Fri 18 Jul
In order to send an email to President George W. Bush, it’s no longer possible to simply break out your favorite email client and dash off a message to email@example.com. Those concerned citizens wishing to express some opinion or pose some question to the most secretive administration in modern times must now jump through a series of technological hoops in the form of an unnecessarily complicated and laborious series of forms on the White House Web site.
Never mind that extrapolating one of the simplest and most basic functions available to every Internet user — the ability to send an email — into a series of slow-loading Web pages is grossly unfriendly. This “screw you” to the American people is compounded by, among other things, an error-prone system that undermines the very security that this administration is allegedly so concerned with, and a tremendously counter-intuitive URL (the system is served from “sawho14.eop.gov”… huh?).
The system also requires the user to enter a complete mailing address — something I’ve never before been asked for when sending an email — and also indicate whether his or her communiqué is a “supporting comment” or a “differing opinion.” If you find that vaguely threatening, I don’t blame you.
The New York Times, in its semi-bemused report on the subject, features an uncharacteristically diplomatic Jakob Nielsen more or less declaring the system a usability failure (as well as an hilarious, deadpan diagram outlining the convoluted email process). After having tried it myself, I’m positive it’s the most absurd email system I’ve ever come across. What’s more, it’s as crystal clear an example of the Bush administration’s contempt for public opinion as any voter could look for.