Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Debates 2.0

Can we use interactive real-time media to make the political process more engaging and accountable? In particular, can we make candidate debates and live town halls into something more than a joint TV appearance for the regurgitation of sound-bites and talking points? Since 2007, we've had more than a detached interest in this topic, launching our own interactive platform for crowdsourcing questions called 10Questions.com. We've worked with partners like the Knight Foundation, the Omidyar Network and Yahoo! News and Finance to try to inject some new ideas into the process. And we've kept a close eye on all kinds of interesting and not-so-interesting partnerships between conventional media organizations and digital platforms. Join the conversation here.

NYC Debates Hosts Are Crowdsourcing Questions

BY Miranda Neubauer | Monday, August 12 2013

Sponsors of tonight's official debate between New York City Comptroller Candidates candidates, former Governor Eliot Spitzer and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, are encouraging voters to use Google Moderator to submit and vote on questions for the candidates. The hosts are also seeking Google Moderator questions for the August 21 Democratic mayoral debate. Read More

[Backchannel] Why Seattle's 'Debate 2.0' Never Happened

BY Diane Douglas | Thursday, March 7 2013

In this post for Backchannel, our ongoing series of contributions from practitioners and close observers at the intersection of technology and politics, Seattle's Diane Douglas goes behind the scenes to explain why last year's effort by civic activists to reinvent Washington state's gubernatorial debates came crashing to the ground. Read More

Who Controls the Presidential Debates? Journalists or the Campaigns?

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, October 15 2012

Photo: Don Relyea / Flickr

CNN's Candy Crowley, the moderator of the second presidential debate, which is structured like a "town-hall" meeting, has been saying publicly that she is looking forward to asking follow-ups of the candidates after they respond to questions from the audience, but both campaigns are reportedly pressing the debate commission to keep her from doing so, per their secret agreement governing the debates. Last week, in the course of an interview about how the commission was (or wasn't) making use of the internet's two-way nature, commission co-chair Mike McCurry told techPresident that Crowley would have "full editorial control" including the latitude to include her own follow-up queries. Now, with some details of the actual agreement between the campaigns coming out, he takes that back. Which leaves us asking: who really is in control here, journalists or the campaigns? Read More

How People in Brooklyn "Dual-Screened" the Vice Presidential Debate

BY Nick Judd | Friday, October 12 2012

Someone threw tomatoes at Joe Biden last night. The ruby fruit wasn't real — it was a digital missile lobbed through Tomatovision, an extracurricular project by a team from Huffington Post Labs. Over two weekends, the crew built a website to host a live video stream of the debate, along with the option to launch up to three virtual tomatoes in response to any line the viewer dislikes. A mobile application and mobile website offer the chance to control the tomatoes remotely while watching a bigger screen. Whenever any user, anywhere, threw a tomato, everyone tuned in to tomatovision.com saw it land — creating, in a goofy way, a new community around the debate for the small contingent of mostly younger people who are experiencing these events across two screens. Read More

Online, Next Presidential Debate Will Feature a Moderator that Wasn't

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, October 11 2012

If you've submitted a question to the Commission on Presidential Debates via the Google Moderator website for the October 16, don't be surprised when nothing happens. Here's the inside scoop on the latest bit of political vaporware to come from the mysterious place where national political organizations, the media and tech company marketing divisions meet. Read More

Presidential Debates Commission Hasn't Used the Web Well, Co-Chair Admits

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, October 8 2012

While an estimated 67 million Americans watched the first Obama-Romney presidential debate last week, so far just 2,790 people have bothered to share their views about the top issues facing the country on the online platform that the Commission on Presidential Debates built to enable members of the public to "share their voice." That is to say, "The Voice Of…" internet initiative touted by the CPD as providing "unprecedented access for citizens to participate in [the national] conversation," with the support of AOL, Google and Yahoo!, is essentially a dud. And Mike McCurry, one of the commission's two national co-chairs and a former press secretary to President Clinton, knows it.

"We have a lot more work to do," he told me this morning in an interview. Read More

Yahoo! Unveils Interactive "The Voice Of..." Debate Dashboard

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, October 2 2012

Screenshot of "The Voice Of..." landing page on Yahoo!

Finally, a day before the first presidential debate, Yahoo! has pulled back the curtain on the Commission on Presidential Debates' "The Voice Of…" online dashboard. It's fun to play with, but scarcely a meaningful way to actually share your voice. Read More

[Editorial] Presidential Debates Commission Keeps the Internet Bottled Up

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, October 1 2012

Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon during the first televised U.S. presidential debate in 1960.

The American presidential debates are one of the last great institutions of the era of broadcast politics, and arguably the one that has changed the least since the rise of the Internet, despite public demands for greater participation and transparency. With the first head-to-head appearance of President Obama and Governor Romney coming this Wednesday night in Denver, the web is gearing up to join in the conversation. Unfortunately, despite some nice words come out of the Commission on Presidential Debates and the announcement of a "new digital coalition" with AOL, Google and Yahoo! participating, there's no sign that the debates are going to change one iota from their traditional form. Read More

In Virginia, City Council Debates to Include Questions Posed Online

BY Miranda Neubauer | Monday, May 21 2012

The Alexandria Democratic Party in Alexandria, Virginia has partnered with online civic engagement platform ACTion Alexandria to include questions solicited in an online forum in the final Democratic primary debate for a City Council election there on June 4, ahead of the June 12 election, according to a statement released by the group. ACTion Alexandria hopes to work with both parties during the general election.

