Live updates on Inauguration Day via the social Web

From live streaming to Twitter aggregation, here's what the social Web is doing to make coverage of Barack Obama's inauguration all the more interesting--or just noisy. Updated live!

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
8 min read

If you thought that social-media sites were foaming at the mouth on Election Day in an attempt to get the most eye-catching, mashed-up, user-generated gimmicks in place, you might not be too surprised to find out that the social Web has gone just as nutty over the swearing-in of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.

Here's a roll call of a few notables: There's an official user-sourced inauguration blog that uses collaborative platform Tumblr to post everything from recommended links to funny photos of people posing next to cardboard cut-outs of Obama. Social network Facebook has partnered with CNN for CNN Live, which displays participating members' election-related status messages in a feed next to a live stream of the ceremony. MySpace, meanwhile, has collaborated with Ashton Kutcher's Katalyst Media for a celeb-studded "Presidential Pledge" project.

Cable network Current will be displaying related messages from Twitter on-screen in its inauguration coverage (which will also be streamed on Current.com), much as it did during the presidential debates.

Also on the live-streaming front, Web video hubs like Joost and Hulu--in addition to the sites of just about every major broadcaster--will be showing inauguration coverage with varying degrees of user commentary and interactivity.

Not to mention the fact that a zillion of the Twitterati, from reporters to on-air anchors to random bystanders to Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, are actually in D.C. for the occasion. It shouldn't be too hard to track down their raw commentary, especially since gossip blog Gawker is mining through notable media figures' "tweets" to poke fun at them.

We'll be updating this post throughout the day to let you know what worked, what didn't, and who's going to be placing angry calls to their hosting providers on Tuesday night.

6:56 a.m. PT: AllVoices.com, a "citizen journalism" site, appears to have been hacked on Inauguration Day, with the entire site replaced by a text message that says "HI ETHAN."

Meanwhile, New York Times reporter Brian Stelter has Twittered that cell phone service in D.C. is already showing signs of stress; he says that he can text but not call.

7:05 a.m. PT: Digital marketing agency Deep Focus has created Tweet The Inauguration, which aggregates Twitter updates that have, say, the word "inauguration" in them or are accompanied by the #inaug09 hash tag (which the Twitter community has generally accepted to delineate inaugural tweets. It's a lot like Current's strategy. My only gripe? It only displays one tweet at a time.

Also, an early contender for the "great inauguration tweets" department, from @pistachio:

7:14 a.m. PT: Tim Shey reports via Twitter that the live broadcasts from both Hulu and CNN.com were too slow. "We went to good old digital broadcast: NBC in HD."

7:19 a.m. PT: A Twitter user asked me how you can watch the inauguration on your iPhone. I pointed him to Ustream.tv's inauguration stream. The Ustream app is brand-new in Apple's App Store.

Also, I'm noticing that Twitter is loading a little more slowly.

7:22 a.m. PT: If you want a report that's more on-the-ground and less about whether Twitter has crashed yet or not, check out our sister site, CBSNews.com, and its Political Hotsheet.

7:24 a.m. PT: Media pundit Jeff Jarvis has Twittered that he's having issues with Ustream's iPhone app while attempting to stream inauguration coverage. "Just as I tweeted I was watching live TV on my iPhone with UStream, it crashed," Jarvis lamented. "Now it's buffering. Tough day to launch this."

7:27 a.m. PT: Have a look at Twitter Search's top trending topics: " #inaug09, Happy Inauguration, #inauguration, Washington, White House, President Obama, Hulu, #tcot, National Mall, MSNBC."

7:29 a.m. PT: One Twitter user is very happy to have found a live stream with closed captioning, on the Senate's Web site.

7:31 a.m. PT: Yup, Twitter's having issues. "Twitter already starting to fail under the load," one user reports. "I'm not even getting the whale when it does."

7:33 a.m. PT: Another Twitter user says that Ustream.tv's live feed is holding up better than Hulu's.

7:35 a.m. PT: Loads of Twitter users are directing me to TweetGrid, another aggregation site. The TweetGrid app has created an inauguration-specific site, but it's already starting to periodically get downtime errors.

7:38 a.m. PT: What am I watching? I've found Ustream's coverage to be very stable.

7:46 a.m. PT: Dispatch from our wacky-news correspondent, Stephen Shankland: "A viral marketing stunt at its finest: Trident's site called Joe Biden's teeth. Upload your smiling photo and give them your address and they'll give you a pushpin on a Google maps mashup and send you some gum in 6 to 8 weeks."

7:47 a.m. PT: In case you're tired of whatever live stream you're watching, here's a very interesting article about how Obama's inauguration may be one of the biggest days for the Internet--literally.

7:51 a.m. PT: Just tried to load Paste Magazine's Web app "Obamicon Me," which stylizes any photo you give it to look like artist Shepard Fairey's now-iconic "HOPE" poster. The site's still up--but taking an awfully long time to load.

7:54 a.m. PT: Another inauguration aggregator: Twinauguration.com. I'm checking it out now.

