Monday, June 23, 2008

R U ready 4 Twitter prez D-bates?

On Friday, the Personal Democracy Forum (PdF) began an ongoing debate between McCain and Obama representatives on Twitter, moderated by prominent blogger Ana Marie Cox.

Representing Sen. John McCain is Online Communications Director for the Republican National Committee Liz Mair, and Georgetown professor and Technology, Media and Telecom advisor to the Obama campaign Mike Nelson (no relation to Michael J. Nelson from MST3K...although that might have been cool).

Questions and answers were limited to the standard 140 characters allowed per tweet, but the number of tweets is unlimited, and the debate has no scheduled cutoff time or date.

While informality and brevity are two major tenets of this debate, advocates of the Queen's English are highly advised to steer clear of the transcripts. The candidates are frequently referred to simply as "JSM" and "O," and points from otherwise educated people read like rushed text messages : "Are u saying Obama supports dereg of any kind? Can't find pledge to deregulate anything on his site. Pls point out."

Tweets are tagged with #pdfdebate and can be followed point-by-point through Twitter applications such as, which render each feed into a single thread, resembling something of an IM conversation.

Since the Twitter debate is open-ended, the intent doesn't seem to be to determine any sort of winner, but rather to exchange ideas and field user-generated questions with quick, direct answers.

Founder of the PdF, Andrew Rasiej, summarized the purpose of his group with a rhetorical question in a radio interview today: "If the framers of our Constitution had the Internet at their disposal in 1787, how would they have redesigned the Constitution knowing the power of this communications tool?"

The group's site acts as a sort of clearinghouse for Web 2.0 campaign-related information, including charts of which candidate has the most MySpace and Facebook friends, who has the most YouTube channel views and subscribers, blog tracking and linking, as well as user-generated campaign trail photo feeds.

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