PermaLinkDoes Executive Experience Matter? A Social Software Experiment In Political Analysis
11:32:16 PM

In response to one of my recent posts, I received a comment chiding me for posting about politics rather than sticking to technical topics.

Let me get this out of the way: No... I am not going to stop posting opinion pieces. My range of interests includes both politics and technology, and many other things. I have both the opinions and the ability to express them with (IMHO) a certain level of clarity in variety of areas. And I'm somewhat constrained these by my day job responsibilities, with respect both to time and the technical subjects that I can post about, so non-technical articles are likely to continue to be more frequent than technical articles.

But, it occurred to me today that there might be a way to combine my technology and political interests in a series of articles that seeks to explore the question: how much does executive experience matter in candidates for the office of President Of The United States? I have an opinion about what the answer probably is, but honestly I have no idea. I think it is possible to answer this question in a way that reflects more than just one person's interpretation of a very limited number of qualitative data points..

You might be wondering: Why would such an oddball idea occur to me? A little bit of information about my background might explain it. You see, although I have spent my entire career (more than 25 years now) in the IT industry, I was not a Computer Science major. I attended a Liberal Arts college that offers a major program called Mathematics And The Social Sciences. It is, as far as I know, a unique academic program for undergraduates, not available anywhere else... and I chose to attend that particular college (Dartmouth) specifically because of it. I knew I had aptitude for mathematics, but I also knew my interests were primarily in political science, so this program was the perfect combination for me. It allowed me to study techniques for quantitative analysis and mathematical modeling applied to things that interested me. Along the way, I picked up enough computer skills to make it possible to pursue a career. And luckily, I also developed enough intrerest in software design and development to make up for the fact that I left my perfect combination behind, but I never lost my interest not in political science and the use of quantitative analysis.

Now, here we are in 2008. There's a political campaign going on, and there are vast differences in overall experience between the two slates of candidates, and the question of executive experience has become a hot button issue in the past week. My old instincts have kicked in.

So, here's what I propose to do. I want to use my blog to explore history, and create a series of quantitative measures of experience of past Presidents. I also want to create a series of measures of these past Presidents' effectiveness There will, of course, be mulitple dimensions for both experience and effectiveness. Executive experience is not the only type of experience that matters, not to mention different types of executive experience, and effectiveness is also not a simple black-and-white issue. One has to consider effectiveness in terms of a Presidents ability to get his programs in a variety of areas implemented, and also whether the short and long-term effects of those programs have proven to be beneficial. The multiple dimensions will make it possible to change the question a bit, to "How much does executive experience matter, compared to.(other experience)".

Once the measures are agreed upon for a sufficient number of US Presidents, some crosstabs and correlations can be done, and voila! The answer to the question will emerge. It will be our answer, of course. Ours because the input of the community matters, and ours because different communities might arrive at different measures.

Of course, this is my blog, so I will have first and last say on each measure for each President, but comments will be open, and I will try to be objective. If this experiment appears to be heading toward success, I will consider opening up a wiki so that there can be a venue where my infleunce will not be as dominant. And of course, anyone who reads the posts here in my blog can certainly copy the idea and post his or her own numbers elsewhere. (Attribution would be nice,howver.)

So, watch for upcoming posts. In the next one in this series, I will lay out the measures that I want to collect, and I hope I get good community input to help me refine them. Then I'll start a series of posts, in no particular order, assessing the various measures for individual past US Presidents, and again I hope I get good community input to help refine them. Finally, there will be a post that analyzes the data, discusses the limitations in the methodology, and draws a conclusion for the question at hand -- for whatever it is worth.

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Comments :v

1. mark hughes09/05/2008 09:55:20 AM

I dont agree with you much, politically, but it is your blog and i enjoy reading others thoughts on politics. Keep posting what you want, if others dont like it they can not click on the link. If they disagree with you let them try to change your mind about your opinions in a respectful way.

I am surprised by the amount of liberal Lotus Domino professionals, but we agree on so much about IT related ideas and opinions that it crosses the boundries of political party affiliation. We can have civil discourse about other things than just Notes stuff. Keep up the good work, have fun in what you are doing.

ps. please change your mind about Obama

2. Jerry Carter09/05/2008 12:10:40 PM

@ Mark - here here!

@ Rich - Good on you. I don't know why we seem to have more trolls than in the past taking shots at folks for speaking their minds but I've had one hit me for expressing my views as well. Rubbish, naturally.

This sounds like a fantastic experiment. I'm looking forward to seeing how it shakes out. Analytical Statistics had to be my favorite science class when I was getting my B. of S.

3. Richard Schwartz09/05/2008 01:56:07 PM

@Mark: Thanks, and nice try Really, I don't see why you would be surprised. It's almost by definition that roughly half of any population of significant size and diversity will tend toward liberal ideas, and roughly half tend toward conservative ideas. That's because liberal and conservative are not fixed points on some universal political or moral compass. They are moving targets, and so are people, so at any given point in time there's a center of opinion and a distribution of opinions on either side.

@Jerry, thanks also.

4. Marc Harting09/05/2008 02:59:23 PM

Rich - I think you should discuss anything that you want. At first like Mark i was surprised by the amount of Liberal Lotus Notes Professionals but then I read your response and I have to agree. I also thought about the locations with the largest concentration of Lotus Notes users. Given that Boston and northeast U.S. trend toward being more Liberal.
This will be fun...

5. Bruce Perry09/05/2008 04:11:43 PM

The success of this will, of course, depend on the inputs. The notion of rating all of our past president on various scales will be somewhat subjective. Even deciding which scales to pick will take some thought.

I know I've seen a list of presidential traits somewhere put together by people who sounded like serious researchers. The one that sticks in my head was called something like "capability for misleading others".

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