Plus Three: Strategy. Design. Technology.

AHR Selects Plus Three to Persuade President Bush to Keep His Promise to the Great Outdoors

Posted on 09/08/2004 @ 10:44 AM

Petition Drive Focused on Getting Americans Outdoors and Preserving America

Plus Three, LP ("Plus Three" or the "Company"), a strategic marketing and technology agency serving major US political organizations and world-class non-profit institutions, today announced that it has been selected by Americans for Our Heritage and Recreation (AHR) to create and manage its national petitioning system. Plus Three's technology will help AHR gather support to persuade President Bush to keep his promise to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Through a national public education campaign entitled Americans Saving American Places (ASAP) focused on getting Americans outdoors, AHR has initiated a petition drive to gather a million signatures. To meet their goals, AHR required a petition tool that was flexible enough to easily modify and distribute to a variety of outdoor themed audiences.

"AHR represents a diverse body of organizations who all promote outdoor activities," said Tom St. Hilaire, executive director for AHR. "The challenge for us was creating and distributing relevant petitions that would encourage participation from a broad audience. Without Plus Three, this task would have cost significantly more and required additional time and resources. Plus Three allowed us to focus on the signatures and not worry about the technology."

In AHR, outdoor enthusiasts, advocates and conservationists, with a wide range of policy interests, network together to ensure the preservation of the LWCF. Plus Three designed a petitioning system that allows the different member-groups of the AHR to personalize the petitions with unique messaging and petition Web pages. In addition, Plus Three included tracking functions that enabled AHR to view results across organizations and report back on the petitions that are driving the most signatures.

"The flexibility of interactive tools, such as petition pages and surveys, have empowered organizations to use their Web sites to inspire casual visitors to become online activists," said Plus Three founder and President, Juan Proaño. "Plus Three enables organizations to enhance these relationships between organizations and their visitors, but, more importantly, we allow organizations to use the Internet to proactively reach out to like-minded individuals and directly encourage their participation."

About Americans for Our Heritage and Recreation

Americans for Our Heritage and Recreation (AHR) is a broad and diverse organization representing conservationists, the recreation and sporting goods industries, park and recreation specialists, wildlife enthusiasts, advocates for urban and wilderness areas, preservationists of cultural and historic sites, land trust advocates, the youth sports community, and civic groups seeking to revitalize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program (UPARR). The coalition works to communicate to policy makers at all levels of government the value of parks and recreation areas made possible by the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the need for support of these areas. AHR mobilizes this national coalition through its extensive grassroots communications network, employing regional and state leaders to coordinate an integrated public education campaign.

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The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Taps Plus Three for Web Advertising and Fundraising Initiatives

Posted on 08/30/2004 @ 10:46 AM

Plus Three's Innovative Technology, Strategic Market Planning Methodology Drives Selection Decision

Plus Three, LP ("Plus Three" or the "Company"), a strategic marketing and technology agency serving major US political organizations and world-class non-profit institutions, today announced that it has been selected by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (the "DSCC," to lead its online advertising and fundraising initiatives for the critical 2004 elections. Plus Three's engagement calls for the Company to provide media planning and acquisitions strategies for the DSCC's entire Web advertising campaign, as well as implementation of an Internet-based persuasion campaign to attract donations in support of Democratic Senatorial candidates. The DSCC is the national committee of the Democratic Party formed to elect Democratic members of the United States Senate.

"Our selection of Plus Three reflects the enormous confidence we have in their ability to persuade voters to support the election of Democratic candidates to the US Senate in this crucial election," said DSCC spokesperson Cara Morris. "Plus Three has a proven track record of planning and executing campaigns that are extremely compelling to constituents we are seeking to support our effort. This is largely the product of the Company's ability to combine the power of outstanding technology to reach the largest segment of an audience to create a sustainable dialogue and community, with outstanding creative product and highly targeted delivery. This kind of precision is essential to ensure that the DSCC achieves its election year goals."

Plus Three is the leading provider of online marketing and fundraising services for progressive causes. Since its inception, the Company has been tapped by leading Democratic organization and candidates to support their election efforts with highly targeted online campaigns. Online fundraising took on added significance during the recent Democratic Party primary, as candidates capitalized on the medium to build widespread communities and attract donations. Evidence of the increasing vitality and importance of the Web as a campaign fundraising tool — during the first half of 2004, Plus Three has raised $100 million on line since the start of 2004 in support of progressive campaigns and causes.

Plus Three will spearhead the DSCC's online fundraising efforts for the 2004 election cycle. The multidisciplinary team will increase online giving through and, the DSCC's community weblog. The Plus Three team will lead redesigns for both sites, develop a cross-modal narrative and media plan, streamline the technology for online giving, and increase online participation through online acquisition efforts.

