NYT Interactive Presidential Debates

The New York Times recently published an interactive application for exploring the video and transcripts from the presidential and vice-presidential debates. Actual debate content aside, the application is quite a usable foray into the realm of multimedia (video + transcript) interfaces. Seen here is a screen shot of the application from the 2nd presidential debate.

Overall the interface has a good “flow.” At the top is the ability to search for keywords and see where they showed up in the transcript. You can see the comparison between the word’s usage between Obama, McCain, and the moderator. Below this are two timelines, the problem is that while they are all intuitive, they are in the wrong hierarchical order. The top most timeline is the most “zoomed out,” but the next one down is the most “zoomed in.” Really they need to be re-ordered so that the middle timeline is the bottom most. This would be a more intuitive layout from least detailed to most detailed. What IS really nice about all of the timelines and what really helps navigation is all of the textual information that pops up when hovering. Also there’s some segmentation showing parts of the video where each of the debaters is speaking. I found it really helpful to be able to click any of these segments and navigate the video to there. There is some navigational integration with the transcript which is interesting too. For one you can click on a block of the transcript and that will navigate you to that section of the video. But still we’re dealing with blocks of text rather than individual words being linked into the video.

The other fantastic aspect of this tool is that it provides some level of integrated fact-checks. The fact checking is produced professionally by the Times and is presented as aligned with the different question segments.¬† It’s difficult to follow though because it’s in a tab which competes with the transcript itself and so you can’t see the context or anchor to where the fact checking is referring. It seems it would be a lot more helpful for comparison’s sake to be able to see both the transcript and also the fact checking at the same time. The other problem with the presentation of the fact checking is just that’s it’s really dense and hard to read through. Again, better contextualization with the video and the transcript would really help here.

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