Social networking site Twitter has recently proved its mantle by enabling users to pose questions to a Whitehouse official during a live interiview. The US radio news outlet NPR set up an interview led by Andy Carvin and Foreign Policy’s Marc Lynch with the Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes. The interview held on Thursday 19th May 2011 was streamed live with questions taken direct from Twitter.
The interview was live streamed on the White House website and Facebook page following President Obama’s speech about the Middle East covering the uprisings in the Arab Springs, democratic reforms in region as well as his dream of peace between Israel and Palestine. The hashtag #MEspeech was created in order to field questions for the interview, yet by coincidence it became the default hashtag for the president’s speech. As the interview began it quickly became the highest trending topic on Twitter.
At first there were reservations about whether two Twitter geeks focused on their laptops whilst the interview subject sat waiting for them to type, would make for riveting viewing. Since the principle reason for doing this was to showcase the interactive qualities of Twitter, Carvin and Lynch were determined to make this work. They kept the environment and their dress informal (a direct contrast to their suited guest) and the cameras were kept at a sufficient distance so as not to distract them from fielding the questions and typing Rhodes’ answers as fully as possible within Twitter’s 140 character limit.
As a potential question was selected a hundred more would follow. Yet Carvin was able to keep up, asking the questions and posting the answers, hitting every topic planned. Many of Carvin’s followers from around the world hail from the Middle East and North Africa so for them to potentially participate in a forum on a topic that concerned them directly proved to be both exciting and surreal. Crowdsourcing a live interview in this fashion gives the crowd an opportunity to be at the centre of important debates and to be able to pose questions directly to their favourite celebrity or even decision makers and who knows maybe one day, the president himself.