Xbox Live Has Got A Binder Full Of Awful Debate Questions

I've been watching the Presidential debates on my Xbox 360. I'm not alone—Microsoft reports that more than 100,000 people watched last night's debate on their gaming console. While I applaud Microsoft for making these vital discussions available on the Xbox, there's one big downside to watching them this way: Those insipid, meandering interactive questions.

At regular intervals throughout the debate, questions would pop up onto my TV:

"Are the candidates saying things tonight that are mainly true?"

"Are the candidates interrupting each other too much?"

"Who was more persuasive during the tax segment?"

I'm trying to watch the damned debate, guys, not participate in your weird polls! Beyond the fact that the constant questions distract from the debate, the questions themselves feel sloppy and ill-conceived. Let's look at those first two examples up top.

"Are the candidates saying things tonight that are mainly true?"

Like, where to begin? The wording renders this question meaningless on several levels. "Mainly" true? Whatever your numbers, you're going to learn that some people think the candidates are sort of lying. Yeah, but which candidate? Lying how much? By making the question apply to both candidates, it's useless, and the "mainly" softens it and makes it even more useless.

"Are the candidates interrupting each other too much?"

Again, a meaningless question. I personally thought that Mitt Romney was interrupting Obama too much—it was making him come off as petulant, and it later opened him up to being shut down by Obama on the White House response to the terrorist attacks in Benghazi. That, in turn, hurt Romney's overall performance in the debate. But there was no way for me to express that—I could just say that I thought "the candidates were interrupting each other too much." Meaningless.

Some questions were fine, if a bit broad—"Who has the better record on women's rights?" "Who would be better at reducing the budget deficit?" "Is the US safer from terrorism than four years ago?"

It doesn't feel like Microsoft is trying to gather any kind of useful data, it feels like they're just jawing, killing time. This is not the place for killing time! Important men are talking about important things! It's hard enough for me to sift through the bullshit both guys are throwing around without my TV constantly asking me how I feel about it.

Following along with the #XboxPoll hashtag on Twitter revealed a good number of people complaining about the questions, with some claiming they were biased toward Romney and others toward Obama. I think the questions were just unclear and haphazard, and any whiff of a bias came from how all-over-the-place they were.

Today, lots of people are talking about the fact that according to a subsequent Xbox Live poll, Obama handily won the second debate. But really, those results mean very little. Using a specific piece of gaming hardware to self-select a polling sample means that your data comes not just from people who own Xboxes, but from people who own Xboxes and cared enough to pick up the controller and vote. I sense that this poll would not meet 538 polling maestro Nate Silver's standards, not by a long shot.

And yet 100,000 people tuned in to watch the debates on their Xboxes. Surely with that many people watching, a practiced pollster could accumulate some interesting data. The people are holding controllers, for Pete's sake! Have them click the A button when they hear something that interests them, and the B button when they're turned off. Keep the questions spare and focused on the individual topics, or save the polling for after the debate is over. I don't know, I'm not a pollster; but surely there are better ways to take advantage of the technology.

Microsoft has a great opportunity here, and in contrast to the first debate, they seem to have stabilized their stream so that it doesn't crap out mid-debate. But for the next debate, they're going to have to come up with better questions than "Do you think the candidates have your best interests at heart?"

I guess the last question was a vital one: "Will you watch the next debate on Xbox Live and interact?"

Jury's out, guys.