The Science Behind Those Obama Campaign E-Mails

As a subscriber to the Obama campaign emails and a rhetorician, I find this immensely fascinating.

The appeals were the product of rigorous experimentation by a large team of analysts. “We did extensive A-B testing not just on the subject lines and the amount of money we would ask people for,” says Amelia Showalter, director of digital analytics, “but on the messages themselves and even the formatting.” The campaign would test multiple drafts and subject lines—often as many as 18 variations—before picking a winner to blast out to tens of millions of subscribers. “When we saw something that really moved the dial, we would adopt it,” says Toby Fallsgraff, the campaign’s e-mail director, who oversaw a staff of 20 writers.

The Science Behind Those Obama Campaign E-Mails

I started this blog for many reasons. The main one was to document important events in my life as something of an online journal. But I also wanted a forum to highlight things that are important to me as a professional: rhetoric and technology (especially as the two intersect in terms of tech-mediated communication).

Today is one of those days when I think it’s important to document an event that’s happening that may (read should) have long-term ramifications.

Gabrielle Gifford, a U.S. Representative from Arizona, was shot at a political meet & greet along with 6 others. First reports said she had died, but she did, in fact, survive.

We don’t know why she was shot, but already there is discussion about the heated political rhetoric of late that uses gun imagery and language, such as Sarah Palin’s common refrain, “Don’t retreat, reload.”

In fact, Palin’s own PAC had this image up on their website today, but was soon removed.

Here’s the thing: it may not be fair to blame Palin and other Tea Party / right-wing extremists for this shooting. But words do matter. Rhetoric does have far-reaching implications. There is a responsibility for inciting violence in this way, and we need to consider how all of us should be accountable. I don’t think you can judge an action independently of the words behind it.