With just about a month until the general election on Nov. 6, the first presidential debate of 2012 aired last week. As usual, the major networks are broadcasting all three presidential debates and the single vice presidential debate. But for the first time, the events are being streamed live on YouTube, which means you don't have to be in front of a TV to see them.
YouTube launched its election hub earlier this year. It will carry commentary before and after each debate from its partners, including ABC, Al Jazeera English, Univision and the Wall Street Journal.
However, streaming YouTube won't be quite as convenient for iPhone users who upgraded to iOS 6, since Apple has removed the YouTube app. But you can download Google's YouTube iPhone app for free from the App Store. Apple iPad users will have to be content with enlarging the iPhone display for their devices or by going to YouTube through the Safari browser (m.youtube.com/user/politics), which offers a better user interface for pre- and post-debate videos.
If you're interested in going beyond the usual coverage, here are some new ways to learn more about the issues, share your opinions and see what the rest of the world is saying.
For the record
Are the candidates fudging the truth? Go to FlackCheck.org, a website run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, to learn the truth about statements made by both debaters and by the media. On the eve of last week's debate, FlackCheck launched a page, www.flackcheck.org/forecast/, predicting the most likely topics that will prove to be deceptive. Staff members tweet throughout the debates to call attention to misstatements and will provide in-depth analysis on the website at the close of each evening.
See the lighter side
Now you've heard about live streaming, but how about live giffing? GIFs, animated picture files featuring a cartoon-like repetition of a second or so of live action, are great at capturing the humor of a moment. Past debates have had their share of moments -- such as President Reagan's "there you go again" to Sen. Walter Mondale in 1984 and Sen. Lloyd Bentsen's "you're no Jack Kennedy" zinger to Vice President Dan Quayle in 1988.
Popular blogging site Tumblr has assigned a "crack team" of GIF artists to crank out instant animations on Tumblr's official election blog featuring the best debate moments, with guest editor Adam Gabbatt from the Guardian.
Some folks no doubt will tune in to see the birth of the next big meme, the follow-up to Clint Eastwood's talk to an empty chair during the Republican National Convention. The Romney campaign has said its candidate has some "zingers" lined up for the debates, which could provide the one-liner necessary for a new meme. Keep an eye on Reddit, a social news site where many a meme is born. If you'd like to contribute, try quickmeme.com, where you can see a stream of "hot" memes, click to use a photo, add your own saying and then post to Reddit, Twitter and Facebook.
Launched early last week, Ponderoo is a free app for iPhone and iPad that lets users broadcast their reactions to the candidate's comments in a line-by-line, real-time way. Ponderoo is named for the ripple effect: Toss a pebble in a pond and the ripples grow as they expand from the center. One viewer's comment can affect others the same way. Users enter a "pond" -- in this case, a televised debate -- and tap above or below a line to express their positive or negatives responses as the debate progresses. Participants can also display "the world," an aggregated opinion line of everyone in the pond.
If you happen to own a Samsung Galaxy Tab or Note, Peel Remote TV has launched a new feature in its app that will let viewers "boo" and "cheer" throughout the debates. Peel TV said it will provide analysis of the event, such as the moments that unleashed the strongest sentiment, immediately following each debate's close. (If you already use the app, you must update it to get the debate feature.) The company will post results to its Facebook page as well.
Even with all these frills to capture the interest of tech-savvy Americans, election interest among some groups -- notably young adults -- is running far lower than it was four years ago. Compared to the same time period in 2008 when Obama captured the youth vote, the share of voters younger than 30 who are following campaign news "very closely" is roughly half what it was at this point four years ago (18 percent, down from 35 percent), according to a Pew Research Center study.
But the oldest group in Pew's study remains steadfast: Among those 65 and older, both Obama and Romney supporters are as engaged as Obama and McCain supporters were in 2008.
Ogden-based TopTenREVIEWS.com guides consumers by comparing products in the world of technology, including electronics, software and Web services. Have a question for TopTenREVIEWS? Email Leslie Meredith at firstname.lastname@example.org.