By Mark O’Neill
Unless you’ve been in deep hibernation for the past year, you’ll know that tonight is the Iowa caucuses which, as usual, is the first state to vote for the person who could potentially become the next President of the United States. Since my previous post concerned alternative uses for Google Talk, I thought I should also mention that you can use Twitter to get updates on the caucuses – and have the information delivered directly to you on Google Talk.
This is particularly useful if you want to follow the caucuses but at the same time, you are glued to your computer chair, unable to see the television (like me!). By relying instead on Twitter & Google Talk, you can get the results without all the mindless chatter and speculation that normally gets served up on the TV networks.
A blogger called Patrick Ruffini is holding an experiment to see if Twitter can do a better job of offering coverage of the caucuses than the traditional mainstream media. He is asking Iowa voters in the various voting districts to send in Twitter updates with their mobile phones with the prefix @IowaCaucus. This prefix will ensure that the Twitter messages get collected together and if you subscribe to the Twitter page with Google Talk then the results will come directly to you as they happen. Kind of a new twist on “breaking news”.
The downside of course is that the whole experiment hinges on Iowa voters making the effort to send SMS messages to Twitter and of course the accuracy of the information they provide cannot be verified. But nevertheless this is a very interesting experiment so I signed up to see if it works out or not. This could be citizen journalism at its finest!
If you’re interested, go to your Twitter settings and go to the “Phone & IM” tab. Enter your IM details and turn on the notifications.
Then go to the Iowa Caucuses Twitter page, click on “follow” and make sure that the “notifications” button is switched on.
All going well, you should now get the voting information as it comes in tonight and you won’t even have to leave your computer to do so!
If the experiment works out, will we be able to follow ALL the states on Twitter when they go to vote? How good a job can Twitter do compared to a traditional media outlet? It’ll be intriguing to find out.