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If you like your political news (and bile filled commentary) in easy to digest, 140 character long chunks, then you are living in the best of times.  Twitter, the micro-blogging site previously best known by techno-narcissists, has worked diligently to turn itself into a short-form digital square. The results are encouraging – two media companies we love, NPR and Current TV, have launched election oriented Twitter experiments that endeavor to harness the power of the masses to comment, fact-check and otherwise rate the political debates.

Twitter has been smart about this. In late September, Twitter announced that it created its own Election 2008 mashup, a central hub for all the popular political issues being discussed throughout the site.

From their blog:

"During the first presidential debate in Oxford, Mississippi and each subsequent debate leading up to and beyond election day, Twitter will be performing real-time algorithmic analysis on millions of unedited public reactions. These trending topics along with a live ticker of continuously fresh opinions are available now at"

The mashup is actually fun to watch (and perhaps a clue to a future Twitter monetization strategy?) Since its inception,  "hot political topic" tags have bubbled to the top in quasi-real time, mirroring the collective water cooler chitchat.  The usual memes: Obama, McCain, Tina Fey, Sarah Palin, ACORN, Ayers, etc – but also more interesting ones like "that one" – a reference to Senator McCain’s unfortunate debate jab at Senator Obama. Today, #Colin Powell got into the mix, as tweeters began discussing what appeared to be an inevitable Powell endorsement:


  • michaeleherman    Colin Powell is getting ready to endorse Obama.    3 minutes ago

  • roomerholmes Colin Powell's Obama endorsement will break John McCain's face like cleats, soccer cleats. 6 minutes ago

  • SoundSystemSDC Colin Powell to endorse Obama. In related news, Bush to receive 'Medal of Purity' from the Klan for deep 6ing Powell's presidential hopes. 6 minutes ago

Funny stuff.

One of my favorite media innovators, Current, has also embraced the tweets, allowing their viewers and fans to comment in real time, and perhaps end up on television. From their press materials:

"'Hack the Debate'" will, for the very first time, integrate real-time Twitter messages (or tweets) over major portions of a live television broadcast. As Twitter users tweet throughout the course of the live broadcasts, Current and Twitter will collect comments regarding the debate and layer the individual messages over the debate feed."

Check it out here. To get in on the action, use #current in your tweet to put it in the stream for TV.

NPR has also embraced the ultra short form, by asking their audience to send the URLs (primary sources only) to help with on the spot fact-checks, or register their response through a virtual "dial test" - that annoying focus group tool that CNN now uses to mesmerize their viewers and/or demonstrate that at any given time an entire gender doesn’t know how to work the controls.   For more on how to participate, head here.

I'm going to try to keep up with the twits with my own efforts to fact-check and entertain - follow me here. But for my money, no one thrills an audience like the Borscht Beltway commentator, Norm Crosby

Tweet on.