Twitter and the Debate

Tonight’s presidential debate between McCain and Obama began about 50 minutes ago. Steph and I don’t have cable TV, and our reception is pretty bad out here, so I haven’t been watching the actual debate itself on TV. (If you’re curious, we get all our TV from various reputable locations the Net.) I have, however, been watching the comments going by on Twitter’s Election 2008 site.

If you go there outside the debate, you’ll of course see all the random things people are saying about the candidates, the election, and other buzzwords surrounding their campaigns. But visiting the site during the debate itself is an interesting and unique experience. Being able to watch people’s reactions live (or nearly-live, perhaps delayed by a minute or two) is a fascinating, unfiltered look into what Americans are thinking as the event happens moment by moment. All the funny lines, all the stutters, and a lot of overflowing love and disagreement are tangled up in the stream as you watch it go past. It’s beautiful.

It felt like a pretty important moment at the intersection of politics, technology, and public discourse, so I recorded a movie of it scrolling by on my screen about 20 minutes after the debates started, just to give a sense of what it was like. It’s just under four minutes long. Note that the language and emotions are unfiltered, as I have already said, and with that in mind, check it out.