Thousands of people are directing their tweets to President Obama and adding the #ask tag, in the hopes that the President will answer them on a live special airing today on BET, CMT and MTV. “A Conversation with Barack Obama” also features a Town Hall Twitter Tracker, a real-time interface that will show the tweets both online and on-air, created by data visualization company Stamen.
The system was tested during this year’s MTV Music Awards (here’s more on how it works). But adapting it for a Presidential town hall required a few security measures, says Stamen founder and creative director Eric Rodenbeck, whose team is actively updating and improving the site in a trailer outside BET’s D.C. studios. “The main difference is we’ve had to vacate the trailer for a couple of hours while the Secret Service does a sweep and makes sure the area is clean,” says Rodenbeck.
Since Monday, more than 92,000 tweets have been logged in the system. The tweets are organized into various user-generated hashtag categories the team is monitoring, like #askhealthcare and #askteaparty. Now a team made up of Stamen designers and MTV producers have the heady task of filtering (and, we’re guessing, censoring) the tweets as they’re streaming in, selecting which ones to pose to Obama.
The show runs about an hour, and will include between six and 12 questions via Twitter plus some culled from the studio audience. Check out more behind-the-scenes shots from Stamen, visit the Twitter Tracker to ask your own question, and tune in to MTV at 4pm EST/PST for the live show (tape-delayed for the west coast).