OK, I’m ticked.
Back in 1994 Scott Aikens and I put together the world’s first online candidate debate as part of Minnesota E-Democracy. It was a state level debate. Today, E-Democracy.Org has a resource center on e-debates here: pages.e-democracy.org/E-Debates
In 2000, I worked on the general election Web White & Blue Presidential Rolling Cyber Debate in which Yahoo! was a partner. The Democracy Network of the Center for Governmental Studies in 1996 hosted something they called a digital debate as well. More recently, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Choices of Democracy project also entered the online debate space.
Then today, a reputable source like the BBC says the Yahoo Democratic Candidate Mashup – debates.news.yahoo.com – is the “first online-only debate.” And Google news is compiling similar stories filled with this misinformation.
This may be the first online-only Presidential primary debate with video.
Politics Online keeps a nice list of online political firsts. If you search Yahoo for the phrase “first online debate” leading off their debate site, you get a link to our 1996 e-debate in the top ten.
I do hope this Yahoo!/Huffington Post/Slate online debate goes well. We need more online efforts which force substantive interchange among candidates that also bring out the voices of citizens. If this was really a “debate” I would expect to see round one video responses followed by a second round where candidates choose who to respond to in detail (video, audio, text, etc.). The Internet is the perfect medium for in-depth rebuttals with supporting links. That is why the E-Democracy.Org format requires rebuttals from candidates on a select number of major themes. We even allow candidates to rebut from the road via a telephone to MP3 audio application.
What I like about this candidate “conversation” – the viewer can decide which candidates to view on specific issues and on the Yahoo site they are encouraging people to discuss the debate on their message boards.
What I don’t like – most questions are not credited to Internet users, the official discussion is in a walled garden that prohibits outside linking rather than encouraging, then aggregating a web 2.0 style voter conversation across the web (see my detailed proposal – PDF).
In the general election, there can be no exclusive online presidential debate BUT if we all work together we can create a web 2.0-savvy/fully syndicated/creative commons/open source style e-debate that is fundamentally interactive and inspirational to voters and unavoidable by the major candidates.
P.S. I should note that when this press release came out last winter I blogged about this and I sent an e-mail to the contacts on the press release correcting the record and offering to share advice. I also e-mailed Charlie Rose who repeats the false “we’re first” claim in their introduction video. Overstating their originality once, no big deal. But again and again. Come on folks – you all look smart enough to check your facts.