February 4th, 2010
Here’s one angle of the Brown campaign that hasn’t gotten much attention: Brown’s folks used free Google online tools to help organize grassroots voter outreach and to collect field data.
But Brown aides also used Google spreadsheets and forms to collect information from volunteers and supporters, essentially using the search engine’s products to create their own version of what Obama’s campaign team built for themselves during the 2008 election cycle. They had software on iPhones and BlackBerries that drew on their voter target list and used a volunteer’s GPS location to provide a list of which doors to knock on, a script for interactions with voters and a form to fill out responses, eliminating the need for paper get-out-the-vote walk sheets. On Election Day, they used Google Voice to run “voter fraud” hotlines, where supporters could call in to report any alleged chicanery by Democrats.
Brown’s reliance on Google advertising has been widely covered, but the grassroots organizing angle took place behind the scenes and was harder to spot. This aspect of his campaign can be just as much a model for future candidates, though, since it shows yet again how cheap or free online collaboration tools can help a shoestring operation punch far above its weight.