I’ve written previously about my expectation that we’d see a worm grace the stage during the televised party leader debates.
However, whilst I speculated about the worm being in Channel 4’s charge, looking to a traditional TV broadcast was just too old school of me. In fact, there will be a worm – but it’s a Facebook worm.
As their news release explains:
With Britain’s first ever prime ministerial debate taking place on Thursday, Facebook’s 23 million UK users are being invited to participate in a mass “dial test” which will enable them rate the debates in real time and provide instant feedback on the performance of the three party leaders. The dial test can be accessed here.
The dial test will give a detailed, moment-by-moment snapshot of exactly how voters up and down the country are reacting to the debate between the three candidates for prime minister. Never before has this kind of online opinion test been attempted on this scale or at this level of sophistication in the UK.
To participate in the dial test, Facebook users will be asked to log on to Facebook’s Democracy UK page while watching the debates on TV. They will then be asked to use a dial on the screen to indicate how strongly they agree or disagree with what they are hearing, using buttons underneath to move the dial up or down. The sentiments of all participating Facebook users will then be aggregated in a real time online graph.
The dial test will pinpoint precisely which bits of the debate hit the spot and which missed their target by charting the peaks and troughs of national sentiment as the debate progresses. The peaks will show where the UK is united in agreement. The troughs will show when the nation is collectively throwing its remote controls at the TV in frustration.
Richard Allan, Facebook’s Director of European Public Policy urged all Facebook users to take part in the dial test:
“The first prime ministerial debates are a landmark moment in British politics, but the rigid rules mean that the voters themselves have a limited role. The mass dial test changes that completely. The Facebook dial test enables millions of voters to say exactly what they think of the three leaders’ performances and to wrest back control from politicians.
“2010 is the UK’s first ever social media election, and the dial test shows how voters can get involved on a scale never seen before. The dial test will provide a true barometer of the public mood and will define how the impact of the debates is interpreted.”
The BBC, by the way, has an excellent account of the worm’s history in Australia.