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BREAKING: PdF2008 Hosts Obama-McCain Twitter Debate

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, June 20 2008

We're pleased to announce a first for the Internet Election of 2008: Starting tonight, a designated representative of both of the major presidential campaigns are going to participate in a free-wheeling debate on technology and government, moderated by Time magazine blogger Ana Marie Cox and channeled via Twitter.

The McCain campaign will be represented by Liz Mair, the online communications director of the Republican National Committee. The Obama campaign will be represented by Mike Nelson, a professor at Georgetown University who served in the Clinton White House under Vice President Gore on tech policy issues. He is an outside advisor to Obama’s campaign on issues of technology, media and telecommunications

The debate is an initiative of Personal Democracy Forum and is being launched in tandem with next week's annual PdF conference, which is taking place Monday and Tuesday at Rose Hall in NYC.

We're taking an open approach to this debate, as befits the medium where it is taking place. Each day, Ana is going to tweet a question or two, and Liz and Mike will tweet their answers. There is no set limit on answers--we're letting Ana make the framework up as the debate evolves. Obviously, Mike and Liz will be working within Twitter's 140-character limit for individual tweets, but they can link out or post multiple tweets as part of their answer to a question. It will be up to Ana to determine when a topic is done, and also whether to pull in comments or queries from other Twitter users who are following along.

Mike, Liz and Ana will be using their personal Twitter accounts, @mikenelson, @lizmair and @anamariecox, and we've also asked them to tag their responses with the hashtag #pdfdebate. We suggest that readers who want to follow along use a Twitter application like to track the conversation.

We think this will be a nice, lightweight and innovative way to showcase how each presidential campaign thinks about issues around technology policy and government reform, and hopefully the format will be fun and engaging (it's hard to filibuster on Twitter, and Ana is not likely to take well to someone avoiding a question).

As for when will the debate end--the answer is we don't exactly know. We expect it to run at least through the end of the conference Tuesday, but the beauty of web services like Twitter is that they are very flexible, and thus if new issues arise and the participants are willing, we could keep this conversation going as long as it's useful!