Recap on the Tweetdebate experiment

tweetdebateA graph indicating the frequency of the term “#tweetdebate”

Last night’s debate was truly an interactive experience for all. Although I setup some guidelines to score the candidates, things quickly took on a life of their own as the group formerly known as the audience assigned their own scoring –and the #tweetdebate tag was used for a variety of observations. Current TV overlayed tweets live on their TV station (see these pics of Al Gore) which I found interesting at first –then extremely distracting as the letters floating near the chins of the candidates and I eventually switched back to CNN.

The Tweetdebate game morphed and evolved to something far bigger and greater than I intended, and although the graph above shows a real spike in activity, it’s truly organic in how it was used. I think for the next three debates we can continue to use the tag, but I won’t be doing anything as formal.

We should expect to see advanced sentiment monitoring tools by the next election that will track opinions, tone, and attitudes in real time from microblogging, social networks, and whatever comes next.

The bottom line? TV is no longer a lonely experience –anyone with a cell phone or internet connection can now participate and those that listen can benefit from learning, adapting, and in some cases, appeasing.

(…and yes, if you’re not from the United States, we’re an interesting culture)

  • I thoroughly enjoyed the experiement, although I forgot to pause cross-posting to Facebook so my FB friends all complained the next morning.

    Interesting to see the creative and organic misuse of various tags.

    It was very difficult to follow tweets and user-specified auto-refresh is an absolute must.

    Another idea, auto-complete hash tags. I use Twhirl and it was a pain to keep typing them in. Cut and paste is ok but spell-check and auto-complete would be excellent.

    I met so many people during the debate, what a great way to learn about other perspectives. Can’t wait for Thursday.

  • Thanks for participating at least Dave.

  • Tom

    When AOLTV launched back in 2000 (supported instant messaging and custom tickers on TV over dial-up), many of us thought telewebbing would become part of mainstream broadcast media within a few years. We were wrong.

    Pervasive broadband and (largely anonymous) micro-blogging has renewed interested in interactive tv programming options but most of the innovation involves online video. Broadband certainly overcomes many of the technical limitations that faced AOLTV at launch in 2000.

    I remain skeptical that materially large numbers of television households are ready to adopt a lean forward approach to their television viewing. The CNN debate focus groups displayed as a live reaction graph on TV approach was a traditional passive mainstream media experience for the audience and required post-debate analysis to establish sentiment and context.

    And TV watching isn’t a “lonely” experience, especially when watching sports or a presidential debate. Typically, Americans watch major events on TV with family and friends. Watching TV with online Twitter friends may make those of us who can filter the Tweetnoise feel more connected. My guess is that the majority of mainstream TV viewing audiences would not find TwitTV or its variants compelling.

    When we see advertisers and broadcast TV talent embracing interactive TV, we’ll know that mainstream TV audience behavior has shifted. (Why didn’t the CNN focus groups continue to vote on the analyst comments and (sometimes relevant/sometimes totally irrelevant to the debate) advertisements featured during post-debate banter?)

  • I have to agree with Tom, here. I think interactive TV as it has traditionally been defined is a solution in search of a problem. Many people don’t want to participate in their television viewing, especially if it means they have to type, perhaps they are tired and want to relax, some of the time at least. Texting–I mean tweeting–for a national event like this just doesn’t scale; there is a fine line between enough participation that so that it can be called a success, and so much participation that it all becomes noise. There’s a reason they don’t give every audience member a microphone at any event–try having a conversation with 10s of thousands of people.

    Now, if you could elect to opt into n degrees of separation with your facebook network, as a way of creating your own zone, that might have a chance, assuming people want to participate with what they are viewing. Even with this kind of zoning, there will still be issues with partial conversation visibility as someone in your network converses with someone outside. It shouldn’t be any different than being there in person, except the people around you physically at the actual event are now virtually surrounding you. Of course there will be times when you want to engage with strangers with similar or different ideas, but I don’t believe that capability is sufficient to draw the masses.

    For interactive TV to take off, it will need to first succeed with smaller social networks (and not just technophile networks, I’m talking about regular people), and then branch out to larger ones. My guess is that it will be a set-top box in conjunction with standard television that first breaks this market open, as it is still too much to expect people to watch television on their computer or while seated at it.

    Maybe facebook should make a DVR.

  • Interesting suggestion Brian. Localized, or contextual content on the TV based off social context.

    You do know that Comcast recently purchased the social network aggregator Plaxo right?

  • Interesting concept and it certainly got a lot of Retweets on Twitter. I wonder if it was made unnecessarily complicated by relying on Twitter.

    For example the act of typing out a score and comment actually prevented many from paying attention. I occasionally witness this with friends who live tweet conference panels too.

    I’m wondering if a platform like ABC, CNN or NPR’s Web site could build a simpler check box/button system for scoring debate questions and interplay between candidates.

    Thoughts?

    Still, thanks for energizing people to actively listen and post thoughts – admirable in a social Web that often gets a little too insular.

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  • boingboing has more on the debate tweets.
    http://www.boingboing.net/2008/09/29/presidential-debate-1.html

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