Election Twitter: Nice try, but…

by Mathew on September 26, 2008 · 12 comments

People have been talking for some time now about things that Twitter could be doing to add value to the service (apart from just managing to keep the servers up for more than a day or two at a time, which they appear to have accomplished), including mini-hubs about topics that are of intense interest among the Twitterati. The newly-launched U.S. election site is just such a beast, and while it’s a nice effort, there is so much that Twitter could — and should — be doing with it that it’s almost more of an advertisement for what they aren’t doing than for what they are.

The page’s main feature is a scrolling view of Twitter posts that include the names of the candidates, updated more or less in real time. At first, it’s very cool — much like Digg Spy, which shows you things that are being dugg. But it eventually becomes almost hypnotic, to the point where you lose track of what the actual messages are saying. You can pause the scrolling by moving your mouse over the feed, which wasn’t clear until someone pointed it out (on Twitter, of course) and you can click one of the keywords at the top of the page to see a subset of messages with that word, and you can filter the messages by candidate. But that’s about it.

I was hoping for some added intelligence or filtering. What about some trend graphs that show the rise or fall of certain keywords over time? What about a table or a tag cloud showing the most-used keywords for each candidate — like McCain and old, or Palin and dumb, or something like that? I guess we’re just supposed to be amazed that Twitter can produce a scrolling list of messages with certain keywords. The only problem with that, of course, is that others such as Twistori have been doing something similar for months now (and now the site has also launched this).

Twitter founder Biz Stone even mentions some other tools that are far more interesting in his launch post, including Politweets and Perspectv. I’m with Josh Catone at Sitepoint, who says that “it feels like Twitter took the easy way out, when they could have done something really special.” (maybe something like this)

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  • http://www.drumsnwhistles.com/ Karoli

    All Twitter has to do is stop being paternalistic and give power back to the people; e.g. restore track and IM services. Let us figure out how to make it interesting to us.

  • RachelNixon

    It's good to see Twitter taking this step though I, too, would have liked to see some added functionality.

    Here at NowPublic we're able to track a variety of microblogs using our Scan tool. This allows you not only to monitor posts on a story in the news but to recommend interesting posts, track keyword trends over time, see where people are posting from, and find popular links. Readers might be interested to see what microbloggers are saying right now about the Obama-McCain debate.

  • http://adamvarga.com Adam Varga

    I thought the conversation twitter's election microsite is unfocused. But, I've yet to use it while a debating is going on. I think it becomes much more valuable is the conversation is focusing around an event happening in realtime.

  • Tom Poe

    How would you like to see what's happening on November 4th at your precinct? Would you like to check if there's a line, trouble with machines, maybe catch the moment to moment chaos as vote counts are manipulated? Combine Twitter with youtube updates to catch all the action of our national elections being trashed by corrupt officials. Twitter promises to let us all participate in “getting the news” directly, without corporate media filtering, censoring what we see, hear, and read. Had Obama been truly ahead of the curve, we'd all be able to focus on events at the polls around the country. He didn't, and won't, as there is this little matter of how to deal with time zones and not influencing the voters on the west coast when they learn the election is being rigged on the east coast as Twitter reports start flooding in.

  • http://www.koolaidantidote.com Tom Kaserski

    Our agency also built a site that aggregates tweets about the candidates. http://www.tweet08.com/

  • http://hypnotizesomeoneforbeginners.blogspot.com/ Richard The Hypnotist

    Twitter is revolutionary indeed. But there are some things that have to be replaced and in our opinion this is coming pretty soon!

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