“Twittering” the APIA Vote Town Hall


Internet technology is such a great, rapidly evolving field, that we’re constantly being presented with new ways to tell stories — to do journalism. Who woulda thunk even just 10 years ago that the Internet would be many people’s main source of news and information? Who woulda predicted services such as Facebook, or Twitter, not to mention blogs? How about live streaming video?

All these elements were part of a cool historic moment tonight, when all three Presidential candidates took some time to connect with Asian American voters for a first-ever Town Hall sponsored by an organization called APIA Vote.

The event was held in an auditorium at the University of California at Irvine, an LA suburb, and included the expected speeches and some cool entertainment. JA actor Tamlyn Tomita kicked butt as an engaging, entertaining emcee. Hillary Clinton spoke first to the group via satellite, followed by Barack Obama over the phone, and then a surrogate stand-in for John McCain in person. The whole event was broadcast live over the Internet. A small — too small — group of us in Denver met in a meeting room at the Daniels Fund to watch the live feed.

Technology unfortunately dropped some gremlins into the mix, though. I suspect that more people than expected “tuned in” to the livecast, and overloaded APIA Vote’s servers. After some frustrating starts and stops during the warmup entertainment and first speakers, the organizers sent out apology emails and simply turned off the video feed and kept just the audio, so the pipelines wouldn’t get jammed.

Even with just voice (which was just fine for Obama, since he was over the phone anyway), the Town Hall was a success.

I ended up using Facebook and Twitter to “report” on the event as it happened. Twitter is a “microblog,” where you can post very short bits of text anytime you want, and they’re seen by anyone who’s “following” you. I also use a widget, or a tool, to post my “tweets” directly onto my Facebook profile, so all my network of friends on Facebook can follow along.

And, I used the new Instant Message feature on Facebook to keep in touch with Joe Nguyen of the Denver APA news site AsiaXpress.com, who was in Irvine to “liveblog” the Town Hall. When our feed went down, I asked him for updates. He also took some great photos, and kept up admirably with all the goings-on from California. I imagine he was working like crazy, typing, then running around shooting photos, then downloading the images and uploading them to the blog.

I just kept typing short reports to Twitter, and kept up a constant flow of commentary.

Here’s how it read, in reverse order (in Twitter, the most recent post is on top):

Trying to watch the historic live video of APIA Vote from LA, with Clinton via satellite and Obama and McCain via phone, but it’s buggy.

When technology sucks: APIA Vote’s feed keeps getting blocked. Too heavy of a load.

Good — the APIA Vote event will be posted to YouTube afterwards. The live feed is pretty jacked; the feed’s been reduced to audio only.

Clinton’s speaking to the APIA Vote audience at UC Irvine via satellite. Video’s been turned off for the livecast, though.

Ironically, Obama being on the phone to APIA Vote instead of satellite doesn’t matter since the feed’s audio only.

Obama is playing up his Hawai’i and Indonesian upbringing: ‘I’m living out the mutli-racial, multi-cultural dream of America,’ he said.

Obama’s talk to APIA Vote sounds like he thinks we’re all immigrant’ first-generation Asian Americans.

Clinton read prepared responses to pre-submitted questions, but Obama is fielding live questions. He’s doing a good job, thinking quick.

Obama used the word ‘hapa’ — is this the first time the tem has been used in such a mass media forum?!?!

McCain has a surrogate, who said he couldn’t call in because of technical problems. Crowd booed when they were invited to watch him on SNL.

Joe Nguyen nails it on his liveblog from the APIA Vote event: http://axp-townhall.blogspot.com

McCain’s surrogate just said that “many” of the APIA Vote audience are “first-generation immigrants.” I think that’s a bad assumption.

Tamlyn Tomita has been stellar as the emcee for the event. Obama won out of the three; Van Tran as McCain’s surrogate was third — no Q&A.

Finishing out the APIA Votes event with live entertainment at UC Irvine… wish we could see it as well as hear it over the web.

Chinese Filipino American spoken word artist Beau Sia is topping off the APIA Vote event. Very cool. Wish we could see as well as hear him.

Beau Sia gave young Asian Americans a voice… demanding that the candidates include us in their speeches, their stories.

Night’s ending with Hawai’an born Filipina Camille Velasco, a season three American Idol alum.

OK, Congressman Mike Honda (D-Calif.) is the final speaker. He was interned at Amache in Colo. when he was a baby.

No, the really REALLY last act is Run Down, a Hawai’ian-APA alt-rock reggae band that includes a ukulele. Cool sound.

I’ll post the YouTube video(s) when it gets posted.

UPDATE MAY 18: No full video or videos covering the full event, but here’s footage of Beua Sia.

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