There are number of tools that go into the production of Unlikely Voter now and going forward. In the interests of allowing skeptical observers the ability to try to reproduce my work, I will share them with you. Not that I’m going to give away the store, but I’m ready to give strong and clear hints.
At a low level, the website is running on FreeBSD, Lighttpd, and WordPress. I’m traditionally the kind of person who builds my own websites, but having used WordPress enough professionally (and at RedState), it’s grown on me. I’m good enough with it to make it do what I want, so I can get by comfortably.
I use a few tools when putting together or modifying graphics for the site. My camera (used for a few images in this post) is a Canon PowerShot SX110 IS. Software-wise I use Inkscape and Gimp for image processing and editing. Ordinary charts I use Gnuplot and OpenOffice to come up with.
I have a Wacom tablet I use with some of the above. It’s not fancy, and I’m certainly no artist, but it’s handy and definitely allows me to do some graphics work more quickly than I otherwise could do otherwise. A pen is just a natural interface.
All of these tools, all the writing and the graphics work, are all running on an iMac. Dual core, upgraded to 4GB RAM, 20″ screen. It’s a lot of computer in a pretty package. I’m even using it in a dual-headed setup.
The one exception is if I happen to be out and about, in which case I’ll be coming to you from my Blackberry Bold. I resisted getting a cellular device for a long time, but eventually had to get one to uphold a contractual obligation to be accessible in the event I’m out all day. Since I got it though I’ve grown hooked on the convenience and amazing power of having the Internet with me.
And now we get to the meat. I actually run my modeling using custom written software. Using Xcode and Cocoa I’ve written a Mac-based application called PollPlot that takes the raw inputs and spits out my final numbers and pretty pictures. PollPlot (named in such a boring way because it pre-dated both the choice of site domain and idea to have a site mascot) does leverage GnuPlot to do some of the math, and WebKit to turn the raw vector graphics into web graphics (overlaid with Lord Pollington, naturally).
Currently PollPlot only does individual poll analyses, but that’s only because I haven’t gotten around yet to writing the rest. By the fall though it will be adding up separate polls to come up with “averages” as well as modeling nationwide elections to produce the red/blue state maps we’re all used to seeing.
I don’t plan to release PollPlot to the public, but will not rule out the possibility.
Last, but not least, are the beverages that make PollPlot tick. I could never have launched without 5 Hour Energy, having burned through about 15 of them in the process. Day to day though I highly recommend Throwback Pepsi for the nostalgic, enjoyable taste.