Nuts & Bolts: Inside a Democratic Campaign: Keeping your own data without being a silo

Nuts & Bolts: Inside a Democratic Campaign: Keeping your own data without being a silo

It’s another Sunday, so for those who tune in, welcome to another discussion of the Nuts & Bolts of a Democratic campaign. If you’ve missed out, you can catch up any time: Just visit our group or follow the Nuts & Bolts Guide. Every week I try to tackle issues I’ve been asked about. With the help of other campaign workers and notes, we address how to improve and build better campaigns, or explain issues that impact our party.

Over the years there has been a lot of debate over how to make the best use of the data that goes into campaigns. This diary is not going to address issues surrounding voter file data, or how we handle our canvass scoring availability to other campaigns. That subject alone could take up several diaries. Every campaign creates sets of data unique to that campaign. This can be composed of policy memos back and forth, media and artwork created, feedback from volunteers, even scripts for mail and phone calls that were used or abandoned. In one cycle, depending on how many campaigns go through this, a great deal of information can be generated. These assets can help you better serve candidates. How do you protect that data, make it accessible, and find ways to quickly distribute it if needed? Let’s talk about that.

Sorry, it will never be all-cloud-based. Having local copies helps

It is easy to think that everything you want to do in a campaign can be handled through the cloud by setting up Box, Google Drive, or OneDrive and providing access. Some campaigns rely on Microsoft Sharepoint or other integrated sharing services. These tools can be fantastic, but in keeping track of the data and making it viable for you to look back on, you would be well-advised to keep a copy of this in a format that is localized. The reasons for this as a strategy are simple: Once a campaign ends, paying for an ongoing cloud service that can hold that data can cross the ethical borders in a state, whereas storing locally is a one-time expense. 

If you have recorded town halls, debates, video tests, alternative audio streams, and live chats, you can end up with hundreds of gigabytes of data. Making sure you have a record of other campaign statements and having video to back it up can be helpful for future campaigns, or even to give you an idea of how that candidate thinks. 

After enough time, the data quickly adds up. Before writing this diary, I went through my Qnap and discovered that since 2004, I have slightly more than 7 terabytes of data linked to campaign work. A great deal of it is video, but some of it is artwork and documents. All of that data, however, can be useful to look back on as I consider what may or may not happen in a congressional district, in a state house district, or in a state senate district. I can see messaging that resonated and times where the audience didn’t respond as anticipated. 

This doesn’t mean we eliminate the use of the cloud

Over the long term, local storage is going to become more important. And that local storage can offer quick access. For security’s sake, I often use tools like Backblaze or Microsoft Azure to store large volumes of compressed nonvideo data. I want to make sure that the retainable data, like spreadsheets, documents, audio, and artwork, can be stored. 

When it comes to video, however, there is often another way to handle this without having it cost you a single penny: Create a YouTube Channel. As your video comes in from those within your campaign, upload videos to YouTube and make them unsearchable and private. That way, only someone logged into your account can see them. Most storage companies, like Google, charge you upload and download fees, which can hit you hard when you’re uploading or downloading video. Put that same video up on YouTube and there’s no cost. No cost to watch it later. No cost to upload it.

A YouTube video marked “Private.”

Now you don’t lose track of your video, it can be up forever, and you don’t pay for it to stay there—or with your cloud service provider.

How much space is needed?

Keep in mind that what you’re storing and what roles you have in campaigns will determine how or if you store campaign data. You can also find yourself being a packrat; admittedly, I may be one! I rarely go back to documents created in 2006. Still, having access to them sometimes comes in handy, especially when I’m trying to resolve how something was handled in the past or if an issue has ever come up before.

There are others I know who store data going back into the early 1980s. I know because over the years, I’ve helped them scan and digitize some of the video, audio, and paper documents they still had on hand. (Don’t get me started on converting Betacam to digital video.) Determining how much data you need to store and have available is up to you, and depending on what you do, it’s controlled by the amount of data you come into contact with or have the responsibility to protect in a campaign. 

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