The Best That Is To Be Attained

The Constitution was signed yesterday, September 17th. Although many delegates weren’t completely satisfied, Gouverneur Morris captured the thinking of many of the delegates, when he said the Plan was the best that is to be attained. It’s now stood for 226 years after he said that.

It was a fun, overwhelming summer recreating the Convention on Twitter through @TweetTheDebates. Now that the Convention is on Twitter, we can start exploring and playing with the tweets, to tell stories about why our Constitution says what it does and why those decisions are still relevant and important today.

I’ll soon be back with a website update and a poster “map” of the Convention that will make the Twitter Convention more accessible. The poster will show a Constitution cheat sheet and make it easy to find the history of every clause in the Constitution.

Follow @YouTweetDebates on Twitter to find out about updates! Thanks for following @TweetTheDebates!

First Week Feedback

How was the first week of Tweet the Debates? This is an experiment, a work in progress. I hope we find ways to make these discussions about the fundamental questions of our government better over the whole summer.

Understandability

I started using pictures for the resolutions and the votes to make it easier to understand the general topic being discussed, when you’re on the webpage or strolling through a stream. How’s that working out?

I also received a couple suggestions to create daily summaries to make the Convention easier to follow. I have been posting links to daily summaries in the Constitutional Convention Attendance Record by Gordon Lloyd.

I’ll also post some summary information through @YouTweetDebates – I’ll try to summarize the topics of the day and connect them to current events. If you want to do the same – tweet to @YouTweetDebates and I’ll retweet you.

Encouraging Participation

I tried to spark some participation with @RandolphReply, which I explain here. I’m having trouble getting people to understand to rewrite in their reply. Any suggestions on better ways to explain this? Or other ways to encourage participation?

Hashtags

I began to use hashtags to index make it easy to read all the discussions on one Resolution together. Do they help?

One of the trickiest things about reading Madison’s Journal of the Debates is to connect the votes to the proposals. This week, I will try to use hashtags to make those connections.

Do you have ideas for other hashtags?

Any other feedback on how to improve the website or Tweet the Debates will be greatly appreciated!

#Hashtags for a Constitutional Convention

Hashtags can get a bad rap. They are one of those “cool” things that it’s cool to dislike. They can be overused and confusing.

But hashtags are a helpful way to organize the debates and draw people into the discussion.

I hope to use the @YouTweetDebates handle to encourage participation by asking questions to the Twitter public in modern day language. For example, here’s a question tweet. This kind of tweet allows somebody to click the hashtag and see the discussion at the Convention about that question.

Also, hashtags can be used to help somebody dig deeper into the debates. There may be a layer underneath

For example, a follower retweeted this from @TweetTheDebates. That passive language is directly from the Journal of the Debates. But if you click on the hashtag, you can see what those verbal criticisms may have been -

These are examples of index hashtags. These index hashtags will be based on the proposal currently being discussed. Right now, the Committee of the Whole is discussing the Randolph Resolutions. There are 15 different resolutions, so we will be using the tags #RR1 – #RR15.

I’m also posting text pictures of these resolutions, which will hopefully make it more clear what each hashtag means (and allow you to always see what’s currently being discussed on this website.)

These hashtags will change after the next draft of the Constitution is finished.

I’m also using some procedural hashtags -

#A2NC – agreed to nem. contradicente, which means agreed to unanimously. Using this is a way to get rid of a few characters. It also may be interesting to click on the tag to see how much of our Constitution was agreed to without dissent or debate.

#Move2 – I’m using this for motions that any delegate may make.

#OnTable – this hashtag will be used by @GeorgeTheChair (and @N8Ghorum during the Committee of the Whole) to announce what topic is currently being considered.

Finally, there are the connecting hashtags – the hashtags that will bring Tweet the Debates in front of more eyes on Twitter. I’m not really sure what the best hashtags to use for this are. I could really use your suggestions.

Please give me feedback on how to best use hashtags to explore all the ways Twitter allows us to organize these discussions. Tweet the Debates is an experiment, a work in progress. I want it to grow based on our actual experiences using it.

Some resources explaining hashtags –

Best Practices for Hashtags

Twitter Fan Wiki

WikiHow

Best Seat in the House

The topic currently being discussed:


This Twitter stream is only the tweets retweeted by @TweetTheDebates, which will only contain the scripted tweets linked to James Madison’s Journals of the Debates.


Tweets from all the Delegates, scripted or not -



Our favorite tweets from you:


People tweet about the Constitution all the time.


Randolph Reply

@RandolphReply allows you to easily get involved in the Convention and maybe win a little cash!

Edmund Randolph was the governor of Virginia, and as such, he introduced the plan that the Virginia Delegation drafted while waiting for the Convention to start.  This plan was debated and amended throughout the Convention and eventually became our Constitution.

Which Edmund Randolph then refused to sign.

