You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Iowa Twitter Success

BY Patrick Ruffini | Friday, January 4 2008

When I first floated the idea of collecting Iowa Caucus results through the microblogging social network Twitter, I wasn't sure what to expect. Iowa is a small state, and not particularly known for tech-savviness. Would I find anyone willing to whip out their phone in the middle of a caucus and text in the results?

Thanks to @podcastmama, @jakebouma, @chrisken, @kevin_s, @yogagirl, @heatherbrie, TechPresident's very own @mbassik, @rwclark, @stuartma, @timmytims, @scottatdrake, @LostAirman, @nathantwright, @chanzi, @mrswhitsitt, and more, we now know the answer.

And it wasn't just noise either. Very shortly after 7 p.m. central time, all the reports were pointing in a single direction: a big night for Barack Obama. This led me to post at 7:20 p.m. that the trendlines were for Obama, long before the media caught on. Though I figured most of these tweets came from urban and university precincts, the 2- and 3-to-1 advantages I was seeing consistently were clearly enough to overcome even a mighty Clinton and Edwards surge in more rural parts of the state. To see how the evening unfolded, check out our 70+ updates right here.

From a partisan perspective, I do wish we'd had more than three or four Republicans in this bunch, though I did know that the Democrats -- with their multiple rounds of voting -- would provide for more interesting coverage. Even more people participated via email and text messages -- showing the ease with which one could implement an open, lightweight, distributed election day reporting system as a refresh to the closed, bulky, proprietary systems operated by the parties.

So I'm calling this experiment an unqualified success. This exercise in citizen journalism foretold the result far more quickly than dispatching two dozen stringers to caucus locations throughout Iowa. Post-macaca, predictions abounded of citizens armed with camera phones bringing us live coverage of everything. It hasn't happened... yet... but we saw a glimpse of the future tonight in Iowa. Perhaps the era of blogs and YouTube is giving way to the age of Twitter and UStream (sorry, can't help it... disclosure).