Election Day Plays Out on the Social Web

Social media revolutionized the way campaigns were carried out online. How will the new, user-generated Web cover — and influence — Election Day? BusinessWeek bloggers will be monitoring the gamut of social sites and blogs throughout the day to provide a roundup of how Nov. 4 plays out online.

Social media revolutionized the way campaigns were carried out online. How will the new, user-generated Web cover — and influence —Election Day? BusinessWeek bloggers including Doug MacMillan, Arik Hesseldahl and Olga Kharif will be monitoring the gamut of social sites and blogs throughout the day to provide a roundup of how Nov. 4 plays out online.

YouTube Video-rama Continues 8:23 p.m. EST — So far, users have downloaded nearly 900 videos on YouTube that describe their voting experiences and thoughts on the election. One of the downloaders is Craig Newmark, founder of Craig’s List, who voted for Obama. New York Times’ blogs are tracking results in the remaining states.

Digg This for Obama 8:04 p.m. EST — The most popular post on Digg.com is titled, “Digg This If You Voted for Obama.” It’s garnered 12,170 diggs. Digger Merrygo, one of more than 1,000 people to comment on the post, writes, “I am Italian and of course I can’t vote, but I give him my vote for Barack Obam [CK] here.” NPR expects Obama to take Pennsylvania, Illinois, Maine, Massachisetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. It projects McCain to take South Caroline, Tennessee and Oklahoma.

Second Life Avatars Flock to Obama Headquarters 7:47 p.m. EST — Obama for President island in Second Life is so packed, avatars are being turned away.

CNN Makes Projections for Kentucky, Vermont 7:37 p.m. EST — CNN’s Web site projects that McCain will win Kentucky, and Obama — Vermont. Drudge Report predicts an Obama victory.

Second Life Parties Begin 7:05 p.m. EST — Straight Talk Cafe, a pro-McCain island in Second Life, has just kicked off its party. About 20 avatars are hanging out in the lounge, talking. “Party, people,” said grimlock16 Shepherd. “4% lead in Kentucky, I heard.”

Digg, Twitter, Current Start the Party 7 p.m. EST — Digg, Twitter and Current TV are kicking off their Election Night Party. Party favors include latest headlines and music as states begin to report their results. DJ Diplo is spinning records.

Every TwitVote Counts 5:41 p.m. EST — On mock Web poll TwitVote.com for Twitter users, Obama has gotten 19,826 votes, while McCain is training with 3,297. That said, consultancy Forrester Research has found that Democrats are much more active online.

Voters Post 616 Election Day Videos 4:40 p.m. EST — So far, voters have posted 616 videos documenting their Election Day thoughts and experiences to YouTube. User jkwhitehouse’s video states, “We are divorcing McCain in Arizona.”

Old Media Active on Election Day 4:31 p.m. EST —­ Can newspapers really be considered old media anymore? At least not with this election cycle. I just happened to be looking around on Mogulus.com¹s list of featured streams and am surprised by the number of live video webcasts that are being produced by newspapers. Here¹s links to a few: http://www.mogulus.com/pageone>FloridaToday.com, in Melbourne, Fla. Michigan¹s Lansing State Journal and Detroit Free Press Iowa¹s Des Moines Register TheChicago Sun-Times The Statesman-Journal in Salem, Ore. The Arizona Republic The Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Both major presidential campaigns will have their own Webcasts running on Ustream.tv. McCain¹s is here > while Obama¹s can be found here >.

Obama’s Blog Abuzz 4:30 PM EST – Obama’s supporters are all over the web, as this blog has discovered today. But BarackObama.com has served as returning point for many of them all day, aggregating various news, tracking the candidate’s whereabouts, and encouraging people to make more calls to potential voters. Staffers have made 26 posts on that page’s blog today, and drawn some 2,300 comments as of this entry. Some of the most discussion came from a post with a picture of Obama casting his own vote in Chicago this morning, seen here.