"We're extremely pleased to develop and implement this important campaign for the DSCC," said Plus Three founder and president, Juan Proaño. "The ability to leverage the power of the Internet is critical to shaping the outcomes of this year's important elections. Our technology offers an important means for every individual to be part of the process, but helping them to form enduring communities where they can access information and share their views."

About the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is the national committee of the Democratic Party formed to elect Democratic members of the United States Senate. The DSCC enables Democratic candidates to conduct effective campaigns that reach voters and secure the election of a Democratic Senate in the year 2004.

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Democrats Unleash "Demzilla" on the GOP

Scott Eden

Business Intelligence Pipeline

Aug 24, 2004

With Election Day little more than three months away, the technology department at the Democratic National Committee is hiring, and evidently their desire to staff up at such a late date has a lot to do with the success of their huge voter and donor tracking system.

About three years ago, the DNC hired Plus Three, a small technology firm that specializes in IT consulting for nonprofit organizations, to help build its system. The decision came at a pivotal moment, not long before the 2002 midterm elections, when the Republican Party had had such a system up and running for some time.

The DNC, meanwhile, had a decrepit internal database running off an AS/400. It had a green-screen terminal interface, and it contained an e-mail donor list of just 70,000 people, said Doug Kelly, the DNC's technology director. "When you think that 50 million people voted for Gore, we did a dismal job."

Many observers, in fact, partly attribute the GOP's state and federal victories in that election to its far more mature, and enormous, database of voters and contributors, known as Voter Vault, about which the party is as tight-lipped as a Langley Cold Warrior.

The DNC is a little less so about its system, which is now Web-based and open-source. The system comes in two pieces: DataMart is essentially a gigantic phonebook of all the country's 166 million registered voters. The goal is to attach key information, or a voter ID, to each of those people — party affiliation, some consumer data, how their home precinct voted, census figures, 306 slices of information in all — and then to mine and model that data in order to perform two functions: entice voters to the booths to vote Democrat, and entice those already converted to fork over cash or, perhaps, to volunteer in some way. Essentially it's a direct-marketing system tweaked slightly for the political realm. The problem, of course, is getting all that key information attached to the names on the DataMart list. There are privacy issues to deal with, for instance, and an enormous amount of research that must be done, so the database remains incomplete.

The second piece is Demzilla, the DNC's internal transactional database, which includes the names of, and key information on, any person or group with which the DNC does business — the Rolodex. Mostly Demzilla is a list of donors, both large and small. But it also includes volunteers, activists, local and state party leaders, and members of the press.

By phone, by direct mail and, mostly, by e-mail, people on the DataMart list are targeted with ads and political messages, tailored as much as possible to that person, based on what the DNC can dig up about their demographic information, their possible pet issues, etc. Should the person contribute or agree to volunteer, into Demzilla goes that name.

Building the system was not an easy project to undertake or complete, especially with the DNC rushing to catch up with its cross-town rival. DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, famed for his salesmanship with six-figure donors and the $5000-a-plate set, spearheaded the effort, which largely focuses on small donors, a la and the early Howard Dean primary campaign. "We shamelessly steal stuff that's effective," the DNC's Kelly said. The DNC also had to broker deals with state Democratic organizations, which feed their voter information into DataMart. Quid pro quo, the information collated in DataMart and Demzilla are then used locally by the state party organs. The database effort was part of a $25 million rehab McAuliffe made of the DNC as a whole.

DNC officials will not divulge just how they're able to mine and analyze and drill down into all that data — the BI end of the DataMart/Demzilla system — the one aspect in which they resemble their tight-lipped Republican counterparts. "I'd rather not talk about that," Kelly said. "I can tell you after November third." He said the DNC uses a mix of BI technology developed both in-house and by outside consultants.

Plus Three, a Washington-based firm with about 21 employees, built the system using an open-source software package similar to EBay's or Google's — Linux operating system from Red Hat, Apache Web server, MySQL database and Practical Extraction Report Language — for reasons of both cost and "freedom," said David Brunton, one of Plus Three's founders. Open-source made the most sense, he said, because the DNC wanted to do its own data mining and analytics. Once Plus Three completed the assembly, it could turn over the source code to the DNC's techies, get them up to speed, and let them have at it. In this particular business, open source also has advantages over closed-format, Brunton said, because changes in potential donor targeting often need to be made on the fly — if people are for some reason unwilling, on a particular day, to give out their phone numbers, the DNC could write up some code to deal with that contingency, and implement it almost immediately. The software runs on a typical open-source hardware stack, consisting of AMD servers from Penguin Computing.

