The Verge: Obama Heads Back to Office, a Battle Rages Over the Tech that Got him Re-Elected

The tech team behind the 2012 Obama campaign has probably received more attention than any political programmers in history. A so-called “dream team of engineers from Facebook, Google and Twitter [who] built the software that drove Barack Obama’s reelection” were extolled in the press for bringing Silicon Valley strategies like Agile development to the normally hidebound process of a political campaign. In the post mortems that followed Obama’s victory, many credited the superiority of the Democrats’ tech team and its famous Narwhal platform, in contrast to the failure of Mitt Romney’s digital efforts, with mobilizing the vote and winning crucial swing states.

But in the aftermath of the election, a stark divide has emerged between political operatives and the techies who worked side-by-side. At issue is the code created during the Obama for America (OFA) 2012 campaign: the digital architecture behind the campaign’s website, its system for collecting donations, its email operation, and its mobile app. When the campaign ended, these programmers wanted to put their work back into the coding community for other developers to study and improve upon. Politicians in the Democratic party felt otherwise, arguing that sharing the tech would give away a key advantage to the Republicans. Three months after the election, the data and software is still tightly controlled by the president and his campaign staff, with the fate of the code still largely undecided. It’s a choice the OFA developers warn could not only squander the digital advantage the Democrats now hold, but also severely impact their ability to recruit top tech talent in the future.

Really interesting dynamic at play here.  The Obama campaign clearly owns the software, because they paid for the work that went into it.  But, it was built off of open source projects, implying that, ethically, it should be given back to the developer community to evolve and improve upon.  I don’t see the Obama administration caving on this one. But if they don’t, you have to wonder, how powerful is the coding community and what would be the price of ignoring them?

[via The Verge]

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