Participants in the project can add questions to the forum, or vote on questions that have already been posed, although each user is only given three votes to distribute. Users are also encouraged to use their real names. Questions submitted so far hit on topics ranging from broadband access to a ban on food trucks in the city.

Read More

Twitter Offers Some #Answers on Who #Dodged Debate Questions in S. Carolina

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, January 17 2012

Mitt Romney's Not So Artful #Dodging

Last night's Fox News debate in South Carolina was another made-for-TV circus, and not surprisingly, Fox failed to do anything remotely meaningful with the Twitter data. But Twitter itself took the time to analyze and report on the real-time flow. Late last night, the company blog posted some interesting visualizations that demonstrate that it is possible to tease some signal from all the noise. Read More

Facebook, Yahoo NH Debate Roles Leave Us Wanting More

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, January 11 2012

Before they fade further into the past, a quick note on last weekend's back-to-back presidential debates in New Hampshire and the role of online platforms therein. In case you've forgotten, I'm talking about the ABC News/Yahoo event Saturday night and the NBC/Facebook event Sunday morning. And neither made a dent, when it comes to using interactive media to involve the public in the debates. Read More

Fox News' #Dodge #Answer Feedback Loop Flops In #IowaDebate

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, December 15 2011

The idea of inviting people to use tags like #dodge and #answer is a good one, and maybe if someone (Twitter?) runs the data afterwards they'll be able to tell us what the viewers were saying about particular responses by particular candidates. But in real-time, as displayed by Fox online, this information isn't usable. Read More

Letting the Audience Talk Back to the Candidates: What You Missed At Last Saturday's Presidential Debate [UPDATED]

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, December 15 2011

As you settle in to watch tonight's episode of "Survivor: Republican Presidential Candidate Edition," which will be airing on Fox News at 9pm with the quaint-sounding title, "Iowa Debate," it's worth taking a look at one feature of last Saturday's episode of the series that didn't get much attention. That program, which was aired on ABC News, included an interactive real-time feedback feature produced by Yahoo News that -- for the first time, ever -- not only invited viewers to respond to the show while it was underway, but managed to push a smidgen of that audience feedback back into the live program, where it potentially could have influenced the conversation. That is, the people who used to be called the audience were actually given a chance to talk back to a television show, by the show itself. Read More

Fox News/Google Team Up for GOP Debate; Also, Paint Dries on Walls

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, September 21 2011

Tomorrow, Thursday September 22nd, the internet will play a supporting role in the latest Republican presidential "debate," as Fox News's reporters will be asking some questions submitted by the public via YouTube. As ... Read More

Presidential Debates 2.0: It's Not Too Late to Open Up the Process

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, September 14 2011

Next week, on September 22nd, Fox News is teaming up with Google/YouTube to present a different kind of presidential debate. Or is it? Read More

A Tweet Experiment for All Involved: My First Hand Account of the White House Twitter Town Hall & Tweetup

BY Becky Kazansky | Thursday, July 7 2011

President Barack Obama and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey during a Twitter-hosted, town hall-style event Wednesday. Photo: Becky Kazansky / techPresident Yesterday I was at the White House to participate in the first ... Read More

"Ask the President" Launches; Let the Public Pick Questions for Obama

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, March 19 2009

On the first full day of his presidency, Barack Obama issued an executive memo calling on the government to become more transparent, participatory and collaborative. He wrote: Read More

In Search of A Feedback Loop: Grading the MySpace/MTV Candidate Dialogue

BY Michael Connery | Thursday, September 27 2007

After a few technical glitches, the MTV/MySpace candidate dialogue series kicked off today, streamed live from the University of New Hampshire, where Sentator John Edwards was grilled by college students, and held ... Read More

SEND TIPS>

Got Tips, leads, or suggestions for tech President? Email tips@personal-democracy.com

WEEKLY DIGESTS>

Sign up to receive weekly debriefings from techPresident.

News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

First POST: Hot Spots

How Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is making inroads in China; labor protests among Uber drivers spread to more cities; new data about the prevalence of online harassment; and much, much more. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Reminders

Why the RNC hasn't managed to reboot how Republican campaigns use voter data; new ways of using phone banking to get out the vote; how the UK's digital director is still ahead of the e-govt curve; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Patient Zero

Monica Lewinsky emerges with a mission to fight cyber-bullying; Marc Andreessen explains his political philosophy; tech donors to MayDay PAC get pushback from Congressional incumbents; and much, much more. GO

monday >

First POST: Front Pagers

How Facebook's trending topics feed is wrecking political news; debating the FBI's need for an encrypted phone "backdoor"; democratizing crisis data; and much, much more. GO

friday >

First POST: Tracking

Questions about whether Whisper is secretly tracking its users' secrets; the FBI's continued push against the new wave of encrypted phones; community service, high-tech-mogul-style; and much, much more. GO

More