As far as the build-out, Brunton said a major challenge was integrating the database to its disparate data sources. Though open-source made the problem easier to overcome than a closed-format system otherwise would have, he said, another obstacle arose: how to make the physical connections between systems fast enough yet stable enough to handle all that data flow — voter information streaming into DataMart (and then into Demzilla, depending on the direct market success) from volunteers knocking on doors and entering survey questions into laptops, or voters clicking through a DNC e-mail. Plus Three also needed to link DataMart to all the far-flung systems used by the state party organizations.

The answer lay in RSS, or "really simple syndication," a feed technology that first took off among bloggers a few years ago. Plus Three developed its own kind of RSS for the DNC, which allowed it to deliver an XML stream between multiple systems. Plus Three's benchmark for a data-transfer rate was 5,000 records per second when those records needed to be parsed (or decoded and transformed into actual data), and 15,000 per second when they did not. "Anything less than that is probably slower than acceptable," Brunton said, "and anything faster is probably too fragile." Another important piece of gear Plus Three used was Spread, the multicasting technology. Information gathered from online transactions might hit one of ten different servers, said Brunton. But a Spread machine allowed Plus Three to then multicast all the logs from those disparate servers, collecting them in one place, and in real time, rather than waiting for an end-of-the-day update. This timeliness is particularly valuable in the fundraising world, said Brunton. "With the ability to raise $5.5 million or $6.6 million in a day, it's important to know where you are in any given hour. It could affect ad buys, or a get-out-the vote effort."

The DNC says that DataMart and Demzilla have enabled the party to increase its number of listed donors from 400,000 at the time of the 2002 elections to "well over a million now," though it won't be more specific. It has also let the DNC cover the costs of prospecting for donations. No longer does it need to pay third-party vendors for lists of target voters, nor must it outsource its various e-mail campaigns. The cost of a very large e-mail blast, in other words, amounts only to the tech staff's payroll.

As good as all this sounds, the viability of the system has been called into question before. About a year ago, an article in Roll Call, the Capitol Hill weekly, quoted an anonymous "consultant," who said, "The system architecture is overly cumbersome and the result is that the data is not easily retrieved ... Worse, the quality of the data is far from a level that would make it immediately useful." Both the DNC and Plus Three vigorously denied this, of course. They say a different kind of politics was at work: sour grapes. The comment, they say, came from a Plus Three rival rejected by the DNC.

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Knowing Their Politics by Their Software

Steve Lohr

New York Times

Jul 5, 2004

In a campaign season of polarization, when Republicans and Democrats seem far apart on issues like Iraq, the economy and leadership style, it is perhaps not surprising that the parties find themselves on different sides in the politics of software as well.

David Brunton

The Web sites of Senator John Kerry and the Democratic National Committee run mainly on the technology of the computing counterculture: open-source software that is distributed free, and improved and debugged by far-flung networks of programmers.

In the other corner, the Web sites of President Bush and the Republican National Committee run on software supplied by the corporate embodiment of big business — Microsoft.

The two sides are defined largely by their approach to intellectual property. Fans of open-source computing regard its software as a model for the future of business, saying that its underlying principle of collaboration will eventually be used in pharmaceuticals, entertainment and other industries whose products are tightly protected by patents or copyrights.

Many of them propose rewriting intellectual property laws worldwide to limit their scope and duration. The open-source path, they insist, should accelerate the pace of innovation and promote long-term economic growth. Theirs is an argument of efficiency, but also of a reshuffling of corporate wealth.

Microsoft and other American companies, by contrast, have long argued that intellectual property is responsible for any edge the United States has in an increasingly competitive global economy. Craig Mundie, chief technical officer and a senior strategist at Microsoft, observed, "Whether copyrights, patents or trade secrets, it was this foundation in law that made it possible for companies to raise capital, take risks, focus on the long term and create sustainable business models."

The dispute can take on a political flavor at times. David Brunton, who is a founder of Plus Three, a technology and marketing consulting company that has done much of the work on the Democratic and Kerry Web sites, regards open-source software as a technological expression of his political beliefs. Mr. Brunton, 28, a Harvard graduate, describes himself as a "very left-leaning Democrat." He met his wife, Lina, through politics; she is a staff member at the Democratic National Committee.

His company's client list includes state Democratic parties in Ohio and Missouri, and union groups including the United Federation of Teachers and the parent A.F.L.-C.I.O. "The ethic of open source has pervaded progressive organizations," Mr. Brunton said.

The corporate proponents of strong intellectual property rights say, in essence, that what is good for Microsoft, Merck and Disney is good for America. But they argue as well that the laws that protect them also protect the ideas of upstart innovators. They have made their case forcefully in Washington and before international groups, notably the World Intellectual Property Organization, a United Nations specialized agency.

"This is a huge ideological debate and it goes way beyond software," said James Love, director of the Consumer Project on Technology, a nonprofit group affiliated with Ralph Nader that advocates less restrictive intellectual property rules.

