Twitter tracks lively VP debate

While the vice presidential debate Thursday night heated up Twitter, it didn't rock the microblogging site like last week's presidential debate did.

Twitter continued its new role as the modern debate spin room during last night's debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Rep Paul Ryan.

Just before 11 p.m. ET Thursday, there were just more than 4 million tweets, 3.5 million of them coming during the 92 minutes of debate time, the microblogging site reported.

It was a steady stream of tweets, but didn't seem to ever stagger or take down the Web site.

It was a marked difference from last week's debate between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, when traffic hit Twitter so hard that the site periodically slowed down and was even knocked offline for brief periods.

It's no wonder that last week's debate was harder for Twitter to handle -- the site generated some 10.3 million tweets during the 90-minute event.

Throughout last night's hour-and-a-half event, key words and phrases from the debate continually popped up in Twitter's top Trends.

For instance, Biden interrupted Ryan, saying, "With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey." Within moments, the hashtag "#malarkey" appeared in Trends and remained popular throughout the debate.

Other major Twitter Trends included Afghanistan, Medicare, Iran and Canada.

While the candidates were debating, their campaigns took to Twitter to make digs at their opponents and tout their own candidates.

News sites, like CNN and NBC also used Twitter to tout their efforts to add to the online discussion.

In years past, people watched political debates and then tuned in to TV news reports afterwards to hear what the commentators and pundits had to say about it—basically putting a spin on the candidates' performance.

Now that job is falling on Twitter and it's happening in real time.

People today often watch debates with a notebook or tablet computer at hand so they can tweet and post opinions online in real time. Debate watchers also can get instant opinions on Twitter -- from pundits, from the candidates' campaign operations and from the average voter.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Read more about social media in Computerworld's Social Media Topic Center.

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