Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 20: Andrew Gillum
Jamarlin talks to Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee and leading Democratic candidate for Florida governor. They discuss the DNC taking the Black vote for granted, its silence on the killing of 60 Palestinian protestors, and whether big tech and Silicon Valley elites can be regulated at the state level.
How do you vet information on politicians, especially if you obtain it through social media?
How do you convince voters that the information you provide is not biased toward or against any political party or topic?
Diana O. Eromosele, a Brooklyn-raised software engineer with a journalism background, has created Categorized Tweets, an online tool that attempts to address some of the challenges facing voters and news media.
On the Nov. 6 ballot, 470 seats are up for election in the U.S. with Republicans holding most of them during one of the nation’s most controversial presidencies. This midterm election season could have a direct effect on the remainder of President Donald Trump’s first term in office.
“You would be surprised how many people do not know who their representatives are. The app provides a high-level view of what issues your representatives are speaking about. Since tweets must be succinct, it is the perfect content to be categorized.” — Diana O. Eromosele, founder of Categorized Tweets
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The expected 2018 spend on digital and online political ads is nearly $1.8 billion, according to media research firm Borrell Associates. It could break records. For the voter, this means more political ads in likely and unlikely areas. (How did that political candidate obtain my private personal cell phone number?) However, millennials and Gen Xers will be less likely to vote in the midterm elections, Pew Research indicated in June.
While voters are exposed to more political ads, it is difficult to try and separate the candidates from the news pundits. How can you understand where a candidate stands on an issue unless you hear it straight from the candidate? Do their viewpoints line up with yours? Political fact-check media sites like PolitiFact attempt to keep the public informed with research on topics surrounding statements made by politicians. However, such fact check sites are themselves criticized over fairness and bias. Other sites like Media Bias Fact Check and PolitiFact Bias attempt to fact check the fact checkers.
“Even if you don’t have a desire to keep up with the news, you can see the thoughts of politicians in brief snapshots because of Twitter’s low character display of information. It gives a quick summary of what is trending to the layperson and the media.” — Diana O. Eromosele, founder of Categorized Tweets
Today, people are less likely to believe the first set of information provided to them about anything political without a way to verify the information. The question remains, how do you vet information received, especially if you obtain it through social media?
Categorized Tweets pulls in information directly from a politician, allowing you to search your specific zip code and learn more about the politicians in it who influence the law and media landscape. The tool has been in beta test throughout 2018. This midterm political season could be the perfect backdrop to test its accuracy and ability to convince voters that information is not biased toward any political party or topic.
Through Eromosele’s proprietary algorithm, the web application can scan the Twitter timelines of politicians and separate their tweets into nine key categories most voters research.
The code can sort and group statements made on politicians’ tweets and determine if the text involves:
Also, based on the current leading conversations, the app can pull in additional categories, for example, tweets surrounding Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Categorized Tweets is already popular on Twitter.
Moguldom asked Eromosele about her transition from multimedia journalist to software engineer and how she is keeping Categorized Tweets nonpartisan.
Moguldom: How did you go from being a multimedia journalist to a software engineer?
Diana O. Eromosele: I used to be a full-time writer for TheRoot.com. Writing just stopped being fulfilling to me. I decided to attend a coding boot camp. A few colleagues had gone through a camp and stated they loved it. It was perfect for me since many camps target career changers. Math and science always came more natural to me, so I missed working that part of my brain. I attended a few information sessions and then applied, was accepted and then I started a dev boot camp program. Since you must demonstrate proficiency before applying, I participated in some free online courses to provide me with some basic knowledge. The boot camp is where I learned how to code and create applications from scratch.
Moguldom: How did things go for you after you completed the boot camp?
Diana O. Eromosele: It took me eight months to obtain a job. At the time, there were many graduates of various camps running around New York looking for work. There was a lot of competition in the market looking for positions. I took a job at a venture firm, an accelerator called the Newark Venture Partners. It was quite serendipitous. I was a software developer-in-residence for three months. I was able to work on the software development needs of 11 different startups in the Spring 2017 cohort as one of my first jobs. Now that I’m a founder, I can use some of the things I learned from the programming the accelerator provided to its startups. While working for Newark Venture Partners, I was also working for Codecademy, an online coding training platform, as a mentor and tutor for those enrolled in their paid courses.
