Polling Web 2.0's Presidential Debate Hubs

In the buildup to this election season’s presidential debates, we’ve seen a number of services launch that aim to enhance the viewers’ experience (and hopefully keep them informed). During tonight’s highly anticipated Vice Presidential debate we put a few of them in the test.

Twitter’s Election Homepage:
It sounds like a decent idea on paper: take every tweet about the candidates and stream them on a single, constantly updated site. Unfortunately, while it may be fun to look at for a few minutes, election.twitter.com is far too noisy to be worthwhile. There are no cohesive threads of arguments, and every quote that raises an eyebrow gets repeated ad nauseum. Verdict: Vetoed.

Hack The Debate:
A joint project from Al Gore’s Current TV and Twitter, Hack The Debate offers a video stream of the debate and overlays recent tweets at the bottom of the screen. The video is broadcast on both the cable channel and Current’s website (the site also includes a list of tweets, which are voted on by viewers to determine their popularity). Tweets that appeared during the debate ranged from irrelevant (but funny) to insightful. I could have done without the faded text that was supposed to describe common terms, but it wasn’t too distracting. Verdict: Approved. Nothing ground breaking, but it’s more fun to watch tweets at the bottom of your screen than meaningless “instapolls” on the news networks.

C-SPAN Debate Hub:
This cable network devoted to broadcasting sessions of Congress has put together a surprisingly well-done election hub. The site includes a frequently updated list of tweets and blog posts, along with a live video stream of the debate. There’s also a timeline that maps the arguments of both candidates, and offers transcripts and video footage of each clip. Verdict: Approved, and would also make an excellent resource after the fact.

MySpace MyDebates
MySpace’s MyDebates has been sanctioned by the Commission on Presidential Debates as its”Official Online Companion”. The site features a live video stream of the debate, archived clips categorized by issues discussed, and popup polls with near-instant results. For the most part it did its job well – overlays were unintrusive, and while the polls may not be meaningful, they help keep the viewer interested. Verdict: Approved, and also a valuable resource for learning about the issues.

RealScoop, which we covered last week, is supposed to automatically analyze audio characteristics of each candidate’s voice and determine if they’re being honest. It sounds cool, but it doesn’t seem to work – at least, not on politicians (perhaps they’re just too dishonest). Neutral statements are constantly tagged as “unbelievable”, and believability often switches sides mid-sentence. Verdict: Vetoed. A fun diversion, but not very useful.