Why I'm NOT live-tweeting the debate (a lesson in tweet management)

Why I'm NOT live-tweeting the debate (a lesson in tweet management)

Summary: Live-tweeting can be an incredibly rewarding experience for both the tweet-host and the audience, but it's not suited to all types of events. In this article, political sports fan David Gewirtz explains why following the action tonight is more important than keeping up a running commentary.


It's the most wonderful time of the year! It's the most wonderful time of the year! No, I'm not talking about the disturbingly early encroachment of trees in the middle of hardware stores and discount auto parts stores (and those other places people insist on shopping). Instead, it's the most wonderful time of the year because it's debate season.

Debate season is the best part of a presidential campaign and it only comes around once every four years. Sure, we watched all those Republican debates. I watched them all, didn't you? They were fun, 'n stuff, certainly (I sorely miss Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain). But they weren't the real deal.

Presidential debates can turn an election and give us catch phrases we'll remember for years. Who doesn't cherish "There you go again," or "You're no Jack Kennedy," or "I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience"?

Nixon effectively lost the race to Jack Kennedy during the debates. Ronald Reagan turned the tide of his election race with a strong debate performance. Debates make history.

Now, to be fair, my personal favorite debate is the Vice Presidential debate, especially any that has Joe Biden in a starring role. So, while we'll never ever again have the joy that was Joe Biden vs. Sarah Palin, I'm still very much looking forward to next week's Grandpa vs. Beanpole extravaganza.

This brings us to the subject of our discussion -- live tweeting. My last foray into the world of live tweeting was in January, where I live-tweeted one of the primaries, and the State of the Union address, in an epic event called Tweet of the Union.

See Also: Live-tweeting a political event: what worked, and what didn't

As it turned out, it's difficult to live tweet and follow the action closely. While election returns are almost made for live tweeting, because there's a short flurry of action followed by an hour of filler, the State of the Union -- and even more especially -- the debates, are something you need to pay rapt attention to.

The only way to follow everything -- and also tweet everything -- is to Tivo the event, pause it to tweet and read tweets, and then start it back up to watch. This results in a time-slippage, where eventually the tweets follow the event. Because I was also responding to everyone and retweeting many of you, the time slip got so bad that I was eventually 45-minutes to an hour behind the actual live event towards the end of the night.

So, that's why I'm not going to live-tweet the debate. It's something that needs to be watched live, and needs to be watched with great care, especially since I'm hoping one of these debates is what finally helps me decide which candidate will be worse for America and which is the lesser of the two evils, the one I'll have to vote for.

So, tune in tonight at 8pm. CBS News will be covering the event from end-to-end.

During the debate, feel free to tweet me at @DavidGewirtz and let me know what you think the best lines of the debate were. Also, after the debate is over, let me know who you think won, and why.

ZDNet Government's coverage of Election 2012:


Topics: Government US, Government


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Why I'm not watching the debate

    We already know what they're going to say and it won't be a serious discussion. It will be one-liners, jabs and posturing. Waste of time.
  • too much multi-tasking

    I find it hard enough to concentrate on a debate let alone tweets as well!
    • Pizza and popcorn

      Great debate food. I found chips and guac lands too early, but a good pizza, some wife-made iced tea, and the possibility of either popcorn or chocolate makes truly excellent debate food.

      It's like a tailgate party without the embarrassing belly-paint.
      David Gewirtz
      • Junk food and junk TV

        A win win combination :)
  • Siri could live tweet for you.

    Seriously, David, does Siri understand your voice well enough to assist in a "live tweet session". Just curious.
    • I tried that...

      That's actually what I did for the primary and the State of the Union. I wrote about it in the results article linked above. As much as I thought it wouldn't slow me down, it did. First, I had to pause to use Siri or it got confused by the TV sounds. Second, to pay attention to the other tweeters, time slipped as well. It is a good idea and worked far better than I expected, but for election returns it'd be great -- for a debate, you still need to pay attention to the action.
      David Gewirtz
  • Every time some pundit takes jab at Sarah

    Palin's intelligence while Joe Biden and "57 states" Barak Obama are staring them in the face, I always get a good chuckle because I know exactly where they stand on the I.Q. scale.
    • I like Ms. Palin

      I think she's done great things with the opportunities she's been handed. And you have to respect someone who goes from small town manager to gov of Alaska. That's quite something.

      But I didn't want her to be president. I also not thrilled with the idea of Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney as president, but that's apparently not my choice.

      And, you have to admit, from a pure entertainment point of view, Sarah Palin's about as much fun as you're going to get. Think about it. Who would you tune in to see: Joe Lieberman or Sarah Palin? Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin? Palin each time. But, Joe Biden -- he's the media gift that keeps on giving, so Joe Biden AND Sarah Palin? Pure gold.
      David Gewirtz
      • Mrs Palin

        Calling her "Ms" is an insult. She's been married to Todd Palin for over 25 years. She's not an unmarried promiscuous chick that goes by "Ms".