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Obama Hosts Twitter Town Hall, Answers Moderated Questions With Ease

July 7, 2011 by  

Obama Hosts Twitter Town Hall, Answers Moderated Questions With Ease

President Barack Obama and Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s executive chairman, hosted the first-ever “Twitter Town Hall,” in which the President answered questions posed via 140-characters-or-less tweets. Users were asked to use the hashtag #AskObama for their tweets.

“Neither the President or I know the questions that will be asked today. That decision is driven entirely by the Twitter users,” Dorsey said at the beginning of the session, which lasted about an hour.

Though Obama and Dorsey did not know what questions to expect, the 18 questions answered by the President were not at all randomly chosen.

The White House’s statement about the town hall revealed that a “team from Twitter” and a “team of seasoned Twitter users” used a sophisticated algorithm to “select questions during the event. Additionally, Twitter… selected questions in the hours prior to the event from the pool of questions posed since last Thursday.” The selection process was meant to “make the questions regionally and topically diverse and (provide) insight into the most popular topic areas.”

A political columnist on POLITICO wrote that, “(b)ecause the tweets were moderated — and some 169,000 were submitted — it is hard to know exactly what the vast ‘crowd’ really wanted to know if it could get any question to the president.”

Obama answered questions about jobs, the economy, the debt limit and education. A question from House Speaker John Boehner asked: “After embarking on a record spending binge that’s left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs?” Obama remarked that the question, coming from a Republican, was “slightly skewed.”

On a lighter note, POLITICO offered a list of some the tweets the President did not address. Among them were:

  • #askObama Do you regret taking questions from us common people yet?
  • So there is this girl that is kinda into me, but Im not really sure its complicated. What should i do? #askobama
  • Do you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain? #AskObama
  • #askobama If Dumbledore & Gandalf battled Voldemort & Sauron, who do you think would win and wouldn’t it be awesome?

 

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  • Dan az

    I guess my letter didn’t make it to him bummer!Oh well maybe next time!

  • jopa

    I’m not into twitter so I was going to send my message by carrier pigeon.Then someone told me they were extinct.

    • JimH

      jopa, That would be “passenger pidgeon”. There are still carrier pidgeons.

      • Cawmun Cents

        You have more of a chance of getting a passenger pidgeon to deliver the truth than any of these people surrounding the POTUS.HE DOESNT EVER GET EXPOSED TO THE REAL QUESTIONS.If he were to be exposed to the real questions then his Presidency would go the way of the passenger pidgeon.-CC.

  • s c

    Screw Twitter. Let The Anointed One answer questions from the people. Let me guess. Immediately after the Twitter session was over, Obummer loyal robots were taking skewed polls, to see how much Obummer’s popularity had gone up (or down). Blah.

    • Dan az

      sc
      I think with whats going on down here there is going to be allot more smoke and mirrors than has been lately.

  • DanB

    “sophisticated algorithm” = fancy way of saying filtered = avoid the tough questions and increase odds of getting the questions you want from the vast pool.

    • Kinetic1

      DanB,
      As I have often said, use the links, google the story and get all the information before you make accusations. Ms. Bonebright, in describing the moderators left out a quote from the POLITICO article:
      “..Not that they were White House shills. Drew Cline, tweeting under @DrewHampshire, was a moderator, and he is the conservative editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader.” It’s not a big deal, but it does imply that all sides had a chance.

      And of course there is a lot more information out there that clears up some of the questions this article brings up, including yours Dan. From CNN Tech:
      “In addition to having curators sort through thousands of tweets, the company used an analytics firm, Mass Relevance, to figure out which questions had been re-tweeted often and which carried statistical weight with the audience.”
      (http://articles.cnn.com/2011-07-06/tech/obama.twitter_1_twitter-account-twitter-town-hall-twitter-feed/2?_s=PM:TECH)

      Of course you can read into this anything you want, but I like the idea that the most often posed questions were given more weight than “My friend Bill want’s to know what your definition of “is” is.” (Though that did get a smile out of me.)

      I have to admit that I don’t really get twitter. I don’t use it, I don’t like what it’s doing to our nations ability to write in English (I feel sorry for our English teachers) and I don’t really need to know what everyone is doing every minute of every day, even if it is Jennifer Aniston. In the case of this town hall, I really, REALLY don’t get it. As the POLITICO article noted;
      “The real problem, as with all Internet town halls, is that there was no opportunity for follow-up questions. The follow-up question is the key to good interviewing, pinning down the subject after he tries to slither away with a nonanswer {sic} to the initial question.