 

All of you get the opportunity to play Edmund Randolph, one of the most interesting Characters who composed the Convention.  You get a chance to make one of his arguments in your own words, your own tweet.

Reply to this tweet by rewriting the main idea (that having only one person act as the Executive will inevitably end up as a king), and you could be a part of the Convention on June 11th!

Each day before an Edmund Randolph speech (not including motions or seconds), @RandolphReply will tweet a “pre-tweet”, including a link to his speech.  Just reply to @RandolphReply with a rewritten tweet.  You can rewrite the “pre-tweet” however you want – you can try to find a joke, make his argument more persuasive, make it rhyme, tie his comment to a current event…

We’ll pick our favorite reply and re-tweet it at the right time to make it part of the conversation in Tweet the Debates.

Out of Randolph’s 100 or so speeches, 10 will be Secret Prize Replies!  If you’re our favorite reply for one of those 10, you’ll win a prize of $50!

Have fun, learn about the Constitution, and try to win Twitter!

How to “watch” Tweet the Debates

There’s a number of ways you can follow along with Tweet the Debates and watch the drafting of our Constitution!

On Twitter:

You can follow @TweettheDebates on Twitter, of course.  @TweettheDebates will tweet scripted from James Madison’s Journal of the Debates, with a link to the actual text.

If you’re signed in, you can subscribe to a list on the @TweetTheDebates twitter page, which will allow you to follow every tweet from every delegate.

You can also follow @YouTweetDebates to interact with Tweet the Debates. This handle is where we will retweet our favorite comments from you!

And of course, this is Twitter, so you can tailor the show to yourself.  Just follow the Twitter Actors you’re interested in.  Just follow @GeorgetheChair (or @N8Ghorum when the delegates are in the Committee of the Whole) to hear what topic is being discussed.

On TweettheDebates.com:

You don’t need to be signed up to Twitter to follow along!  Just come to tweetthedebates.com, and you’ll find the Twitter streams listed above waiting for you.  The links in the tweets for the actual text will bring you here, and you’ll be able to see the topic being discussed, the actual text, and the updated discussion by the delegates.

On ConSource:

Tweet the Debates will start every day with a call to order and a link to James Madison’s notes of the day at ConSource.  These notes provide an easy way to research the primary source document and discover other primary source documents by delegates, like letters and diaries!

We want to use Tweet the Debates to explore the best way to deliberate online.  Please share any feedback or ideas on how to improve!

Instructions for Twitter Actors

Being a “Twitter Actor” – or basically being anything that somebody just makes up – may seem a little daunting.  But it’s not.  It’s easy, and we’ll do what we can to make it easier.


FIRST STEP – PICK YOUR DELEGATE


 

1st Option – Answer a few questions and let me pick

I can choose a delegate for you, or give you some options.  Just fill out this Survey Monkey:
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/D39B35Z


2nd Option – Request Delegates.

If you want, you can request a specific delegate.  You may know a lot about a particular person, or have an idea about a delegate that made arguments that you’re interested in.

You can also research the delegates yourself:

ScriptSheet
– You can browse the ScriptSheet.  The first page is a summary, saying how often a delegate speaks, when, what he speaks about, and some notes that I made.  The full list of dates and topics spoken (including number of times for delegates that speak a lot) are hidden, because they make it difficult to view the document.  Please email me any questions.

The ScriptSheets will be shared by Google Drive.  For now, you can access the ScriptSheet here -

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AvxVNylydyEBdE5UUlZIbDVhWm81LUtfQjB1UXoxMkE&usp=sharing

That lets anybody with that link find the document and comment on it.  After I talk to more of you, we will share the documents only with certain people and we will allow you to edit it.  If you have a Google account or an email you prefer to use, please let us now.
Other Resources – There are some great online resources to find out about your delegate.  A good place to find lots of information is http://teachingamericanhistory.org/convention/delegates/.  Also, Bruce Carlson has a podcast called “They Signed” which describes the signers of the Declaration of Independence (some signed both).


SECOND STEP – CREATE YOUR CHARACTER



This is the heart of being a “Twitter Actor”- creating your voice that you’ll use to speak the words of the delegate.  You will have a wide range of freedom – because we are linking to the original text, you don’t need to copy it.  You can make a sign pointing to it, a headline, an expression of the same type of thought…  The format of Tweet the Debates gives you a lot of freedom as a Twitter Actor.

Here are some ideas you can try:

Historic + Legal
  • Try for historic accuracy
  • Make the arguments as clear & understandable as possible
  • Find the relevance to today’s world

Fun
D.M. Napier, Simon Earle, and Alyx Kendzierski are teaming up to imagine Alexander Hamilton as Bruce Wayne, who rushes off to Gotham City during the middle of the Convention.

