US President Barack Obama shakes hands with an attendee after a town hall meeting April 20, 2011 at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Obama 2012 has opened a “technology field office” in San Francisco. It’s a first-time effort to recruit the tech community into a presidential campaign.

Back in 2008, the Obama campaign turned out phone-bankers and door-knockers. At last night’s launch party, organizers were sweet-talking data-miners and coders.

“I’ll eventually just get roped in,” says web developer Chris Zacharias. “They’ll have some interesting problem I just have to solve and next thing I know, I’ll be a fully-bonded Obama campaign coder.”

Another developer, Florian Hoenig, says he came to see if the campaign is open to getting new ideas from, and even hiring, local start-ups. “If it’s a very creative space, then I see a place to contribute,” Hoenig explains.

Among the more than 200 attendees at the launch, there was Craig Newmark of Craigslist, and a guy wearing the sticker “Yes We Code.”

Nowadays, serious campaigns have digital strategists. But this field office goes beyond the standard Facebook, Twitter and Youtube toolbox.

Attendees describe it as an experiment, similar to other start-ups: it will either pull the technology community into politics, scale up and get replicated…or it will fizzle out.

Campaign staffers at the launch weren’t allowed to talk to the press. But an online invitation to techies read:

“We learned from 2008 that using the talents and skills of our supporters was key to building the most effective organization. Now we’re taking the next step by providing the opportunity for supporters in the technology community to help the campaign extend our current tools.”

The Obama campaign is renting workspace from fellow start-up StackMob.

Author

Aarti Shahani

Aarti Shahani is a reporter at KQED, focusing on business and technology. She came to San Francisco as a Kroc Fellow with NPR. She was part of the ProPublica team awarded an Investigative Reporters & Editors Award for Post Mortem – a series examining the unregulated coroner and medical examiner industry. Shahani got her Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, supported by the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship and a Public Service Fellowship. She studied globalization as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. She was raised in Flushing, Queens – in the nation’s most diverse zip code.

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