If Senators John McCain and Barack Obama actually do debate Friday night, you will be able to watch what thousands of viewers think of their verbal sparring almost as they talk. Twitter, the service that lets techno-hipsters broadcast their thoughts in 140-character bursts, is setting up a special politics page to make it easy to tune into the chatter.
At midnight Thursday, the company is launching election.twitter.com, the first specialized section of its site. Like Twitter’s main service, it is dominated by a big white box. But instead of typing an answer to What are you doing? the election site asks, What do you think?
Below that box is a constantly scrolling display of the thoughts (called tweets in Twitterspeak) of other Twitter users. These include all the tweets entered on the election page as well as those entered in any other part of the service with obvious election-related phrases, such as Palin.
Twitter was started as a way for people to communicate with friends and acquaintances, but it is increasingly serving as a window on public opinion, too. You can now use Twitter’s search engine to see what people think about anything from the Wall Street bailout to beer.
We have all these people who use Twitter every day to react to what is going on, said Biz Stone, the company’s co-founder and creative director. Major events, such as concerts, TV shows and natural disasters, tend to prompt people to tweet.
We saw off-the-charts messages per second during the acceptance speeches of the political conventions, Mr. Stone said.
By creating the election site, Twitter is giving people an easy window into all of those political tweets and encouraging more of them. While the page may be of particular interest during the debates, it will be up for political junkies at all times.
Twitter is following MySpace and Facebook, which have created ways for their users to connect with each other over the election.
The election page also has links to the Twitter feeds of the McCain and Obama campaigns, although neither have been very active on the service of late.
There are also links to see tweets about the major presidential and vice presidential candidates and a list of phrases culled from recent tweets that represent hot topics.
And if the Friday night debate is canceled, there will probably be a lot of tweets about that, too.