Sept. 23, 2008

Twitter Back-Channel for the Presidential Debates on Current

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.

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