Election Night Musings: The Double High-Tech Loss Of Whitman And Fiorina

Written by Evan Schuman
November 4th, 2010

As tech observers, it’s certainly fun to have high-tech luminaries running for major government positions. This year’s California races had two. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman was seeking the governorship and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina was going for the U.S. Senate. Although both candidates lost on Tuesday (Nov. 2), the races had special nerd appeal.

For example, Whitman was quoted as telling The New York Times: “I led a community at eBay that, you know, was 80 million unique visitors a month strong, and so I think I understand what California needs to turn itself around.” This statement isn’t political. It’s quintessential Silicon Valley. When was the last time a Washington insider made an argument by rattling off a unique visitor stat?

This was an exec taking an obscure Web analytics stat and interpreting it to mean whatever she wanted it to mean. Whitman might indeed have an encyclopedic understanding of what California needs to turn itself around. But how did she draw that conclusion from a unique visitor number at eBay? Does such knowledge kick in at 70 million unique visitors? Perhaps the number of pageviews manifests itself as environmental knowledge?

Here is what typical E-tail line-of-business managers do with Web stats every day: “The percentage of site visitors coming from Macs and abandoning the homepage within 4 seconds has increased 11 percent since last Tuesday, which clearly means we need to order more argyle socks and fewer HDTVs.” By the way, such a comment will likely come from the manager who, coincidentally, has been pushing for more argyle socks and fewer HDTVs for the last month.

Fiorina would have been more interesting in the Senate, where she alone in that chamber would understand the realities of multinational cyberattacks.

In eBay speak, you have to wonder if Whitman received one of those classic eBay E-mails on Election Night: “We’re sorry you didn’t win this time around. While this one got away, there’s other stuff to find. Don’t give up.” (For those of you who don’t use eBay, that’s the automated E-mail sent to people who lose a product they’re bidding on.)


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