Realtime Reporting Is Evolving…

January 31, 2009

Politics, Technology

twitterfall…towards realtime collaboration.  And the transition is exciting.

Yesterday was a busy day at work.  It’s the busy time of year in the tax preparation business.  And I’m always multitasking: planning for next year’s systems, supporting systems we’ve deployed this year, and consulting on systems that are experiencing trouble at any given moment.

But even on busy days, there is time to multitask on other matters.  I knew that the Republican National Committee was holding their election for the new committee chairman.  And I really wanted to watch what was happening – in realtime.  As someone who uses social media as an avocation, I knew that there were ways of getting realtime feeds of data.  I did a little checking and found that three or four of my favorite commentators were live-blogging the event.  So I was quite excited.  

I remember when I used to go to state conventions and state committee meetings.  That was quite a while ago.  When I used to attend, there really were smoke-filled rooms.  Of course, many had smoke in them because I used to smoke a pipe.  But that’s a different story…  In the past, only an annointed few individuals were privvy to the rooms where important decisions were made.  If you were lucky, an enterprising reporter might post a story in a local paper.  And a few folks could get telephone updates from friends who were at the venue.  But you never had any realtime view into the process.

That all changed with the advent of the worldwide web.  And those changes accelerated with the introduction of blogs.  If you knew someone who was attending, you could get an update of events within a few hours.  And that was wonderful.  But while you could receive data faster, it was an evolution and not a revolution.

But the last four years have seen some important changes.  First, wireless phones have introduced the ability to get instant feedback (via SMS or the web).  Second, text messages have been augmented with the addition of rich media – including both audio and video.  Thid, everyone has these devices.  So anyone in attendance at a meeting can communicate.  These three shifts in communications have enabled everything I saw yesterday.  And live blogging has been a real difference maker.

This week’s RNC meeting was something altogether different.  Not only was there good communications (despite WiFi troubles at the hotel), but communications became multi-dimensional.  Live blogging has always meant that realtime posts could be sent from conferences and meetings.  But microblogging (using Twitter, Friendfeed and other tools) has meant that short and pithy bursts of info could be sent in realtime.  More importantly, short messages could be sent form the outside to the inside of the venue.  And this simple fact transformed everything.

I was sitting in Kansas City.  I was not in the meeting room.  But there were a few dozen people who were there and who were twittering the event.  And these people provded multiple views (and voices) about what was transpiring.  And I heard the voices of various operatives from many of the different candidates.  But more importantly, I and other people could send questions or engage in realtime conversations about what was transpiring.  This made those “on the outside” seem to be part of the process.  This fact alone should increase excitement and participation by those who couldn’t otherwise attend.  But I am sure that many people at the venue used the feedback from the remote audience as a means of gauging what the common folk might think of what was going on behind closed doors.  

Of course, the only folks who were engaged in the #rncchair discussions on Twitter were twitterati and cognoscenti.  But these folks were a fantastic proving ground for the technology.  And the growing applicability of this technology was apparent to all. Folks who had broadband connectivity and a larger screen were at a tremendous advantage.  They could provide and receive far more information for their use.  I am sure that the various candidates’ teams had various levels of technology.  And those with a good handle on the technology (i.e., those who posessed smartphones like iPhones and BlackBerries) were at an even great advantage.  [Note: It was clear that Saul Anuzis’ team stayed in the race for a long time because he had mastered many of the communications channels available to him.]

As technology becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous, more and more people will gain more and more advantage from these technologies.  And as the software and services become even more accessible (i.e., less complex) even more people will be able to take advantage of realtime participation.  

In the end, the technology alone did not make a deterministic difference.  Michael Steels won the race because he had a good plan and he executed it quite effectively.  Many folks will point to a specific reason that they think was critical for Steele’s success.  I won’t be so bold.  I wasn’t there.  But I know that Michael Steele didn’t lose the race due to an insufficient grasp on the communications technologies at his disposal.  Indeed, why else do you think Michael Steels was so visible as a Fox News contributor?  He knew the imporance of using communications tools to energize his base while broadening his reach.  And the communications tools available to us today helped to make that possible.

I’ll leave each of you the assignment to determine why Michael Steele won the chairmanship.  In the meantime, I used a variety of tools to stay”in the know” – Twitter, hashtags (specifically, #rncchair and #tcot), Twitter search (at http://search.twitter.com) and Twitterfall (http://www.twitterfall.com).  Twitterfall is fantastic.  It provided a realtime rolling (or falling) ticker of a particular conversation thread.  I was able to see who the talkers were as well as see who I should be following.  

And for those interested in metrics… By getting involved in this one event, I saw my overall follower count (on Twitter) grow by over 20%.  Of course, I started from a small base, but the real numbers were nonetheless impressive.  

Finally, I would like to reinforce an important point: I do like to send “thank you’s” to the folks that followed me as a result of this event.  I use SocialToo.com as a means of responding to all new followers.  It is a great tool to help “personalize” the process of nurtturing your following.  If you didn’t receive a “Thank You’ from me, drop me a note and I’ll send you a personalized email with my warmest thanks..

 

-Roo

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