API = Freedom

The Obama for America Campaign took the technology used to run an election campaign a step or two forward—at least for now—by building an API-based platform to manage the campaign. Harper Reed, CTO of the Obama campaign, boiled the reason down to a two-word formula: API = Freedom.

“We needed to build a platform,” Reed said the January 29 Technori Pitch, a start-up presentation event held each month in Chicago. Called Narwhal, the platform formed the basis of dozens of software tools and systems used to run the campaign, everything from a call scheduler to advanced data analytics tools. The GigaOM blog proved more details on “How Obama’s tech team helped deliver the 2012 election.”

“We built an API to have freedom,” Reed told the audience of start-up aficionados and fans. Technori Pitch is monthly showcase of Chicago start ups, which present their companies to the audience and take questions.

The concept the Obama engineering team followed was that a platform with an API would allow the flexible development of integrated products and tools that would help campaign staff and volunteers reelect the president. Reed hacked the first API of Chicago Transit Authority data, which became the data engine powering CTA’s innovative Bus Tracker app.

Reed gave the Obama technology effort a start-up feel by using a suite of systems and tools familiar to most start-up engineers, including Github, Macs, Linux, and Amazon Web Services. In the end, however, it was not the technology that made the difference. As in most businesses and organizations, it was the team, the entire team, from campaign staff to phone volunteers.,

“Technology doesn’t last,” Reed said, “but we had the right people.”