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Dan Power

Greetings to all of my friends who work in the area of computerized decision support. This blog is a way for me to share stories from my encounters related to decision support, to comment on industry events, and to comment on other blogger's comments, especially those of my friends on the Business Intelligence Network. I'll try to state my opinions clearly and provide an old professor's perspective on how computers and information technology are changing the world. Decision making has always been my focus, and it will be in this blog as well. Your comments, feedback and questions are welcomed.

About the author >

Daniel J. "Dan" Power is a Professor of Information Systems and Management at the College of Business Administration at the University of Northern Iowa and the editor of DSSResources.com, the Web-based knowledge repository about computerized systems that support decision making; the editor of PlanningSkills.com; and the editor of DSS News, a bi-weekly e-newsletter. Dr. Power's research interests include the design and development of decision support systems and how these systems impact individual and organizational decision behavior.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Dan's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

December 2007 Archives

Tonight I listened to Senator Chris Dodd speak about why Iowans should support him in the Thursday night, January 3, 2008 Iowa Democratic caucuses. Basically Dood emphasized his foreign policy experience, his life long commitment to public service, and his concern about the future of the United States for his 2 young daughters. We met in a smoky bar, Steamboat Gardens in Waterloo, IA, with a crowd of about 75 people. Dodd is a smart guy and a nice guy. He has passion and enthusiasm. He shook my hand, looked me in the eyes and asked for my support. He is an honest man, given to some hyperbole, who wants the USA to continue as a great country with principled leadership. He has my respect. Can he get his message out to 125,000 Iowans who will be at the caucuses and sway their opinions? It will be hard, both Dodd and Biden need to explore new media, whether it is a live infomercial of a half hour campaign event, streaming video on a web site, YouTube coverage of the next 72 hours, or something even more informative and dramatic. Both Biden and Dodd need to break away from the 60 second commercial to have any chance with an informed, interested political audience.

I speculated in my last post that Biden needed to strategically spend an additional $15 per caucus vote he sought in the final 127 hours before the caucuses to gain additional support. That was a serious underestimate. All the campaigns, Republican and Democrat, are pouring money into the closing days of this contest.

Supposedly Barack Obama has the best computer support for identifying and maintaining relationships with supporters (the claim of the local TV news reporter). I can't confirm that, but I do know Senator Clinton's campaign has very targeted and sophisticated calling programs and mailings from what my household has experienced.

Last night, December 30, I attended an event on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa with more than 600 cheering Hillary Clinton supporters. The event was clearly targeted to women, given the composition of the audience and the fact my wife got the invitation not me. I got an email about a different Clinton event scheduled for today in Waterloo that ended up being cancelled because of weather-related travel problems. The woman who called to alert me about the cancellation did mention Former President Bill Clinton would be in town Wednesday and I should come listen.

So what about Senator Clinton? She is smart, serious and tough. She clearly brings compassion to some issues. She is long-winded but eloquent. Her mother and daughter and the former Governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack, joined her. She is good on the issues, more middle of the road than Edwards and Obama. She has been on the global stage and she has enormous self-confidence. I like her approach to withdrawal from Iraq. She proposes to start in phases 60 days after she takes office. Take time to plan and do it right, consider the details and leave in an organized manner. We have so many human and material resources in Iraq that we can't leave hurriedly or without careful planning. She knows we need to leave!

So who am I supporting right now? Biden is still the strongest, the most able man in the race. I'm willing to trust Senator Clinton, but I'm unsure about Former President Bill Clinton's role in her administration and I am concerned that gender bias might cause her to lose in November. On Thursday night I will be watching the passion and commitment of the "hard core" Hillary Clinton supporters. If she is the nominee, we are in for a massively divisive election.

Tomorrow is a day off for me. Wednesday I'll probably go to the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama events in Waterloo. This is an exciting time and I feel privileged to participate and meet these candidates.

And the Republicans. Huckabee was an unknown 12 weeks ago and Romney is throwing everything he can to see what sticks. The TV ads are nasty. Huckabee is trying to stay above the fray, but his poll numbers are slipping.