Users Download Political Podcasts 4:02 p.m. EST — MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show is the most popular podcast on iTunes today. Yesterday, the political news show host predicted that 15% more voters will cast their ballots in this election than in 2004.

Voters Report Election Day Problems… Or Have Fun 3:47 p.m. EST — Readers are reporting their Election Day problems — some imaginary, some real — on the Wired blog. One reader writes, “Caught my arm in the [voting machine’s] optical scanner and it ripped it off. Blood everywhere. Lost might arm. Mad because I don’t think it counted my vote!”

Reddit Follows Barak 3:40 p.m. EST — Reddit, a site that follows what’s popular on the Web, rates story “Barak Obama’s Grandmother Has Died” as its most popular article. Some 760 people have commented on the story. JDOnion wrote, “I’ve already seen some people calling for a death certificate to prove it’s not a stunt for pity votes.”

3:08 EST — Twitter’s Place In History While we’re on the topic of Twitter, the fact that we’re even on the Fail-Whale watch says a lot about the role of that service has played in the current election cycle. Every election in American history produces what historians and museum curators refer to as “ephemera,” that is, campaign buttons, pamphlets, cards and assorted other printed matter that’s not intended to be saved forever. Lucky for us, examples of that stuff are saved in museums and private collections. I have in my closet an old Bill Clinton lawn sign that I managed to get autographed by Clinton when he visited Oregon in 1992. But clearly some of the most interesting “ephemera” from this election cycle has been digital. From countless YouTube videos of campaign ads (Politico.com lists its “10 Worst campaign ads here ) to the various MySpace and Facebook presences that each candidate has labored over, and which in time will likely disappear, and even their campaign Web sites. Once the voting is over it will fall to museums and libraries to preserve selection of these bits so that the historians and students in the future will be able to understand how the Web played its part in the electoral process in 2008. My personal favorite has been Twitter’s Election 2008 site, and I hope that the Smithsonian Institution or the Library of Congress is prepared to preserve this message stream in its entirety. There must have been millions of 140-character messages posted there in the last several months. How valuable a trove of primary source information documenting the feelings of individual voters might this be for historians — in say, 2108? -AAH

Twitter: No ‘Fail Whale’ Sightings Yet 3:01 EST – Twitter’s reliability problems are well-known, judging by the notoriety of this whale illustration that appears when the site goes down. But recently, the site has improved in this area a great deal – only experiencing about 70 minutes of down time total in October, compared with about 13 hours in January. In many ways, today is the ultimate test for the site, according to co-founder Biz Stone: “We are expecting unprecedented levels of activity on Election Day,” he says. So far, so good – the site’s Election ’08 page is humming along, as are regular feeds. The Twitter founders are also keeping an eye on two special feeds in particular: @BarackObama, and @JohnMcCain2008. “We're looking forward to finding out which Twitter account belongs to the next President of the United States,” Stone says.

YouTube Clips Document Voter Intimidation 2:44 EST -- It didn’t take long for complaints about voter intimidation to surface, nor for videos to hit YouTube as proof, as historically these complaints tend to be hard to prove. One case in Philadelphia is getting lot of attention today, involving some men armed with Billy clubs hanging around a polling place, professing to be “security.” Another clip includes the claims of a voter who says he saw some Obama campaign material being handed out to voters inside. More at ElectionJournal.org.

Update at of 3:22 PM EST: Talking Points Memo follows up on this. It turns out one of the two guys was an officially designated poll-watcher. The other, the one with the stick, left the scene when asked by police.

Wikipedia Plays Favorites 2:35 EST -- Front page of community-edited online encyclopedia Wikipedia features biographies of Obama and McCain. It also notes that today is Flag Day in Panama and Unity Day in Russia.

Brits Search for Sarah Palin 2:20 EST -- In Britain, Sarah Palin has been by far the most searched-for U.S. political figure in the past several months, according to today's blog from consultancy Hitwise. But Barak Obama has just overtaken her.

