If you’ve been to a conference over the last few years, you may have encountered a “back-channel”. A back-channel is simply an alternate communication channel that continues alongside the primary communications channel. For instance, there may be an IRC room where audience members can discuss a panel while the panel is going on.
For the upcoming Presidential and Vice-Presidential Debates, the channel Current is doing just that with Twitter in a project that they're calling Hack the Debate. In short, if you tweet during while you’re watching the debates, just include the tag “#current” and your tweet will be overlaid onto the broadcast (probably similar in look to subtitles or closed-captioning, but just with a lot more people contributing to the feed).
In this promo video, the Current team goes over how this might have worked if Twitter had been around for the Kennedy/Nixon debates:
I don’t know about you, but I think this sounds like it could be good fun. And while I might normally watch the debates on CNN or MSNBC, I think I’ll give Current a try. If you’d like to play along, here’s the schedule for the upcoming debates:
- First presidential debate:
- Friday, September 26
- University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS
- Vice presidential debate:
- Thursday, October 2
- Washington University in St. Louis, MO
- Second presidential debate:
- Tuesday, October 7
- Belmont University, Nashville, TN
- Third presidential debate:
- Wednesday, October 15
- Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
That news item from the Commission on Presidential Debates goes on to say that all debates will be 90 mins in length and will start at 9 p.m. Eastern / 8 p.m. Central / 6 p.m. Pacific. And, yeah, that first one — on Friday September 26 — is this Friday.