Posted December 31, 2007 7:01 PM
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Iowans will meet in Presidential caucuses all around the state at 6:30 pm on Thursday, January 3, 2008. That is about 126 hours from now and counting.

In 1988, approximately 230,000 Iowans participated in the caucuses in a heavily contested event. In 2000, only 147, 000 members of both parties (61,000 Democrats and 86,000 Republicans) participated. In 2004, 125,000 Iowa Democrats caucused. Turnout for 2008 should be similar, about 230,000 total. Democrats will caucus in 2,131 precints around the State.

One can easily see how the Web has changed Iowa caucus politics, from finding precincts and caucus locations, to candidate information sites and finding places to meet candidates. Some tourists are even coming to Iowa just to travel around and meet candidates. A large number of out-of-state volunteers are also busy.

The Voter Relationship Management (VRM) systems most likely vary tremendously. A few years ago, I saw the Iowa Democratic Party system, but I have not seen those of any candidates. I do receive duplicate targeted mailings from Democrats and Republicans. Campaigns get caucus attendee lists from the state political parties. As I recall, the parties sell the data in digital form to candidates and the counties sell or provide data on registered voters to legitimate users. Certainly the state parties have data on registered voters. Targeting is enhanced with extensive phone calling and possibly purchased data. Some candidates are doing targeting better than others.

Well the races are heating up. Last night I spent an hour and a half at an event for Senator Joe Biden at the Waterloo Center for the Arts. With about 100 others, including 2 of my sons, I listened attentively to Senator Biden and even asked a question about his position on "evil corporations" and asked for a comment on John Edwards' inflamatory rhetoric. Biden said the right things, he is a centrist and a pragmatist and he has extensive foreign policy experience. Right now I'm switching from Senator Hillary Clinton to Senator Biden. The polls show Biden at about 3% (4.5% margin of error). Each percentage point is about 1,250 Democrats.

Sunday night Senator Clinton returns to Cedar Falls. Monday night I plan to meet Senator Dodd and Wednesday night Senator Obama is on my schedule. Campaigning on the ground in Iowa is safer than in Pakistan, but I assume all of the campaigns will be careful as we move to caucus night.

So what should a campaign do in the next 126 hours. First, to get a 5% bump in support, a candidate needs to meet and influence about 6,250 people, about 50 people per hour. Second, candidates need to solidify the base with upbeat media buys and speak candidly about the other candidates. Most of the Iowa political activists have met all the candidates. Third, candidates need to push for endorsements and run newspaper ads with lists of supporters. Fourth, candidates need to get on the local news in major Iowa media markets everyday. Fifth, campaigns need to have a good contingency plan for bad weather on Caucus night to get supporters to the polls.

So is Senator Joe Biden a viable candidate in Iowa. Perhaps! Sadly he needs cash and the next 126 hours will test his stamina. He can finish a strong 4th and perhaps he can get above 15% statewide. That would be a tremendous victory! I think he would make an outstanding President; Biden has been a dedicated Senator and leader of the Democratic Party his entire adult life. He has strength and courage.

So how much money does Biden need to have a strong showing in Iowa? I estimate in the next 126 hours he needs to strategically spend an additional USD$15 for every vote he wants in the caucuses. That means about $300,000. He needs cash. The Internet has also transformed political fundraising. If you want a smart, rational, experienced. pragmatic centrist as President of the United States, consider helping Joe Biden. His campaign website is http://www.joebiden.com/.

Other sites

Iowa Democratic Party, http://www.iowademocrats.org/

Republican Party of Iowa, http://www.iowagop.net/

Democratic Caucus Location finder, http://www.iowafirstcaucus.org/caucus_finder.php



Posted December 29, 2007 10:31 AM
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Former President Bill Clinton and "Magic" Johnson made a campaign appearance to support Hillary on Tuesday, Dec. 18 at the Boys and Girls Club of Black Hawk County, Iowa. My wife, 19 year old son Ben and I attended with about 300 other people. We were in the gym. Magic gives a great "fire up" speech and Bill is "still Bill".

