This morning I woke up, turned on my computer and within minutes sat staring at a map of people voting around the country. Live.
Hello, and welcome to Election Day 2012.
Back in 2000, 2004 and even 2008, following the election live meant turning on the television. I switched from CNN to MSNBC to Fox News and back. All day long. Click, click, click. One of them would probably show something interesting — if redundant, repetitive or silly — at pretty much all hours of the day.
This year, for this live event, I think — I hope — I’m ready to leave TV once and for all. The day is about news, sure, and TV has plenty. But more than that, it’s about what people think, and what they do to show it. We can sit back, grab a remote, and let a couple channels guess at that back and forth for hours. But why hear a few people sound off when we can hear thousands? Why let them guide us when we can finally, easily, guide ourselves?
News sites around the country are doing live streams, results updates, live blogs, live maps, timelines and Twitter lists. This stuff used to be innovative; now it’s expected.
Remember when John King’s big map on CNN was the coolest election toy we’d seen? We’ve come a long, long way since then.
Here are 5 great ways to follow the election online without turning on the TV.
Watch the vote
Call it voter voyeurism. Thanks to the joys of social tech, we’re broadcasting our big act of civic duty. And thanks to hashtags, shares and other sweep-’em-up tools, everyone can watch. Facebook’s live voting map is the most impressive lens. It shows votes as pulsing beacons from different locations on a fluid, simple map, adding on to a rising vote count that could end the day as one of the highest participation counts ever recorded on social media.
Foursquare also has a voter tracking map, this one counting check-ins at polling places by state. Instagram voting pics have been aggregated in a few places, including NBC News and the New York Times, but can make your own way on Instagram viewer Statigram, using a hashtag like #ivoted.
Mind the giants, in tech …
As a recent BuzzFeed headline put it, tech companies really want you to vote. Google’s main search page doodle points to polling info, Tumblr is gathering shareable voting fliers to share on #GoVote and even Reddit moderators are pushing users out the door — or at least to the mailbox.
Big tech sites also host some of the best all-inclusive info hubs, tailored to each site’s speciality. Google is reporting search interest on its Google Plus elections page. YouTube is rounding up highlights and live coverage. Twitter is tracking trends on its political index and the influence of Obama’s and Romney’s tweets on its engagement map.
For something really fascinating, play with the news slider on Bing’s election news page. Left-leaning or right-leaning? You decide.
… and in news
Plain old articles and pics are so early 2000s. There are too many good places to go, and you probably already have your favorites, but just in case: Check out the New York Times’ amazing 512 ways to win the White House interactive, USA Today’s what to watch for timeline, NPR’s big board and Al Jazeera’s 20-second voter video collection.
Pictures, commentary, predictions, results. There’s a lot of election stuff sloshing around out there. To see it all slosh together, there’s still no place better than Twitter. Some places have created lists of smart accounts to follow — like this one from The Huffington Post — but a scan through #election2012, plus terms like “election” and “obama” or “romney,” should keep you busy.
It’s harder to find great tools in local markets, but techie Seattle and King County does not disappoint. Look for official results on King County’s web app and on the Washington Secretary of State’s mobile app.
Your own social feeds
I figured I’d find some favorite site to stay with throughout the election, but if personal experience is an indicator, nothing will be as powerful, genuine or meaningful as what you’ll find on your own Facebook and Twitter feeds.
The election is the hot topic today, so you don’t even need to do much filtering. That’s the best thing about what’s possible this election cycle. Great information tools are out there, but you need to work hard to get them.
Social tech + democracy = awesome. Go vote, and have fun.
For more ideas, check out Jeff Sonderman’s review on Poynter, Regina McCombs’ multimedia projects roundup and Sarah Evans’ list of places that want to share your content.
Mónica Guzmán is a community strategist, freelance journalist and award-winning digital life columnist for GeekWire. You can find her tweeting away at @moniguzman, subscribe to her public Facebook posts at facebook.com/moniguzman or reach her via email. See a list of her clients on her website. Also see this archive of her weekly GeekWire columns.