Watching the Democrats: Day 1

SAN FRANCISCO (08/15/2000) - Watching the first day of the Democratic National Convention on the Web proved to be a game of camera control and picture play.

At the beginning of what the Shadow Convention contingent called the Democrats' first day of self-congratulating, I managed to watch video streams of New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen on three different Web sites simultaneously. The feat, which I couldn't duplicate later, revealed that some video streams had more of a delay than others, some by a matter of minutes. The winner with the most prompt delivery: MSNBC.com. The loser: C-Span. The cable network's Web coverage, so reliable during the Republican convention, repeatedly led to "general error" messages.

Al Gore's party actually managed to live up to its promises of delivering online bells and whistles on day one - maybe Gore really did have something to do with this Internet thing after all. At one point I actually caught myself saying "wow" as I played with the four 360-degree cameras on dems2000.com, zooming in for blurry close-up shots of Hillary Clinton and spinning around the convention podium to see if the children standing next to Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan were fidgeting (they weren't, but then again, they might have been tied down).

The DNC's cameras performed far better than the only comparable offering during the Republican convention - Pseudo.com's Web cams, which decided to skip the Democratic convention. Three out of the four cameras at dems2000.com worked, though one had no audio. That was an improvement over Pseudo, where I never managed to both hear and see at the same time.

On Monday I saw President Clinton from all sorts of vantage points. By clicking on camera 2, I stood on President Clinton's left side as he asked, "Are we gong to keep this progress and prosperity going?" From the right, I watched Clinton boast of welfare rolls being cut in half during his tenure. But while it was fun to play with the cameras, I got a larger taste of the convention from the Web site's own gavel-to-gavel live production. It showed, for instance, Hillary Rodham Clinton and daughter Chelsea smiling and clapping enthusiastically during Clinton's speech - an image I would have missed if I had been playing with the cameras on my own.

A quick stop at the slimmed down Pseudo.com revealed its new approach to Net political coverage. At one point, Pseudo's anchors had taken a break and Pseudo's camera filmed live podium coverage of U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas by turning its lens to one of the televisions sets in Pseudo's studio.

What's wrong with this picture? Here I was, logged onto the Net, watching a video stream of a TV broadcast. If that's what Pseudo means by alternative Net coverage, take me back to mainstreaming.

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