Politics is in full-swing in Iowa. Tracking the candidates is much easier with the Web!

For those interested in Presidential politics, check the map of campaign appearances by Presidential candidates at


You can see the dense purple visit clouds over Iowa and New Hampshire. You can "play" a week by week animation; you can zoom in on Iowa, you can look at visits by a single candidate for a specific period of time. So what can we conclude from eye-balling this historical data?

1) Clinton has focused on the "major" cities in Iowa, but she has been all over the state. She recently completed an "All 99 counties matter tour". 19 events in Des Moines from April 1, 2007 to December 23, 2007 according to the mouseover data popup.

2) Obama has concentrated on "major" cities with 26 events in Des Moines.

3) Edwards has been in Iowa the most and 27 events in Des Moines.

4) Huckabee has focused heavily on Des Moines (27 events) and western Iowa.

5) Giuliani has been in 32 Iowa cities, including 6 events in Des Moines. So I'm not seeing Giuliani on TV (and we have continuous political ads) but he has not completely avoided Iowa. You can see his focus on New hampshire.

6) Romney has only been in Des Moines for 9 events, but he has been in the wealthy western Des Moines suburbs for an additional 11 events.

Well, I watched Ron Paul on "Meet the Press with Tim Russert" this morning and he actually made some sense. Interesting race for President shaping up with at least 3 viable Democrats and 3 Republicans. I'll probably attend a few more campaign events, but the snow here in Iowa is reducing the crowds and challenging the candidates and their staffs who are driving our rural interstates. Stay warm!

Posted December 23, 2007 12:26 PM
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I live in Cedar Falls, Iowa and politics is center stage with the upcoming January 3, 2008 Iowa caucuses. In my youth I was a political organizer and activist so I have been involved with the Iowa caucuses since 1972 ... Muskie, McGovern, the anti-war movement.

Much has changed with the Web, information technology, email and political targeting. The automated phone calls are horrendous; the amount of money spent has increased tremendously. Today so much more information is available on candidate positions. With email, the candidates who have me targeted send me invitations to various campaign events. If I'm curious, I can check a candidate's schedule on the Web and drive across town or down the road and listen.

We Iowans like the attention and the face-to-face politics. The blog sphere is exerting more influence every day and the politicos in other states want the same attention Iowans get. This year may be the last actively contested caucus, but I hope not. Despite my grumblings about too many ads and too many phone calls and mailings, like other Iowans I am flattered to be involved. The candidates I meet are sincere and most are working hard to hone their message and influence people to chose them for the future of our country.

So what about decision support? Campaign decision support is getting better. Candidate organizations should have spatial DSS and CRM systems. The web-based document decision support is better at some candidate web sites than others.

Decision support for voters is limited and that is probably as it should be. The Iowa caucuses showcase how many factors influence an individual's decision making. Decision making is not really aided much by a computerized, multi-attribute choice model. This caucus process continually reminds me of how many different priorities, value systems and needs are influencing all of us.

None of us really want knowledge-driven DSS to help us make our choice and no model or simulation-driven DSS can help us anticipate the future with a new president.

I find myself looking at body language, how comfortable is the person, is the person electable and various intangibles. My intuition and emotional intelligence is stretched to get a "feel" for who the person really is ... I read the issue position materials and listen to the ads and debates when I can stand to do so. Rational decision making is so hard when choosing a leader for our great country.

Yesterday, I went with my wife and 2 sons to listen to John Edwards in a room at the University of Northern Iowa. Perhaps 350 people joined me. We listened to the local politicos and as usual everything was running late. Kevin Bacon sang for us and then introduced my congressman, Bruce Braley, an Edwards supporter. Then Edwards and his wife Elizabeth entered the room.

Elizabeth is a straight shooter, but she feels a need to get in her 2 cents worth. She told us John's life story by way of introduction, then John spoke. Sadly, John Edwards tried to arouse people's emotions rather than deal with the complexity of our current national situation. I realized I'm too much of what Edwards calls a "corporate democrat" to support him. I'm a business professor and I know that we need global corporations to provide people goods and services in a populous world. Some managers make mistakes, but we stockowners are the global corporations.

