Presented By O’Reilly and Cloudera
Make Data Work
September 11, 2018: Training & Tutorials
September 12–13, 2018: Keynotes & Sessions
New York, NY

If you thought politics was dirty, you should see the analytics behind it.

John Thuma (Arcadia Data)
5:25pm–6:05pm Wednesday, 09/12/2018
Law, ethics, governance, Strata Business Summit
Location: 1E 12/13 Level: Non-technical
Secondary topics:  Media, Marketing, Advertising
Average rating: *****
(5.00, 1 rating)

Who is this presentation for?

  • Real-time, data lake, and business intelligence architects and enthusiasts

What you'll learn

  • Understand how to do real-time analytics at scale with the modern data and BI tools
  • Explore the moral and ethical complexity of analytics in politics


As a seasoned data analyst with deep political campaign experience, John Thuma loves to follow the data around elections. With midterm elections just around the corner, the ability to crunch voter data has never been more important. It’s big money. The final price tag for the 2016 election is in: $6.5 billion for the presidential and congressional elections combined, according to campaign finance watchdog

There is also more data than ever, as social media plays an increasingly critical role in voter and donator influence. The use cases are endless. The names may be different, but the goals are the same:

  • Channel optimization: Tracking voter online and offline behaviors is all about delivering the right message to the right people at the right time. This impacts everything from handshaking and texting to social media and television ads.
  • A voice to the voiceless: Social media offers a sense of belonging and inclusion. The volume of social media provides the perception that makes even the most extreme positions seem mainstream.
  • Advanced targeting: Ads for donations push people who normally do not donate money to campaigns to open up their wallets. Campaigns leverage deep-rooted psychoanalytics to emotionally trigger people to act.

People who run for office are nothing more than products that expire on election day. Much like how a recommendation engine influences you to purchase a product, election campaigns persuade you to vote and to donate. And every member of the voting public is like an oil well with tons of sensor data being emitted and analyzed in real time. Through the use of real-time streaming technologies like Kafka and modern BI platforms, it’s easy to leverage high-speed data to change a candidate’s position—even if they don’t agree with it—if only to get more votes. Helping them do this as an analytics professional can make you feel dirty.

This is not just a data velocity opportunity; it’s also a data scale and complexity matter. Being able to capture, analyze, and deliver information requires modern data infrastructure as well as a different kind of business intelligence. Elections and campaigns cannot wait for a star schema or a semantic layer to be completed. They need tools that enable them to act fast, on both a national and the street level. They need to be able to rapidly merge disparate data in order to capitalize on your emotional vulnerabilities.

There are many similarities between the business world and political campaigns:

  • Measuring your data heartbeat: Being able to measure the heartbeat of your business is now possible through real-time analytics.
  • Analyzing the voice of the customer: Your customers are speaking to you all the time. Are you listening?
  • Being nimble and being disruptive: Understanding what messages resonate and generate revenue is what matters. It’s no longer “fire and forget” marketing. It’s about changing direction on a dime.
  • Exploring your data and alternative data: Today it takes more than just the data in your shop to be successful. You need to look at other data like weather, social media, and demographics to see unknown correlations and behaviors.

Join John to learn how campaigns use analytics to achieve their mission and explore the technologies they use to address their big data challenges. Along the way, John shares the moral and ethical challenges he faced (soap, lots of soap) and the lessons he learned from politics (without the slime).

Photo of John Thuma

John Thuma

Arcadia Data

John Thuma is director of marketing data at Arcadia Data, where he assists clients in developing solutions that have measurable business impact. With 25 years of field experience, John has developed solutions for multiple vertical industries, including banking and financial services, retail, life sciences, and others.