Watching President Barack Obama on Twitter at The White House

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"In order to reduce the deficit, what costs would you cut, and what ... would you keep?" and with that President Barack Obama kicked off the first ever White House Twitter Townhall, sending his first tweet before fielding 18 questions from Twitter users.

Barack Obama tweet

The topics ranged from the debt ceiling to education to jobs, with Twitter users submitting their questions by using the hashtag #AskObama.

As a member of the audience I got to watch as Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey moderated the East Room event, mixing questions from average citizens with a question from Speaker of the House John Boehner and one from New York Times columnist Nick Kristof.

The live tweet sent by the President was by far his shortest comment of the townhall, where his answers did not stick to the platforms's usual 140 characters. In fact, Michael Shear of The New York Times says Obama averaged 2,099 characters in his answers, which equaled 14.99 Twitter messages.

This also made for difficult live tweeting for those of us in the room attempting to transcribe the event to the best of our ability. Yes, even this seasoned tweeter found herself wishing the ground rules for the townhall had the President tweeting his answers in typical @ format.

That's not to say I wasn't excited to attend, as you can tell by the smile on my face as I was one of a few who was able to greet Obama as he entered the room.

Erin Kotecki Vest and Barack Obama

Credit Image: QueenofSpainErin on Flickr

Admittedly -- in a room with the portrait of George Washington and stately decor -- it was rather exciting to watch the president hold another Internet-based town hall (he has previously conducted Facebook chats) with flat screen tvs and everyone's smart phones tap-tap-tapping furiously to tweet in real time. It almost seemed as though we were conducting a very high-tech conversation in a very low-tech environment.

One of the main drawbacks of the event though was its Internet component, which didn't allow for follow-up questions despite the Twitter curator's efforts to bring in timely tweets.

You can watch the Twitter Townhall in its entirety at

Erin Kotecki Vest blogs at Queen of Spain.


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