Moguldom: Of all the things you could create with your skillset, why choose a political app?
Diana O. Eromosele: I majored in political science at Duke University. Right after Duke, I worked in D.C. for some time at an advocacy group doing public relations and communications. I interned at CNN as a political writer. Politics is in my DNA. I come from a very politically inclined family. My father was so opinionated when it came to politics. I grew up watching him watch C-SPAN, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox. I graduated in 2008 during the Obama era. It doesn’t matter whether you are politically inclined or not, you were surrounded by it. So, I always had an eye on politics. The app came about in 2016 during my time in the dev boot camp. Before you graduate, you must do a major project. I was a part of a group, not the leader, that knew it wanted to do an app around politics. The leader had an idea for voters to become more informed about the elections that year. The idea just wasn’t working, but I knew we had to think of something fast. We had to pivot. We knew we wanted it to stay in the realm of politics. We all came back with different ideas. We knew we couldn’t use their speeches or their voting records.
I looked online and suddenly it occurred to me we could use Tweets. I quickly wrote an algorithm on the whiteboard behind me to scan the tweets of politicians and categorize their views. My teammates gave me pushback and said it couldn’t be done. We had three days until the project was due. I worked hard and came up with the code. My teammates were shocked. That preliminary app was part of the group’s project. It was my feature to categorize the tweets, and a second feature they built on voting records which helped us to complete our project and graduate. Once we graduated and I saw how good it was, I decided to take that feature and launch it into my own app.
Moguldom: Since then, have you made any changes to the app?
Diana O. Eromosele: I added the feature of being able to put in the address to provide the user with the politicians on the local, state and federal level.
Moguldom: How do you perceive people using this app?
Diana O. Eromosele: You would be surprised how many people do not know who their representatives are. They know the president and vice president are Donald Trump and Mike Pence. Giving users a snapshot of additional people who are elected to represent them has been valuable. The app provides a high-level view of what issues your representatives are speaking about with many issues. Since tweets must be succinct, it is the perfect content to be categorized. For users of the app, it gives them a chance to see a brief way to see what politicians think. What I loved seeing was the conversation on Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and President Trump’s meeting. Most politicians were tweeting about national security during this timeframe. When a mass shooting occurs, politicians weigh in on gun control. So even if you don’t have a desire to keep up with the news, you can see the thoughts of politicians in brief snapshots because of Twitter’s low character display of information. It gives a quick summary of what is trending to the layperson and the media.
“The algorithm that I wrote is a pure algorithm that looks at the tweets objectively. It’s invincible to me putting in my personal political views. You can find Bill Maher, Angela Rye, Mark Cuban, Sean Hannity and others who are not elected officials but have made tweets about the categories we use for the app.” — Diana O. Eromosele, founder of Categorized Tweets
Moguldom: How do you reassure users the app is entirely non-partisan?
Diana O. Eromosele: Tech is non-partisan. When you put in your address or zip code, the app doesn’t discriminate against where you live or with what political party you are affiliated. The algorithm that I wrote is a pure algorithm that looks at the tweets objectively, which says this tweet is most likely about this category. People who have used the app have said how impressed they are with the accuracy of the results it returned. It’s invincible to me putting in my personal political views. Even if you don’t want to search for your specific zip code, you can go to the Influencers tab on the site and look at some of the main people whether they’re a politician or not and see how their tweets are categorized. You can find Bill Maher, Angela Rye, Mark Cuban, Sean Hannity and others who are not elected officials but have made tweets about the categories we use for the app.
Moguldom: Are there any upcoming features you want to share?
Diana O. Eromosele: Yes. I am working towards being able to go further back with the categorized tweets. If someone wants to know if the politician has flip-flopped or progressed on a topic, a person will be able to see it because Categorized Tweets will display more along a timeline. Voters can hold politicians to words they may have said in support of one topic, they now are claiming not to support at a later date. That type of data analytics will be at the average person’s fingertips. Right now, the service is only available in the U.S., and I’m expanding it into Canada and the U.K. I’ve received messages from all over, like from India and Nigeria. However, I’ll be focusing on Canada and the U.K. next. Eventually, some advanced features will be behind a paywall to help those who need information beyond the basic level which will always be free.