But the politics surrounding open-source software do not always fit neatly into party categories. The people who work on software like the Linux operating system, the Apache Web server and others are an eclectic bunch of technologists. "You'll find gun nuts along with total lefties," Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, said in an e-mail message.

Still, those who find the cooperative, open-source ethos appealing tend most often to be libertarians, populists and progressives. Not surprisingly, open-source software was well represented in Howard Dean's Democratic presidential primary campaign, which so effectively used the Internet and Web logs in grass-roots organizing.

Those open-source advocates will presumably find Senator Kerry more appealing than President Bush, according to Daniel Weitzner, technology and society director at the World Wide Web Consortium, an Internet standards-setting organization.

"It may be that the populist-versus-establishment dynamic plays out as Democrat versus Republican in this election," Mr. Weitzner said. "But the open-source movement is a populist phenomenon, enabled by the Internet, and not a partisan force in any traditional sense of politics."

The lone trait common to open-source supporters, according to Mr. Torvalds, is individualism. Politically, he said, that can manifest itself as independence from either political party. "But it also shows up as a distrust of big companies," Mr. Torvalds wrote, "so it's not like the individualism is just about politics."

Eric Raymond, a leading open-source advocate, writing in his online "Jargon File," described the politics of the archetypal open-source programmer, whom he calls J. Random Hacker, as "vaguely liberal-moderate, except for the strong libertarian contingent, which rejects conventional left-right politics entirely."

Mr. Raymond, for one, shoots pistols for relaxation (a favorite is "the classic 1911 pattern .45 semiautomatic") and he supported the invasion of Iraq.

So was the software for the Republican and Democratic Web sites selected according to politics?

Microsoft, to be sure, has fared far better under the Bush administration than under the administration of President Bill Clinton. The Clinton Justice Department filed a sweeping antitrust suit against Microsoft, and asked that the big software company be broken up. The Bush administration later settled the case and left Microsoft intact.

Referring to the software selection process, Steve Ellis, director of network and online services for the Republican National Committee, said: "There was no pressure. We were free to use whatever software we thought worked best."

The principal consideration, Mr. Ellis said, was computer security and protecting the privacy of personal data on the Web site. The programming tools, procedures and the larger pool of workers skilled in using Microsoft software, he said, prompted the Republicans to opt for Microsoft's Web server, called Internet Information Services, running on the Windows 2000 operating system.

Both the Microsoft Web site software and the open-source alternative, the Apache server running on Linux, have had security problems, said Richard M. Smith, a computer security expert. But the Microsoft software, he said, "clearly is the least secure of the two Web serving solutions," given its susceptibility to infection by malicious computer worms like Code Red and Nimba.

For technology experts, like Mr. Brunton, software may have a political cast. But there is little evidence that it has become an issue for front-office political operatives. Told that the Democratic National Committee Web site runs on open-source software, Tony Welch, the national committee's press secretary, replied, "Oh, thanks for telling me." Later, after checking with his technical staff, Mr. Welch called back to say that open-source software was "the right technology at the right price."

Both the Democratic and Republican sites have done pretty well. Mr. Kerry has raised more than $56 million over the Internet this year, including $3 million last Wednesday, setting a single-day record for online fund-raising. The Republican Web site won an award in March from George Washington University's Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet for the best online campaign by a political party.

"The Web site is a great grass-roots organizing tool, and we've probably just scratched the surface," said Christine Iverson, press secretary for the Republican National Committee.

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Plus Three Launches Upgrade Of Fund-Raising Software

Larry Greenemeier

Information Week

Jun 28, 2004

One of the key companies behind the Democratic National Committee's IT infrastructure--more commonly referred to as Demzilla--on Monday launched the latest version of its open-source fund-raising software. Version 3.1 of Plus Three LP's Arcos software lets fund-raising organizations and political campaigns treat their constituents more like consumers, thanks to business-intelligence features designed to enable more direct marketing.

The Democratic National Committee, Plus Three's largest customer, is using Arcos technology to store and track campaign donors much like customer-relationship-management software does for large companies. The committee has on file about 166 million registered voters that it can use to target people who might be undecided or leaning away from the party, says David Brunton, Plus Three's VP of sales and marketing.

Missouri's Democratic Party is using Plus Three's technology to make the most of the data it gathers from volunteers collecting information door-to-door. State branches of the party are the ones closest to the voters, says Jim Kottmeyer, executive director of the Missouri Democratic Party. "The plan is to send batch downloads to the national database," he says. In return, Missouri will receive reports that analyze the voter data it contributes to the national campaign effort.

"There are 2.4 million voters in the state of Missouri. We have to know which ones to talk to," Kottmeyer says. "Politics is all driven by voter-specific information these days."

The Republican National Committee also has a voter data repository, called Voter Vault, although a party spokeswoman declined to give specifics regarding its technology.

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