Thursday, June 20, 2013

17 Months Sprinting

Two years ago, I joined President Obama's re-election campaign as one of the first engineers in the Technology department.  I worked hard, learned an extraordinary amount from a host of fantastic coworkers, and was privileged to get to apply my craft to help re-elect the President.

After helping start the Narwhal and Dashboard projects during my first few months, I transitioned to lead the Analytics Technology team with Chris Wegrzyn.  The Analytics department grew to 54 people, busy with managing polling, creating and updating statistical models, and analyzing any and all data to advise campaign leadership across all departments on program strategy and efficacy.

Our team of nine Analytics engineers created, curated, and maintained a 50 TB analytics database, uniting all the campaign's data into one place – letting us create, coordinate, and analyze holistic, data-driven programs.

Suddenly we could do things like notice a supporter had requested a mail-in ballot and assist them via email to ensure the ballot was cast and counted.  We could analyze merchandise purchased via the mailing list, events, and the online store.  We created a TV-ad purchasing optimizer that got us 15% more persuadable viewers per dollar.

We created a tool ("Stork") that connected our analytics database with a few key vendor APIs, Google Spreadsheets, mapping, and basic data processing features — and empowered analysts and state and HQ data staff to implement their own automated, data-driven ideas for helping re-elect the President.  We released the tool to users when it had a single function, and let user feedback set the agenda for the next 23.  We often added new features within hours of users' requests.  Its functions were composable, and served as the basis for several of our own even higher-level tools.

Our process in Analytics Technology was partly agile, but mostly just keep-it-simple and get-it-done.  Our team didn't have to be web-scale, we just had to be Big Data scale; instead of millions of web requests, we had 6-billion-row tables to join and keep synced, and 200 querying users (and dozens of apps) to keep happy.  And mostly, we needed to move quickly to take as many creative (yet often simple, common sense) ideas and help make them happen while they could still have an impact.  I think a lot of us wished we'd had just a couple more months, and oh what we could have created!

The Analytics Technology team; left to right: me, Bill Wanjohi, Christopher Manning, Chase Martyn, Erek Dyskant, Chelsea Zhang, Curtis Morales, Chris Wegrzyn, Zane Shelby, and Tim Trautman

We used SQL (oh, did we use SQL), Python, Ruby, Java, Hadoop, Postgres, Vertica, cron, git, ElasticSearch, EC2, DynamoDB, S3, SES, and much more.  We were generalists, who built and maintained our tools collectively, who seamlessly multitasked on data ETL, Rails apps, database administration, GIS, data-triggered emailers, Hadoop jobs, and much more.

Some personal highlights of the 17 months included receiving extremely kind letters from state staff thanking the team for our work and our tools, giving a man the Heimlich maneuver at State and Randolph on the way into work, and shaking President Obama's hand:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What's Happening @Banshee

@Banshee is finally on twitter, where we'll always keep you up to date and sometimes entertained if you follow us.

We also just released Banshee 2.0.1, a stable, bug-fix-only follow on to 2.0.0!

We've got 2.1.x releases scheduled leading up to 2.2 in September. We'll be porting to Gtk# 3 and dropping a bunch of legacy deps in the process, while still supporting users on older distros. I e-mailed banshee-list more about what that means and how we'll do it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Banshee 2.0 is here!

We are thrilled to announce the release of Banshee 2.0! It's the culmination of six months' work by 36 developers and dozens of translators, documenters, bug reporters, and testers. It is a stable release, the successor to Banshee 1.8.

New Features:
  • Artist/Album Browser Track Actions
  • Play After Queue Options
  • Sleeker UI, Less Wasted Space
  • Video Subtitle Support
  • Lots of new devices supported
  • Amazon Cloud Player download support
  • Hundreds (277, to be exact) of bugs fixed, and dozens more minor enhancements!

View the release notes for much more information, or head straight to the download page.

The Banshee community has come a long way in the last six months.

  • We now support Windows in addition to Linux and OS X. Our Windows installer has been downloaded by 12,729 unique IPs.
  • We are donating $1,200 USD per month to the GNOME Foundation — that's over $15,000 annually, or 5% of GNOME's 2009 budget.
  • And Ubuntu decided to make us their default music player, joining the ranks of openSUSE and Foresight Linux.

Congratulations and many thanks to everybody who made all this possible! If you want to learn more about Banshee, how you can contribute, get in touch, get help, etc, head over to our website.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

PDF Mod Update

I haven't blogged about PDF Mod since Nov, 2009. We've had five releases in the meantime, including 0.9.1 just released today!

We have had tons of improvements and fixes, and one major new feature: bookmark editing!

We're up to 26 translations now, including 11 of our user manual!

As a reminder, PDF Mod can:

  • pull out (extract) pages from a document into a new PDF
  • combine two documents, or parts thereof
  • reorder and rotate pages
  • extract embedded images
  • edit basic metadata (title, author, keywords)
  • edit a document's bookmarks (aka outlines)
  • and that's it!

tarballs, release notes, git, mailing list, irc, bugzilla, website/wiki

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Canonical's New Plan for Banshee

This is an update to my previous post. Canonical asked the Banshee maintainers to join a conference call about an hour ago. They announced their new plan, calling past proposals mistakes:
  • Banshee's Amazon store will remain enabled, with Canonical taking a 75% cut of all affiliate revenue; 25% on Ubuntu will now go to the GNOME Foundation.
  • The Ubuntu One store for Banshee will remain enabled by default, but now Canonical will donate 25% of its revenue to GNOME. They will now do the same for Rhythmbox.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Banshee Supporting GNOME on Ubuntu

The Banshee maintainers and community have been proud to support GNOME by sending 100% of our FOSS Amazon MP3 store's affiliate revenue to the Foundation. We're already on pace to contribute at the same level as a small company on the Advisory Board, $10,000 USD per year, and revenue is increasing every month.

Canonical's Proposals
After choosing Banshee as the next default player in Ubuntu, Canonical approached us, concerned with how our Amazon store would affect their Ubuntu One store. They proposed two options:

  1. Canonical disables the Amazon store by default (you could enable it in a few easy steps) but leaves the affiliate code alone (100% still to GNOME), or
  2. Canonical leaves the Amazon store enabled, but changes the affiliate code and takes a 75% cut.

Our Response
We are pleased that Canonical is willing to leave the affiliate code unaltered.

As maintainers of the Banshee project, we have opted unanimously to decline Canonical's revenue sharing proposal, so that our users who choose the Amazon store will continue supporting GNOME to the fullest extent. The GNOME Foundation's Board of Directors supports this decision.

The Banshee Maintainer Team
Aaron Bockover, Alexander Kojevnikov, Bertrand Lorentz, Gabriel Burt

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Amazon Affiliate Revenue

Since late July Banshee has had AmazonMP3 store integration, earning a 10% affiliate fee. We're proud to send all of that revenue to the GNOME Foundation. Here is the cumulative revenue breakdown per store:$1185€315£80¥28€70

That totals to about $1800 USD, all going directly to the GNOME Foundation! This accounts for about half of what GNOME has earned from Amazon in the last six months.

Our revenue has increased every month, too; in December we're on track for another record month! Find out more about Banshee...