In case you’ve missed most of the current election season so far, you may not have noticed that Twitter — which is more mainstream than it has ever been — is working with business partners, political candidates, and news organizations to innovate how the average voter engages during their caucuses, primaries, and general elections.
The latest in their efforts happened this past weekend during the admittedly low-profile Nevada caucus for the Republican Party which happened Saturday night, where Twitter partnered with the Nevada GOP to deliver real-time results through its communications platform for the first time.
As Twitter’s general manager of government and politics Adam Sharp put it to me in an email,
Twitter is at its core a real-time information network, where users go to instantly connect to information that’s meaningful to them. An election or caucus night is one of those purest moments when voters are glued to that kind of real-time stream to find the answer to a basic question: who won? So it really it’s a perfect match.
Adam blogged on the official Twitter website just prior to the caucuses,
Twitter and the Nevada Republican Party have partnered to deliver voters, developers and news organizations real-time access to the results of the “First in the West” Nevada Presidential Caucuses on February 4th. You can follow the votes on Twitter as they come in via two accounts:
- @NVGOP will be tweeting updates on statewide vote totals and other news throughout the evening. Follow @NVGOP to track statewide caucus results, see how many precincts have reported, and for updates on closing times and other vital information.
- @NVVoteCount will be tweeting the results from each precinct as they become available, in a format designed for news organizations and developers to easily integrate into their own data systems and visualizations. This data can be used to power real-time charts of caucus results, for example, or be mashed up with other data to create maps.
What’s particularly innovative about the above arrangement is that while one account — the obvious one to create — is for casually interested users who simply want to be slightly more engaged with the numbers, or compare them to what (say) CNN is reporting, the second account is much more in the hardcore vein of transparency and collaboration: tweeting data in machine-readable formats which can be imported to do creative things with in near real-time or at any time in the future; for example, mashed up with Bing Maps or a similar product. And lest you be worried about real-time inaccuracies, there are systems of checks and balances in place to double-check the numbers.
This kind of collaboration across business, media, and politics/elections by Twitter sets a great example for other technology companies with unique offerings/services/products/skills and also sets the bar higher for people working in government proper who are interested in We Government / Open Government / Government 2.0 and the like and the White House’s early declaration to strive for a more open, transparent, participatory, and collaborative government in all ways.
Dr. Mark Drapeau is part of the Microsoft Office of Civic Innovation in Washington, DC.