August 20th, 2009
It’s not so often that you get to try a communications format completely new to you, and even less so that you decide to do so out-loud and in public, without a net. So when National Journal’s Sara Jerome suggested that we try conducting a “twitterview” about the “Learning from Obama” e-book, I jumped right on it. Turns out neither of us had ever tried interviewing someone substantively via public tweets, but hey, it’s only 140 characters, right?
Right — man, was that hard. First, nuance is out, and that makes it difficult to talk real politics under any circumstances. Second, trying to fit reasonable, intelligent ideas (nuanced or not) into 140 characters is a little like doing live, competitive haiku. To make it work, you have to decide which words to abbreviate and how, forcing you to judge how much your readers will extract from context. Misinterpretations are inevitable — at one point, I wrote “soc med,” meaning “social media,” but Sara thought I was referring to “socialized medicine” and hilarity ensued.
Besides that and a couple of other interesting crossed-wire tangents, we managed to stay pretty well on target and covered a surprisingly large amount of ground about the Obama campaign, online fundraising and of course socialized medicine. Sara’s edited the “transcript” for clarity and written a great introduction, so go check out the results over at Nat Journal’s Under The Influence blog.
And if you’re thinking about doing a twitterview of your own, be warned: our exchange may not take up much space on the page, but it sure took up plenty of time. We were both slaving over our respective hot keyboards for about 45 minutes in total, for an exchange that would have taken maybe 5 or 10 minutes by phone. But this way we got to do it with an audience! And with an arbitrary limit that turned it into a puzzle to solve, second to second — twitterviews are perfect for word nerds.