These fun ideas that you imagine (thanks, D.M.!) are what can help this civics education project reach more people. Please feel free to do any of the

  • JUST MAKE JOKES!
  • Create any kind of character you want (robot, alien, James Cagney…)
  • You could exaggerate personal traits, like James Wilson’s thick Scottish accent, or rumors, like Luther Martin’s insobriety
  • A couple delegates basically have catchphrases they say frequently.  So sketch comedy, in other words.
  • You could make a character who makes his speeches only in Bob Dylan or heavy metal lyrics

Crowd-Sourcing
You could explore the available ways to communicate, and make every speech in a different way, a photo meme, a Vine, a podcast…  You could search for tweets or other media already made to fit your delegate’s arguments.  Or you could ask your communities to help you make new media.

You
Most importantly, you can always just be yourself.  We reached out to people and organizations that we think do interesting and important work.  What would a legal services lawyer do at the Constitutional Convention?  You can talk about your passions and your interests in the words of the Convention.

For example, Jonathan Denn is playing the role of John Dickinson, who, on June 6th, offered the eventual compromise regarding equality in the Senate, weeks before they finally agreed to it.  Jon is trying to identify compromise with his work with aGREATER.US, so he may find many parallels.

I can help you brainstorm and create a character!  We can schedule a time to talk on the telephone, Skype, messenger or chat online…  We can create a character and pick your delegate in one meeting.

THIRD STEP – MAKE PROFILE PAGE



Creating your Twitter Handle for your delegate is pretty simple.  You just need a:

  • Name Like any Twitter Handle, we’ll have to see what is available.  And shorter is better.  Other than that, it’s wide open.
  • Picture You have a lot of options to find/make a picture.  Many public domain pictures are available online of the delegate. You can edit a picture of yourself into the Convention, or take a picture wearing a powdered wig.  We can help with GIMP.  Jim Ether, who made the awesome illustration of the Convention with smartphones, may be able to draw a delegate to your specifications.
  • Bio The Twitter profile page has space for a short bio (160 characters or less).  We can use the bio from the Teaching American History website or you can write your own.
  • Email address You need an email address for a new Twitter account.  We can give you an email account – YourDelegate@TweettheDebates.com.  You can use this email account through Webmail or Outlook, Thunderbird, or a phone email program.  Please let us know if you want an email address.

It’s best if you can make the Twitter Handle for the delegate by the date listed in “First Attend”, but it can be done anytime between that date and the Date of First Tweet.  We can create the Twitter Account for you, but it’s easier if you set it up yourself.  Make up a password you don’t use for any other accounts, and share that password with us so we can help schedule tweets for you.

FOURTH STEP – REWRITE TWEETS


The final required step of being a Twitter Actor is to rewrite the “pre-tweets” that I wrote for the delegates.  As you can see in the summary, for the majority of delegates, this is less than 25 tweets and will not take long.  In fact, for many delegates, we can pick your delegate, create your character, and rewrite your tweets during one phone call or meeting.

Even delegates who speak more may not be as difficult as it first appears.  People who speak more also tend to say more quotable things, so there may not be much to rewrite.

You can find the Convention Records by visiting the digital library of our partner The Constitutional Sources Project (www.ConSource.org).

You are limited to 130 characters in your tweets, in order to ensure room to add links to the original text.

You rewrite the tweets in the Google Drive ScriptSheets.  You could start in the ScriptSheets we shared with everyone, or we can make a special ScriptSheet that only the two of us share.  We will soon be sharing different kinds of ScriptSheets, including one ordered by time and date and arguments.

Generally, we hope that you do your tweets all at once, or at least a week before the speech.  The Convention starts on May 25th.


FIFTH STEP – HAVE FUN



After the ScriptSheet, you’ve fulfilled all the obligations of a Twitter Actor!  Thanks for your help in creating Tweet the Debates!

There’s plenty more opportunities to keep participating if you so desire.  You can tweet whispers, heckles or other remarks throughout the Convention.  There are scripted times to participate, such as when James Madison notes a “General Commotion” during the Convention.  Your delegate likely participates in committees, or may be involved in other historical events, like returning to Congress to pass the Northwest Ordinance.

ConSource.org is also a great place to find letters, notes or diary entries written by your delegate. You can write a tweet and then include a link to particular documents, so your followers can read the full historical document.

Or you can just imagine the Founding Fathers using Twitter as we do today: to complain about how many beers you drank last night, to share a song that says what you’re feeling, to distract yourself.

The @TweettheDebates feed will only re-tweet the official tweets with links to the official text, but other lists will include all tweets from all delegates.

Twitter Actors

During this week before the Convention starts, from May 20-May 25, we will introduce the Twitter Actors.

The Twitter Actors will bring the delegates at the Convention in a voice created by the Actor.  Tweet the Debates and its co-sponsors are not responsible for the views of either the Twitter Actors or the delegates.

We are still looking for Twitter Actors!  Please leave any nominations for in the comments.