Obama's Online Town Halls: Is it the Medium that Matters?

After wading throughthousands of 140-charter-or-less Tweets and retweets lobbed at President Obama during July's Twitter Town Hall, there's something satisfying -- almost indulgent -- about reading the lengthy LinkedIn questions posted in advance of that social networking site's presidential town hall set for Monday.

Tweets, by design, are straightforward, uncomplicated creatures -- perfect for plugging a Web link, passing on a new morsel of information or delivering a solid one-liner.

The format seemed ill-suited though to engaging the leader of the free world in extended debate, leaving the impression that all questioners were either partisans or pranksters. And the president, freed from the 140-character constraints imposed on his interlocutors -- and from any follow-ups -- was easily able to duck and parry any tough questions that did make the cut.

The first few hundred LinkedIn questions, by contrast, are generally well-thought out, nuanced and backed by supporting facts.

Mike Seilback, for instance, asked: "President Obama: You've said time and again that creating a green economy could help spur economic development & job growth, yet you made the opposite argument when you directed the EPA to forgo issuing new ozone standards. Please explain why."

Kate Watt asked whether the president would consider raising the federal minimum wage as a way to stimulate the economy. John Zane promoted an obligatory public service requirement based on the European model and Jason Patterson pushed for an all-out program to improve American infrastructure.

The difference in question quality may have as much to do with the LinkedIn audience -- more professional, less likely to be anonymous and generally more eager to protect their online reputations than the typical Facebook or Twitter poster -- as with the questions' extended length.

It will be interesting to see whether the relative complexity and nuance of the LinkedIn questions produces more complex and nuanced answers from the president.