Masses Swarm CNN.com 2:11 EST – You’re at BusinessWeek.com But if you weren’t, chances are high that you’d be at CNN.com, the most trafficked site of election day 2004 with around 8.8 million unique page views, according to Nielsen Online. The site is already seeing record numbers today, according to CNN.com senior vice president Mitch Gelman. As of around 1:30 EST, he reports views of CNN.com Live – a live streaming online channel with original content separate from the TV broadcast – of about 850,000. “It’s the equivalent already of four average weekdays,” he boasts. And the day is far from over: he expects the 24-hour period starting at 6 PM EST tonight to be the busiest of the entire year.

Japanese Create Obama Song 2 EST -- Diane Mandy, an American expat living in Germany, posts a blog post with a link to an Obama music video created by a group of Japanese.

Team Sarah Pushes for Votes 1:45 EST -- TeamSarah comes up as one of the most popular social networks on Ning. An appeal to members reads, "Take three friends with you to vote for McCain-Palin."

The nation's Mood, In a Word 1:27 p.m. -- What single word describes your mood this Election Day? That’s the question The New York Times is asking on this interesting page on its site. You enter a single word, and include which presidential candidate you support – or neither if that fits – the size of the text of each word grows based on how many people use it. As of 1:27 p.m. “excited” and “anxious” are in the lead.

Absent Absentee Ballots 1:21 EST – Election Protection is a site that’s taking calls and responding to Twitter updates about problems with voter polls around the country. So far, they report, most of the problems are coming from Georgia – over 1,000 calls from the state so far. The problems include voters not finding their names on voter rolls, power outages, machines problems, and one particularly disconcerting anecdote from someone who registered to vote absentee: “We've had one report from a voter whose absentee ballot was just delivered today. When she spoke to the Fed Ex delivery man, he said he had at least a hundred absentee ballots he was delivering.”

Black Panthers On YouTube 1:13 EST Fox News has uploaded a video to YouTube of a report on members of the Black Panthers allegedly blocking the doorways to polling places in North Carolina, nightsticks in hand. According to one witness, they were telling voters "not to come inside because a black man is going to win this election no matter what." Here's the clip:

Second Life Residents Run a Poll 1:10 EST -- At "McCain or Obama" polling place in Second Life, 82% of the 32 votes have been cast for Obama. Avatars can vote by clicking on the candidate of their choice.

The iPhone Lights Up Blue 1:05 EST -- Users of Sonic Lighter Election Edition, an application that lights up a blue (Obama) or a red (McCain) flame on iPhones and iPods, are overwhelmingly lighting up blue. Obama leads McCain 75.9% to 24.1%, according to the app's thousands of users, who are located all over the world.

Flickr Users Report Long Lines at the Polls 1 EST -- Photo-sharing site Flickr offers 190,141 photos tagged "election." Several, by frost imaging, show long lines at the polls.

12:50 EST -- Interactive election map on Capitol Hill in Second Life shows McCain winning West Virginia and Indiana. States like Ohio could go either way.

12:45 EST -- Twitter meme of the moment: The Naked Cowboy has officially endorsed McCain. For non-New Yorkers, that’s a guy who stands in the middle of Times Square playing a guitar in his underwear. Twitter user CheebaJones says: “Naked Cowboy doesn't realize that the Christian Right would make him get dressed in public. Hence the term dressing conservative”

12:40 EST -- The most viewed and discussed video on YouTube: "Obama Flips Off McCain," in which Obama says about McCain, "I want to congratulate him on the tough race that he has fought." The video has received more than 1 million views, and nearly 12,900 comments, including one from AlaskaZachAttack, who writes, "Palin is smarter then Obama by far."

12:20 EST -- Digg.com reports on alleged tip voter intimidation in Missouri. Police, lawyers are said to be on the scene. The item has received 1,126 diggs and 210 comments. Digger sharpfork says, "Voter intimidation is anti-American."

