Who is that Votemaster guy, anyway?During the 2004 election, over half a million people were asking that question. Only about 20 people knew. Just before the election, the Votemaster came clean, which got him into the New York Times, Washington Post and hundreds of other media outlets. While it would be nice to be anonymous this season, too, now that Google has over 50,000 links to "Votemaster," it is a bit harder this time. This Website was the first to aggregate the state polls to track the electoral college every day and as such was the subject of intense discussion for months on many political talk radio stations, where speculation centered around such stars as Al Gore and James Carville. Good thing there was no audio on the Website: a Westchester County accent would never be confused with ones from Tennessee or Louisiana.
The truth be known, the Votemaster is a mild-mannered U.S. citizen living abroad--along with another 7 million American citizens--more than the population of Virginia. If Americans Abroad were a "state" they would rank 13th in population. He is also known as Andrew S. Tanenbaum, a professor of computer science at the Vrije Universiteit. If you really want to know more, ask Google. It has about 1 million links. He is also a decent photographer. Type "photos India" or "photos Namibia" (to name just a couple of countries) to Google and check out the top of the list and the number of links found.
For people who read Slashdot, he has been slashdotted about a dozen times, both for things he did and things he didn't do. Some of his more noteworthy activities (and nonactivities):
- He didn't write Linux as some people have alleged. Proof that he didn't do this can be found here.
- He did, however, write MINIX, which Linus Torvalds used to learn about operating systems, and was the inspiration and base Torvalds used. Tanenbaum might be considered the grandfather of Linux, but definitely not the father. As an aside, the latest version of MINIX is designed to be much more reliable and secure than standard operating systems, and is worth looking at if you are interested in such matters or are a computer science student or hobbyist.
- He is also involved in research on RFID chips and is coauthor of the paper on RFID viruses that got massive worldwide publicity in March 2006 (e.g., front page of the New York Times Website).
- He has written 21 books that have been translated into 21 languages.
Is he qualified to be Votemaster?Is James Carville? He has advised loser after loser after loser for years. The Votemaster has some modest qualifications as follows:
- Knowledge of Computers. See above. He has also designed a number of previous Websites. At its heart, this site is about collecting, aggregating, analyzing, and presenting third-party election data in a convenient and pleasing form, so computer and Web design skills are really the key ingredients.
- Knowledge of Polling and Statistics. He has a Ph.D. from the University of California and has taken graduate-level courses in math and statistics.
- Knowledge of writing. After 21 books and 160 published papers, he is starting to get the hang of it.
- Knowledge of politics. He has worked on numerous political campaigns going back to Reagan's first run for Governor of California and has lobbied (for environmental legislation) in the California state legislature. He was elected as a voting delegate to the World Democrats Abroad caucus in Edinburgh in 2004 where he met many "insiders." He has access to precisely the same polling data as other election analysts, since there are only a small number of pollsters and they offer subscriptions to anyone who is willing to pay for them. Ultimately, all analysis comes down to studying the polls and extracting trends. By studying 1347 state polls and hundreds of national polls during the 2004 election cycle, 1064 state polls and various national polls in 2006, and 2921 state polls in 2008, he acquired a bit of on-the-job training.
The bottom line is this combination was good enough to attract about 700,000 visitors a day during the Fall of 2004 making it the most popular election Website in the country, 500,000 a day in the Fall of 2006, and 1 million a day towards the end of the 2008 election.
Hobbies: Photography and skewering corrupt and hypocritical politicians.