Tuesday, July 29, 2003

emailing the Top of the House

Via VoxP comes this piece in the NYtimes 10 days ago or so. It notes that the Whitehouse has changed its email process so that instead of being able to send a mail to an address, you have to go through a filter - some 9 pages or so - before you get to actually send anything. The first question is, effectively, are you pro or con the Administration? In the Times ... "Over all, it's a very cumbersome process," said Jakob Nielsen, an authority on Web design who helps run a consulting group, Nielsen Norman Group, in Fremont, Calif. "It's probably designed deliberately to cut down on their e-mail." Which, of course, you have to agree with on all counts. I have no idea how much paper mail the Whitehouse gets, but they quote 15,000 email a day before this process. Maybe the Prime Minister here gets 1/2 million paper letters a year. You can multiply that up and guess that the PM could be heading for 5,000 email a day minimum. So the choice is pretty simple I guess: Pay for 1000 people to sift, filter, process, respond to or delete millions of mail a year, or make the process difficult enough so that spam mail can't be sent, nor can vast email campaigns be co-ordinated to inundate the mail system, nor mail overloads be used to fill the boxes up. As a taxpayer, I know which one I want. The idea of paying thousands of people to process mail that will mostly be repetitive, abusive and downright ugly is not in my list of things to do in transforming government. You should see the mail I get (my mail address is listed on the OeE website). I get incredible things sent to me - words that I don't even use myself (and I'm wont to use a few). If that's were to happen to the PM mailbox, then it would either be taken away or just used as a dumping ground with few mails actually getting a response. That wouldn't be democracy. So, I hope that if and when the PM puts a mail service online, he goes the way of the Whitehouse, because any other approach would be folly. And, as the US Admin Official responsible says ... "When it comes to a Web site, it's a bit like a movie," Mr. Orr said. "Some will say it's a tour de force; some will say it fell flat." Most of the time, you lose when you do something like this. But it gets my vote.

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