How Blist Got Involved with Obama—the Inside Story

1/6/09Follow @gthuang

A Seattle startup is playing an important role in helping President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team get organized. As of yesterday, the Obama-Biden Transition Project has been using technology from Blist (pronounced as one syllable, and spelled with a lowercase “b” by its employees) to power its Change.gov website. The company’s software lets people create, manage, and publish large, interactive lists and databases—similar to working with a simple spreadsheet, but shareable across the Web.

It’s all part of Obama’s pledge to run an open and transparent White House transition, in part by releasing the names of all its donors on a monthly basis. In his company blog, Blist’s founder and CEO Kevin Merritt says he is “really excited” about the exposure and about what his software can do for Obama’s team. “They are using blist in a simple but useful way,” he says.

Go to the Change.gov site, and you’ll see a Blist widget replacing the plain HTML table of the past two months. The widget lets you sort the donor table by column, such as by city or amount. It also lets you search for things like names and employers. (Out of 53,853 donors, I counted 43 from Microsoft versus two from Amazon, for instance.)

This afternoon, I heard from Jon Byrum, Blist’s senior product manager, about how the collaboration with Obama’s team originally came about, and what it means to Blist. “Last Wednesday—on New Year’s Eve—a member from the Change.gov New Media team contacted us about using a blist Widget to post the Obama campaign donor list,” said Byrum in an e-mail. “He let us know that he was planning to post a press release and web page on January 5th, and wanted to ensure that our servers would be able to handle the load. When we asked how he got started with blist, he said the Change.gov team found us through Google … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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