      Which is why presidents often hate follow-up questions and have tried to limit or even eliminate them from news conferences.

      The other problem was that Obama was not limited to 140 characters in his answers.”

      I guess it’s all very warm and cozy in a high tech sort of way, cuddling up in front of your computer, your iPad or your smart phone, enjoying the warm glow of a screen-side chat, but I prefer to have professionals grill my politicians. A quote credited to Michael Kinsley says it well (I’m paraphrasing here):
      Anybody can cook, but when I go to a restaurant, I want a professional chef in the kitchen.

      • Jerome Cecil

        My guess is that Ms. Bonebright includes these links for a reason. Perhaps so that readers CAN become more acquainted with an issue, should they wish to understand a topic from more than just the viewpoint of one (admittedly) ultra-conservative news feed.

        If that is the case, I believe you’re the only reader who utilizes the tools she provides. Bravo. But you still criticize her reporting, which I find unfair. “Leaving out quotes” from another website could be as simple as NOT plagiarizing.

        It’s not up to one writer to spoon-feed you everything about a topic. Every news-source has an agenda. Ms. Bonebright appears to merely be working within the confines of this one.

      • Cawmun Cents

        Yes well apparently you will accaept an organizer for president so….what does that say about your ability to make good decisions?

      • DanB

        “which carried statistical weight with the audience.” Please read that a few times. How is this defined? Who defines this? Our current media is not designed to tell us the news. It is designed to tell us how to interpret the events around us. The media as it is now is hardly more than a vast propaganda machine for political views. When people accuse Fox News of being biased, I get a chuckle because they then tell me that all the other big names in news are not biased. Why do you think I can barely stand the other media outlets? Because their bias is plain to see for those that have eyes to see, and ears to hear. Only because we’ve been told so often that those news media are unbiased do we continue to see them as unbiased. I used to believe that myself. Over time, my eyes began to see, and my heart cringed to realize how true it was that our media is propaganda. So how does this relate to the above? Well, go back to the first of my rant here. I quoted a section that you quoted. What does that mean? Using filters to catch duplicates, that should be painfully obvious. But what is your “audience?” Think of it this way. If media is really propaganda, and our government is “progressing” to a destination, then what is the target audience of the President’s town hall? Remember, the best way to move America to tyranny is to sell us on the small pieces because if you paint the whole it may be rejected. We only assume that when they talk of the audience that it refers to all of America and that they would not be trying to sway American opinion. But isn’t that even what President Ronald Reagan tried to do? He would give speeches to sway the people so that could then sway their elected representatives. So how is this town hall different? Because they called it a town hall? There was a goal. There was a message. Their filter process had to address this in some way. Yes, they had to allow for some opposing tweets to be answered. If they did not address any opposing tweets, then the propaganda would have been painfully obvious and the would have missed their target audience. See, their target audience was not me. People like me are so sick of the propaganda that we’ll see propaganda coming from their mouths even when it is not. Which is unfortunate that we’ve become so jaded because we’ll have trouble trusting when the honest come forward. However, this also means we won’t be their target audience. We will not listen. No point in addressing us a target audience. The hardcore left needs to be appeased some, so those might be part of their target audience. No, the real target audience is those who can still be swayed from conservative thought to accepting their progressive agenda. That has been, and continues to be, their target audience. When you realize this, perhaps you will understand why they had to appear to be taking questions from all sides while simultaneously avoiding any question that could be truly dangerous to answer. That is why they must refer the argument around taxes with terms that mislead and deceive. That is why they must convince you that this is only against the rich, when history shows repeatedly that it is the poor and middle class that will suffer under these “revenue” measures.

  • pete

    IF the questions were rigged how much did it cost the Obama re-election campaign ? I hear the DEMONCRATS are going to raise a BILLION dollars for the Prez’s re-election … HA HA HA !

    I think the 2012 election is over if the Prez raises that much money !!!!

    Boehner and the RePUBS are going to be outspent …

    • Cawmun Cents

      Yet they will turn around and accuse the republicans of being the ones with big money behind them….haw!Hypocrisy is,as Obamas’ campaign manager does.Go figure.

    • mickey

      Don’t you think that is a little gross? That doesn’t include all the time and money spent on the tax dollar to fly here and there. Did you know other federal employees cannot do politicking on their jobs? Doesn’t matter if they are only running for a local council.

      No politician should be allowed to campaign on “company time”. Evenings, weekends, or vacation time–only.

      Any incumbent that needs that kind of money, especially while we are eating dirt, is in trouble. His policies should have stood for him.

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