President Barack Obama’s Twitter town hall drew nearly 170,000 questions and comments, adding to the Commander-in-Chief’s technology credentials.
Obama strode to the White House podium and opened up a laptop to kick off the event, which was moderated by Twitter co-founder and chairman Jack Dorsey.
In addition to helping pull questions for the president to answer, Dorsey ran interesting numbers from Twitter participants’ questions. For example, more than a quarter of them dealt with jobs, 10 percent were about education, and six percent on housing, perhaps indicating what is on the mind of voters recently.
Twitter also tracked the concerns geographically and by subject, and used “curators” to help field up-to-the minute questions and follow-ups from tweeters, which came after Obama read and answered 18 participant questions.
Some critics dismissed the event as a gimmick and tried to jam the session with traffic.
The event was a presidential first for a leader who seems to recognize the value of technology in office. Obama addressed audiences last year on YouTube, and this past April facilitated a live town hall meeting at Facebook’s headquarters.
“If you’re going to communicate with the broad public, it is no longer sufficient to communicate with the mainstream media,” said Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director, characterizing this time as a “different digital age” where Americans use mobile devices for information.
That sentiment is apparent in some key moves the Obama campaign made lately as it gears up for the 2012 general election.
Last month, the campaign announced the hiring of Harper Reed, former executive of Threadless, as its new chief technology officer. Reed, a veteran of several far-flung technology pursuits, will work to integrate technologies into the election team’s digital strategy.
Obama said he is a bit of a fan of technology and recognizes its value in office and on the campaign trail. A constant BlackBerry wearer, the President complemented his technological suite this past spring with an iPad 2, saying, “I’m the president of the United States. You think I’ve got to go borrow somebody’s computer?”