I'll keep watching the Democrats. Don't think I can support Pastor Mike, the "oven Mitt", or Rudy. I've always been a Clinton fan and I'd like to see a serious woman candidate, but Hilary's campaign is horribly managed and staffed. Too many political cronies perhaps. The state newspaper endorsed Hilary and John McCain. McCain is a non-factor and Hilary is fading. "And so it goes."

In the next few weeks, I'll watch Obama and Biden. Political choices are hard and it may be the best we can find in 2008 is a caretaker President.

Posted December 16, 2007 8:10 AM
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I spend a very significant amount of time using the Internet, checking email, reading articles, working on my Web sites, participating in Video conferences and using Second Life. A major part of my life involves using the Internet. Do I have "internet dependency" or "cyber addiction"?

I'm not Anthony Chan, the Hong Kong Internet junkie. Supposedly "Anthony Chan betrays the tell-tale signs of his addiction: his skin is pallid and covered in spots, he sits nervously hunched, peering to correct his blighted vision and he has trouble communicating with friends and family. At just 16 he is emotionally fragile, physically ill and his future has been compromised by the addiction which has him in its grip. But when the lights are switched off he gets online, he could not care less about the problems it brings. His drug is the Internet and, when connected, it makes the lonely Hong Kong schoolboy feel on top of the world. (cf., http://www.caslon.com.au/addictionnote.htm)"

Kim Komando, USAToday columnist, cites the Center For Online Addiction's five distinct forms of cyber addiction:

1) "Cyber sexual", viewing, downloading and trading online pornography or involved in adult fantasy role-play chat rooms.

2) "Cyber-relational", becoming overly involved in online relationships or engaging in virtual adultery.

3) "Net gaming", obsessed with online gambling, game playing, shopping, auctions or stock trading.

4) "Information overload", reduced productivity when a person spends too much time searching, collecting and organizing information.

5) "Computer addiction", endlessly playing computer games or habitual tweaking of settings, file management and other administrative computer functions.

Managers using Web-based decision support can become addicted, e.g., excessively checking email, continually checking dashboards, searching for more documents or information about competitors, adding more hardware like a Blackberry to stay in-touch with email, and/or buying new gadgets just to have them.

Some symptoms include 1) an unwillingness to take a real vacation away from the Internet, 2) missing meetings or making excuses for being on the "net", 3) feeling agitated when not "connected".

I am a heavy user; I am trying to keep a balance. Professor John Suler, Rider University, suggests "using the Internet extensively is a problem when your face-to-face life becomes dissociated from your cyberlife. It's healthy when your face-to-face life is integrated with your cyberlife". I don't know what his observation means for managers who increasingly must rely on the Internet for their work and sometimes their recreation. We have much to think about as we continue to use Information Technology to support real world decision making.

If you see me on Second Life late at night, encourage me to go to bed. I'm probably dancing at Blue Fusion Jazz Club.


Suler, J. (2004). Computer and cyberspace addiction. International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 1, 359-362, URL http://www-usr.rider.edu/~suler/psycyber/cybaddict.html

Posted December 10, 2007 12:13 PM
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James Taylor, in the EDM blog, recently commented on "structured decision systems" (SDS). James mentioned Rob Meredith's blog post on the subject at Monash University. Rob's post is at http://monashbi.blogspot.com/2007/11/it-archaeology-whatever-happened-to-sds.html. You can read James's comments at http://www.edmblog.com/weblog/.

The bottom line is that we have been trying to use computers to apply rules for routine, structured decisions for more than 40 years. Enterprise Decision Management or EDM is another buzzword. I'm as guilty as James, I am promoting use of the phrase "decision automation" at DecisionAutomation.com.

The fact is that we can automate and routinize many more decision today than at anytime in the past 40 years and the needs for and cost benefits of decision automation, structured decision systems or enterprise decision management are driving adoption.

Posted December 4, 2007 8:05 AM
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