• United States
Contributing Writer

Follow-up: The president’s e-mail

Aug 05, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* We learn that e-mailing the president is not easy

Call it a work in progress. Shortly after I shared my dismay over changes in President Bush’s communications system, changes were abound.

The biggest change was that the president’s e-mail address ( was reinstated on the “contact us” page.  However, the autoresponder e-mail still suggests that you go to the newly minted Web site to post comments about specific issues.

And surprise, this time when I tested it, it worked. That’s a nice change. If you head to>, you are greeted by a welcome message that encourages you to post a comment on specific topics. A few paragraphs into the welcome note, it reads: “If you are interested in commenting on other topics, or if your message is sensitive or requires personal attention, please do not use this system.” However, you have to click into the site to see what topics are available to comment on so you don’t know right away if your category is available.

Once I click “continue” I’m taken to a page that takes me through a two-step process of narrowing down my reason for being there. I can decide whether I want to write a supporting comment, write a differing opinion or write a general comment.

Then I can choose from a list of 12 topics that best describes the subject matter of my comment, such as science/technology, small business or the economy. Some subjects have subtopics listed such as under the environment, I could choose to discuss the Yucca Mountain.

Hitting “continue” again, I am taken to a page that holds steps 3, 4 and 5 – all dealing with personal information such as my name, address and e-mail address. Think about this: When you submit an e-mail message to the president, you don’t have to offer any of this up… you can remain anonymous. But there are asterisks next to these fields on the Web form indicating they are required fields.

Finally, when you hit “continue” again, you are taken to a Web form that allows you to enter your comment freestyle. Clicking “continue” again lets you review your message and then finally on yet another page, you are told that if you want your submission to count – which after many pages of entering information one should assume you do – you have to respond to a confirmation e-mail. Isn’t the whole point of this to cut down on the load on the e-mail system?

You are also asked if you want to submit another comment, which sends you through even more forms.

This is a tedious system for logging comments to the president. Maybe it’s meant to deter some folks from doing so – the gathering of personal information might be enough to stop some.

Why the president “requires” more than just your e-mail address to comment is unclear. And why you have to go through multiple pages for a process that could easily be done in one pop-up window is even more unclear.

But that’s the improvement to your government’s system. It mirrors changes done elsewhere in the world of customer service – after all, that’s in essence what this system is. The big lesson here is that more convoluted is never better.

What do you think? Let me know at