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[greenyes] The White House Email
NEW YORK TIMES - 7/18/03

White House E-Mail System Becomes Less User-Friendly

Do you want to send an e-mail message to the White House?
Good luck.
In the past, to tell President Bush - or at least those assigned to read his
mail - what was on your mind it was necessary only to sit down at a personal
computer connected to the Internet and dash off a note to
But this week, Tom Matzzie, an online organizer with the A.F.L.-C.I.O.,
discovered that communicating with the White House had become a bit more
daunting. When Mr. Matzzie sent an e-mail protest against a Bush
administration policy, the message was bounced back with an automated reply,
saying he had to send it again in a new way.
Under a system deployed on the White House Web site for the first time last
week, those who want to send a message to President Bush must now navigate
as many as nine Web pages and fill out a detailed form that starts by asking
whether the message sender supports White House policy or differs with it.
The White House says the new e-mail system, at www.whitehouse .gov/webmail,
is an effort to be more responsive to the public and offer the
administration "real time" access to citizen comments.
Completing a message to the president also requires choosing a subject from
the provided list, then entering a full name, organization, address and
e-mail address. Once the message is sent, the writer must wait for an
automated response to the e-mail address listed, asking whether the
addressee intended to send the message. The message is delivered to the
White House only after the person using that e-mail address confirms it.
Jimmy Orr, a White House spokesman, described the system as an "enhancement"
intended to improve communications. He called it a "work in progress," and
advised members of the public who had sensitive or personal matters to bring
up with President Bush to use traditional methods of communications, like a
letter on paper, a fax or a phone call.
He said the White House, which gets about 15,000 electronic messages each
day, had designed the new system during the last nine months in partnership
with a private firm that he would not identify.
"It provides an additional means for individuals to inquire about policy
issues at the White House and get a personalized response in 24 to 48
hours," said Mr. Orr, the Internet news director at the White House.
It is still possible to send a traditional e-mail message, he said, but the
sender will receive the automated reply and there is no guarantee it will be
read or responded to.
Some experts in Internet usability think the new method for sending messages
is not doing much to enhance communications between the White House and the
"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
The White House said it was taking its Web usability critics in stride.
Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph:    (608) 231-1100
Fax:   (608) 233-0011
Cell    (608) 438-9062
email: anderson@no.address

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