Debate Part 1: How it unfolded online
It's 8pm, and I'm preparing to watch the first prime-ministerial debate with my laptop at the ready, to see how it is received online. Will it be the biggest online political event so far - with thousands using sites like Twitter and Facebook to provide running commentary? Or will it fail to beat the record set by the appearance of the BNP's Nick Griffin on Question Time last year? Apparently that peaked at 12.5 tweets per second.
The various cheerleaders are all warming up - ConservativeHome and LabourList are both live-blogging the debate. The Liberal Democrats don't appear to have a live blogger - but plenty of supporters are massing on Twitter.
2030 And we're off. As the debate gets underway, all three leaders appear neck and neck on a sentiment tracker I'm looking at. But not everyone is excited - a student writes on Twitter:
Sitting in the student bar waiting for the #leadersdebate to come on. Not alot of people here... #voterapathy
2040 Facebook's "Rate the debate" must be popular - it won't load for me and there's a message: "some users may be struggling to access the app due to overloading - Hang in there!"
2045 Brown's sentiment rating went diving into negative territory in the first 10 minutes - then recovered sharply overtaking his rivals.
2050 A big split amongst viewing tweeters - some want the leaders to look at the camera, others to look at the questioner.
2055 Two rival views of how it's going - can you guess which party each supports?
"DC looks and sounds way more confident and genuine than the others - he looks comfortable, he's begining to enjoy it."
"Straight policies from GB, just words and scaremongering from Call Me Dave"
2100 Gordon Brown's Lord Ashcroft dig - and a subsequent clash with David Cameron - is greeted by online commenters as the first sign of real life in a rather sterile event.
But the event is still not impressing everyone: "Makes you think how good Blair v Hague v Kennedy would have been," writes on.
2105 I quite enjoyed this comment: "Any reason why the qs are in the style of blind date? I'm a publican, if you were a drink, what would you be and why?"
Meanwhile at Facebook: "Keep trying to access the app, we're adding servers now. Hang in for a moment and it should be working soon."
2110 The frequency of tweets reaches 22.5 per second, according to Tweetminster. So that's almost double the peak for the Nick Griffin Question Time
2125 Conservative tweeters are quick to celebrate an early Sky poll - notably party Chairman Eric Pickles:
"Brown's attacks failing as early SKY polling shows Cameron 36, Clegg 36, Brown 28"
Labour's Kerry McCarthy hits back with:
"I'm biased, but Gordon and Clegg seem comfortable, despite Clegg's stuttering. Cameron seems to be floundering."
And here's what might just be a LibDem tweet:
"Almost crying with joy at how well Nick Clegg is doing and how awful the other two candidates are making themselves look".
2130 Tweetminster says there have now been more than 100,000 tweets. But both Facebook's rate the debate tool, and itv.com's Twitter sentiment tracker are still suffering technical problems.
2140 Still a furious rate of tweeting - but not everyone is gripped. "Right, getting bored of #LeadersDebate now and shall have a shower."
The Lexalytics Twitter sentiment tracker I've been monitoring is now showing a clear lead for Nick Clegg, with David Cameron and Gordon Brown neck and neck.
2145 The various tics of the leaders beginning grate on some commenters - such as Gaby Hinsliff, former political editor of the Observer newspaper:
"Cameron's overdoing it on thank-the-questioner. official: thanking is the new 'I met a man in swindon last week' ".
Gordon Brown's grin is going down badly too - and Anthony Painter says:
"Lesson no.1. Look. at. the. camera. There's 10million people there. Hi."
And someone called Geekplanetchris says:
"I bet Nick Clegg spends half his time on Facebook ignoring friend requests and pokes from Gordon Brown".
2155 As the debate draws to a close, they've all come together on the sentiment tracker - to neutral. Perhaps because there is an unusual level of consensus on the last question about long-term care.
2205 Final stats are in from Tweetminster: total tweets: 184,396; average frequency 29.06 tweets per second; total tweeters: 36,483.
A first look along the track of each man's sentiment reading through the 90 minutes shows Nick Clegg generally being tweeted about more positively than the other two leaders.
In summary, the debate did deliver in terms of online engagement, with record numbers wanting to tweet about it, and Facebook struggling to cope with the numbers wishing to engage with the event through its Democracy UK page.