7:56 a.m. PT: Somebody is aggregating inauguration-related posts to TwitPic, the mobile photo service that syncs to Twitter. TwitPic crashed when it was the source of the first close-up photo of last week's Hudson River plane crash: think it'll stay afloat during Inauguration Day?

jane_davis on Flickr

8:01 a.m. PT: San Francisco counterculture blog Laughing Squid has linked to some Flickr photos detailing how pranksters changed every sign on the city's Bush St. to "Obama St."

8:05 a.m. PT: Lots of Twitterers have been talking about the fact that outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney is at the inauguration in a wheelchair after pulling a muscle in his back. We hope that Cheney makes a speedy recovery, but that hasn't stopped the Web's snarkmongerers from comparing the much-vilified vice president to the likes of the villainous Mr. Potter from It's A Wonderful Life and Dr. Evil from Austin Powers.

Says comedian and "I'm a P.C." mascot John Hodgman:

8:07 a.m. PT: We've got a Twitterer estimating that 3,000 people are updating their Facebook statuses each minute using the Facebook-CNN live tool.

8:12 a.m. PT: CNN is reportedly saying that this is the most-watched event in television history worldwide. I wonder if they're counting live streams on the Web?

8:15 a.m. PT: Another observation from my colleague Stephen Shankland: "Add this if you want: There's a huge lag between CNN and the live streaming view I'm watching. Being out of sync makes live chat with your pals pretty awkward."

8:20 a.m. PT: Guest post from Stephen Shankland: Google Trends shows that eight out of 10 hot searches on Google are inauguration related. live inauguration coverage tops at "volcanic."

8:26 a.m. PT: Guest post from Stephen Shankland: I just did a test. 99 Twitter comments tagged #inaug09 in 45 seconds.

8:28 a.m. PT: NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen Twitters a link to an AFP article that says Obama's Whitehouse.gov site will take over one minute after noon. The AP news coverage streamed on Ustream just informed me that, by law, the President must be sworn in by noon.

8:30 a.m. PT: Guest post from Shankland: I just measured the time lag between live and the stream I'm watching the live stream at the Presidential Inauguration Committee site. It's pretty significant: 2 minutes 11 seconds.

8:33 a.m. PT: A lot of Twitterers are griping about live-streaming issues, like this one:

8:36 a.m. PT: The official Obama "Inaugural Tumblelog" now features a photo of incoming Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel making a funny face.

8:38 a.m. PT: My Ustream access has started to fuzz out.

All of the 10 hot Google search trends in the United States had to do with the inauguration at 8:35 a.m PST.
All of the 10 hot Google search trends in the United States had to do with the inauguration at 8:35 a.m PST. Google

8:38 a.m. PT: Guest post from Shankland: Now 10 out of 10 hot Google search terms are related to the inauguration. C-Span gets three of them.

8:43 a.m. PT: Alerted via Twitter: The Senate's inauguration live stream has crashed entirely. I get an instant page load error.

8:49 a.m. PT: Also from the Twitterverse: CNN's reporting records for its online live streaming, with 8 million streams as of 11:10 a.m. Eastern. The previous record was 5.3 million on Election Day.

8:51 a.m. PT: From Shankland: The lag between CNN and live stream at the Presidential Inauguration Committee site dropped from more than 2 minutes to about 5 seconds. How'd they do that? What did they cut?

8:52 a.m. PT: Just got my first flat-out Twitter outage of the day.

8:59 a.m. PT: Yup. Twitter's "tweets" are coming in with several minutes of lag.

9:01 a.m. PT: And, yes, Whitehouse.gov has now transitioned to its Obama incarnation.

9:02 a.m. PT: My colleague Stephanie Condon has a report on the state of D.C.'s wireless infrastructure right now: Spectators crowd the Mall and wireless networks.

9:07 a.m. PT: Well, Obama's officially President now. But I haven't been able to see the Twitter reactions because there's about a four or five-minute lag time.

9:12 a.m. PT: Big on Twitter right now: The fact that Obama flubbed up his inaugural oath as Chief Justice John Roberts was swearing him in. Oops!

9:15 a.m. PT: The live streams at many major news outlets are still problematic, as this Twitter post shows:

9:22 a.m. PT: Observations on the digital generation: A bunch of Twitterers report that one of the TV streams showed that 10-year-old Malia Obama took out her camera and took a photo. Cute!

9:27 a.m. PT: I watched most of the inauguration coverage on Ustream, and had a pretty amusing ad placement the whole time (left). Former vice presidential candidate and Saturday Night Live fixture Sarah Palin, it appears, is not going anywhere any time soon.

9:31 a.m. PT: Twitter has started to calm down slightly. Despite some sluggishness and very brief outages, the microblogging service managed to stay afloat during Obama's swearing-in and speech.

9:37 a.m. PT: Just in from CNN: "According to early data, as of 11:45 a.m. ET today, CNN.com Live has served 13.9 million live video streams globally since 6 a.m., shattering its all time total daily streaming record set on Election Day with 5.3 million live streams."

9:41 a.m. PT: Former Bush strategist Karl Rove, now a prolific Twitter user, has posted the message "It (has) been quite a ride--heading home." And a TwitPic.

9:49 a.m. PT: From my colleague Ina Fried: "While the social media were buzzing, corporate e-mail systems were likely experiencing a light load. One tech PR person noted that he had gotten just a single e-mail in the last hour, a fraction of his usual volume."