Top real-time commentary tools: Hacking US election debates

As Sarah and John enter their VP bout of phrases (this Friday, SBS 11am), I collected some examples of online politics with real-time communication. Big events like the US elections or the Super Bowl always raise the bar or set a deadline for which many companies, publishers and advertisers develop new tools. People at the same time are very receptive for changes in the way they consume and interact with media. 

mage by Laughing Squid

image by Laughing Squid


  1. Current.TV is teaming up with Twitter to “hack the debates”, similar to the worm on Australian politics it shows a real-time emotional response. But no point in trying to ban this one as in effect it goes further, by fusing IP-TV with social media commentary. There is a teaser video here. If you are in need of rubbing shoulders with Al G., gatecrash the next live event at their office. While I find the flurry of comments too fast and either inter-related or too random to follow, the political version of Twitter is an interesting stream of semi-private and semi-public polling / chat / discussion / activism.
  2. Twitter is running its solo stream of commentary which social media people like Owyang plug into with a “#tweetdebate” (analyzed by him here).
  3. If the questions themselves are irksome to you, lobby and campaign for your own through a tool like Google moderator and make your version bubble to the top,  Town Hall-style and in a similar vein to the YouTube question night
  4. The overlay of social commentary on video is still sort of new-ish, here a funny example in politics of an Obama speech video on TubePopper. Somebody give me the real time version of this (only witty people allowed to use it please!)
  5. More extensive is Their player allows users to insert html, images, comments, dynamic feeds and even  widgets into a stream of video (demo video here).
  6. MSNBC Politics uses the debates to (post-event) split the (from a visual stand point) formulaic format. The resulting smallest components are then made searchable. An automated semantic understanding of that video material in real-time would be the next step (2012: Sarah Palin vs. Hillary Clinton).
  7. Now combine this ongoing stream of mere opinions with something more factual like Google’s InQuotes and CNN’s usual deep data analysis. They already blew me away in 2004, so that night should be a visual feast for data nerds

Voila, any user can turn into a qualified commentator, covering any complex debate like a pro — If they can keep hold of the “nuggets of meaning” in this vast amount of input. Connected with immediate polling it all gives a pretty exciting (or hectic, depending on your point of view) analysis at what matters to people and who scores in politics. What jolly good clairvoyance shown by Monthy Python in their Election Night Special. 

And obviously all this generates more than direct political commentary. The amount of data, some of it even geo-location specific (entered via mobile or membership sites), gives an insight into who might be more susceptible to “green car”, “home alarm” or “cheap childcare” advertising. I guess it is not what most people who enter their comments are even aware of.


2 responses to “Top real-time commentary tools: Hacking US election debates

  1. Exciting. In 2045 we will do the same over here.

  2. Gerald, Ms Merkel might seem a bit dull at times but I am sure she’s got some data diggers in her pack who cannot wait to mine through public opinions.

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