12 EST -- A reporter from Sayfie Review is reporting on "gray vote" in Florida via a camera phone. So far, 69.3% of residents at Sun City Center have cast their ballots. In 2004 election, only 50.3% of the center's residents voted.

Big Traffic Day 11:56 EST -- While the TV news networks await a big night of election parties, a number of web sites have prepared for one of their biggest days of the year. On election day in 2004, the top five most visited sites at work were CNN.com, MCNBC.com, Yahoo! News, Fox News, and Gannet newspaper sites (not including USAToday.com), according to Nielsen Online. However, three big players with little or no presence in 2004 loom large today: Google News, Facebook, and Twitter. And this year, online publishers are looking for ways to keep eyeballs on their sites for longer periods of time, according to Nielsen’s vice president of media analytics Jon Gibs. “At this point, people have already identified the sites they’re comfortable with,” Gibs says. “I would imagine that people would poring through data on these sites and continually refreshing.” He points out another surprising benefactor of election day web traffic may be Wikipedia, since that’s the site people will most turn to learn about lesser-known representatives and senators coming into office.

11:51 EST -- On CNN's iReport site, which collects stories and videos submitted by readers, the most viewed video, by gypsydayne is titled, "A Coin Toss Decided My Vote." It's heads, Obama.

11:30 EST -- Most searched keywords on NYTimes.com are, in order, "Barak Obama," "Palin," "McCain" and "October 3, 2008." The article most linked to by bloggers is "Hey Liberals, Don't Worry," in which conservative writer William Kristol tells liberals why they should be cheerful if McCain happens to win.

11:20 EST -- About 15 people hang out at the Straight Talk Cafe, the McCain-Palin outpost in virtual world Second Life. Topic of discussion: Government eavesdropping on cell phone calls. Nita Charron says, "1984 is a great book." At Super Obama HQ, Christophe Hugo, an avatar with a flag atop his head, is doing a victory dance.

11:13 EST -- There’s already a flurry of activity on Facebook, where the social network has set up an Election ‘08 page to help members encourage each other to vote. “That peer to peer contact is a core part of actually driving voter turnout and behavior,” says Facebook’s chief privacy officer Chris Kelly. Yesterday, he expected the number of users checking a box that says “I Voted” to reach into the hundreds of thousands, or possibly the millions by the end of the day – but at mid-morning it’s already surpassed 1.1 million. Others are “donating their status line to get out the vote” – an activity enabled by a Facebook App called Causes; giving each other “I love Barack Obama” and “I love John McCain” buttons as gifts; and posting messages to the Walls of each candidate’s Facebook page. In the past hour alone, Obama received 210 wall posts, while McCain got 28. The site may see more than just a spike in traffic – Kelly says new user registrations have picked up in recent days as well.

10:15 EST -- YouTube now offers a total of 420 videos of people voting. One, recorded by briankcallahan from Virginia Beach, Va., at 6 a.m. EST this morning, says, "The lines are forming. It's unbelieveable how many people are here. I've voted at this location for the last 17 years, and never had to wait more than a few minutes.... There are actually hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people here, waiting to cast their votes in this key swing state."

10:02 EST -- Blog aggregator Technorati reports 11,826 blog mentions of presidential candidate Barak Obama, up 90% from 6,230 the night before. Mentions of rival John McCain rise 57%, to 7,370. One reader of blog The Daily Dish writes, "I'm embedded with the military in Saddam's Presidential Palace and sent in my absentee ballot - for Obama - weeks ago. One of my colleagues [contractor, retired military] strongly supports McCain-Palin, believes Obama is a Muslim, etc. He told me he wasn't going to send in the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot because someone told him it wouldn't be counted unless the election was close. Well, that's not true.... I showed him how to print one out [from fvap.gov] and encouraged him to participate, no matter what."

How is your Election Day going? Please submit your thoughts on your voting experience and the election.

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