How To Participate Online In The Presidential Debates

When Barack Obama and Mitt Romney go head-to-head Wednesday night to tell America why they should be President, the whole country, and in some cases the whole world, will be watching. But thanks to the rise of the Internet and social media, millions of people won't just be watching, they'll be participating in a wide variety of ways - from hanging out on Google+ to commenting and sharing.

Click here for hints on: How To Watch The US Presidential Debates Online.

Although the TV networks still block out time slots and garner big audiences for the debates, their time may be winding down. Major news networks from all over the media spectrum are jumping on the online bandwagon this election season. The Washington Post, for example, will host a Google Hangout during all the debates and will have a video player that will lets users re-watch the debates and jump to different spots. If you need a good bedtime story after watching, you can also read transcripts and Washington Post analysis, although you might get too worked up to sleep depending on how passionate you are about politics. 

Comment It Up 

The Web provides new ways to discuss issues, too. Besides the Washington Post's Google Hangout and video player, the paper has also got something called "The Grid." The interactive tool will let viewers weigh in on what the candidate's are saying with others on the site. This will provide a visual representation of how viewers across the site relate to each candidate and their platforms. It's almost like having a live conversation - without the actual conversing. If users decide to watch the debate on demand rather than live, they can also check out how those agree/disagree stats changed as the debate went on. 

Of course, the obvious place to gauge the conversation is Twitter. (Remember #NBCFail during the Olympics? Good times…) Search any debate-related hashtag on debate night and you'll find all sorts of commentary. 

Tumblr is another good place to search for live opinions and it's also a magnet for memes and GIFs. So much so that, Tumble has collaborated with Gifwich, a blog solely dedicated to creating current event GIFs, to create real-time animations of the most interesting parts of the debate.

Each GIF will accompany a live blog by Adam Gabbatt, an editor at The Guardian, to explain what's going on. Seemingly annoying, and a potential computer-slowing tactic, it's definitely a new way to keep the attention of younger voters that use the social blog network to get their news. All they have to do is follow Gifwich on Tumblr, but as Tumblr staff pointed out in a recent post, follow at your own risk: "Once each debate begins, your Dashboard could be flooded with animations on a minute-to-minute basis." 

 

The Times They Are A-Changin'

The way we watch election coverage is definitely changing, but the reason we pay attention remains the same. Voters want and need to be informed before we go to the voting booth and punch our cards, press our buttons or click on our screens. With all of these new options, it's never been easier to be a well-informed voter - and there's no limit to how far the truly obsessed political junkies can go.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.