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Thursday, 12 October, 2000, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
Debating the online way

The web: A new way of watching
By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson in Washington

The web has come a long way since the last presidential election four years ago.


After a few minutes of being in the chat rooms, I could not stand the flame war

It's now not only possible to watch live video streams of the debates, but also participate in polls, chat and even get a comic take on events.

Live online

There are also several sites to choose from that make different innovative uses of web technology.

Comedy Central screengrab
A comic take on the debate
C-Span, the public affairs channel established by the cable companies in the US, had an interesting feature called Podium Watch.

It allowed viewers to see both candidates throughout the debate.

Much was made about Vice-President Al Gore's reactions to Governor George W Bush in the first debate. Most traditional television coverage of the debates usually focuses on the candidate answering the question, with the occasional cut away to the other candidate.

But with this feature, the viewer not only saw one candidate's response to a question but the other candidate's response to the response.

Spanish speakers

ABC streamed the video in both English and Spanish.

Much has been made about the influence of Spanish-speaking voters in this election, and both candidates have openly courted Latino voters.

Yahoo! offered a fast 300kbps video stream, crystal clear - almost like television, but with one important distinction: Yahoo! offered links to sites with information about the topics being discussed during the debate.

As the candidates debated whether the US should have sent troops to Haiti, a frame offered links to foreign policy websites.

Instant response

Speakout.com's dial-a-meter feature gave visitors to the website an opportunity to react instantly to the candidates' responses.

I tried to log on three times and finally gave up, but I could see the results on earlier responses from the candidates on a graph.

Many sites had instant polls and chat rooms, and both parties had urged their supporters to log on and vote for their candidates.

They feared that the other side would flood the net and skew polls and chat rooms.

The lighter side of politics

After a few minutes of being in the chat rooms, I could not stand the flame war - the rather uninformative war of words - so I decided to get a humorous view of the elections.

Comedy Central has something called Indecision 2000, and they offered a running comic commentary about the candidates' performance.

Some had commented that Mr Gore had worn a lot of make-up during the first debate, and the commentators at Comedy Central said early on, "surprisingly, Gore went without the lip liner or rouge."

And they were relatively generous about the first impressions of the candidates in the second debate.

"No tactical blunder by Bush, and Gore isn't talking to me like I'm an eight-year-old, so they've both improved," they noted.

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See also:

10 Oct 00 | Americas
Gore v Bush: Now it's personal
10 Oct 00 | Americas
White lies may cost Gore
05 Sep 00 | Election news
Why Bushisms matter
04 Oct 00 | Americas
Al Gore 'wins' TV debate
04 Oct 00 | Americas
Gore and Bush lock horns
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