fail" video before. And then, the Romney campaign commissioned ORCA, an ambitious software platform that was supposed to collect onsite voting information from tens of thousands of volunteers nationwide on election day, and send it to strategists at campaign HQ.

You know what I mean by a Fail video? I'm talking about those viral clips that usually begin with someone saying "Here, hold my beer and watch me do this" and ends with the camera rushing over to the spot on the side of the road where this guy is now rocking back and forth, clutching his groin in agony next to broken bits of his skateboard . . . as well as the railing that he apparently believed was made of a soft and spongy kind of iron.

These videos are entertaining because they document an absolutely unambiguous disaster that's being suffered by someone other than you. And they're genuinely fascinating, because . . . well, criminy, man! A higher lifeform wouldn't even consider making a jump from the bed of a moving flatbed truck onto a roadside trampoline. What the hell was this person even thinking?

There were so many fails about ORCA. The webapp was meant to connect tens of thousands of volunteers to a single central webserver This lone server was soon shut down by the campaign's ISP, because the sudden incoming flood of geographically-diverse hits appeared to be a denial-of-service attack. The server appeared to be inadequate for the flood of traffic anyway.

Romney campaign Digital Director Zac Moffatt talked to CNET about the traffic blast and amount of data being served:

"The primary issue was we beta-tested in a different environment than the Garden [Boston Garden, where the 800 campaign staffers were working]. There was so much data coming in -- 1200 records or more per minute -- it shut down the system for a time. Users were frustrated by lag, and some people dropped off and we experienced attrition as a result."

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FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics are two sites that have garnered acclaim and traffic during the election season as voters try to get a leg up of the latest prognostications. While we can't know exactly how the election will turn out, these sites have forecasting down to a science. But there's another website that could give us a peek into who will win this year's hotly contested presidential election: Google. The megabeheamoth search engine is actually a source of tremendous - and entertaining - data and some it of can actually correlate with election outcomes as Seth Stephens-Davidowitz explored at the New York Times.

While so much of the information gleaned from the search data is either ridiculous - the popularity of "Paul Ryan shirtless" - or superfluous - how the number of searches of a candidate in a region corresponds to their popularity in said area - there are some useful tidbits to be pulled for the campaigns, particularly in terms of voter turn-out. Says Stephens-Davidowitz:

If search rates for voting information were higher in the first half of October 2008 than in the first half of October 2004, voting rates tended to be higher in 2008 than in 2004. It's true for midterm elections, too. If search rates for voting information were higher in the first half of October 2010 than in the first half of October 2006, voting rates tended to be higher in 2010 than in 2006.

This predictive power was significantly stronger than that of other variables we might use to predict area-level turnout, like changes in registration rates or movement in early voting.


Of course, there's plenty of garbage to sift through as well, as Stephens-Davidowitz notes, including searches about Romney and Mormon underwear as well as Obama and racist epithets. Still, once you look past the noise, there may just be some patterns worth teasing out, adding to the stacks of numbers already being crunched for November 6.

Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet reported the news of Paul Ryan's addition to the Mitt Romney ticket as the story unfolded late Friday and into Saturday. Here are her blog posts, tweets and photos through the day as the news developed and the Romney campaign hit the trail with a vice presidential candidate in the fold.

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks to the media after visiting some technology companies in the 300 W. Adams building on Wednesday, August 8, 2012. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times


Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday showcased three fast-growing technology companies in the West Loop, still riding high from the jobs coup that will bring 3,000 Motorola Mobility employees from Libertyville to Chicago's Merchandise Mart.

The mayor took a tour of three companies located in the same building at 300 West Adams that plan to hire as many as 200 new employees over the next 18 months.

Vibes Media is a mobile marketing and technology company. Ifbyphone bills itself as the leading voice-based marketing automation platform that helps companies manage phone calls coming in for sales and service as well as those generated by their websites.

Emmi Solutions was described as a health care pioneer, using new media to deliver information to patients so they can act on that information and, thereby, reduce costs incurred by health care providers.

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The New York Times paints the picture of a Commander in Chief consumed each morning with checking news via the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, among other outlets, as well as checking in on blogs, Twitter and other areas via his iPad.

From the Times' story on the president's media reading habits:

A writer before he was a politician, Mr. Obama is a voracious consumer of news, reading newspapers and magazines on his iPad and in print and dipping into blogs and Twitter. He regularly gives aides detailed descriptions of articles that he liked, and he can be thin-skinned about those that he does not.
He typically begins his day upstairs in the White House reading the major newspapers, including his hometown Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, mostly on his iPad through apps rather than their Web sites. He also skims articles that aides e-mail to him, with the subject line stating the publication and the headline (like "WSJ: Moody's Downgrades Banks").
During the day, Mr. Obama reads newspapers on his iPad and print copies of magazines like The Economist and The New Yorker. On most Air Force One flights, he catches up on the news on his iPad.

Obama was famously addicted to his Blackberry when he first took office - to the point the Secret Service had to make special provisions for him to use his must-have device. No word on security for the iPad - nor what its Secret Service codename might be.