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Posts Tagged ‘communications’

5 Reasons Why the White House Response to the Death Star Petition Was Genius

January 15, 2013 Leave a comment

Back in November 2012, someone posted on the White House’s “We The People” site petitioning the federal government to secure funding and resources to build a Death Star by 2016. We The People is an online petition website that allows any citizen to make a suggestion, and if it receives 25,000 votes, the White House will issue an official response. The Death Star petition reached 25,000 votes in December and one month later, the White House issued their response.

Picture of the Death Star from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

The Death Star would cost how much? Yikes

Here are 5 reasons why I thought the response was brilliant:

1. They Played Along

Kudos to the White House for embracing and adding more Star Wars references. There were mentions of

  • Blowing up planets
  • Having a flaw that can be exposed by a one-man starship
  • Luke’s robotic arm
  • The power of the Force

How many government agencies would have responded with “we are not familiar with the term ‘Death Star’ and therefore are unable to properly respond to this petition.” Probably a lot.

2. It was Informal

One lesson from social media is that it’s okay to be informal sometimes. People like interacting with other human beings more than a dry, soulless organization. It’s refreshing to see government be clever, witty, and funny.

The second paragraph begins with “…look carefully and you’ll notice something floating in the sky – that’s no Moon, it’s a Space Station!” Reading this sentence makes you feel like the author is actually talking to you.

Not only was it written with a playful voice, they even linked to a photo of President Obama wielding a toy light saber.

3. It was Informative

Not only was the response witty and playful, it was also very informative. The author saw this as an opportunity to educate the reader with relevant articles and programs. There were several links to government and non-government projects to get the reader excited about what is currently happening in space. I bet most readers learned something new.

4. They Promoted Others

Another important lesson from social media is that it’s not always about you. The White House was happy to promote other programs that they thought the reader would find useful, giving readers a more complete picture of what is happening in the industry. In addition to the many NASA programs, they also link to a private sector project with a mission to put more humans on the moon and DARPA projects to build floating droids.

There’s even a reference to a study that estimated the cost of a Death Star to be more than $850,000,000,000,000,000.

5. They Ended On a Positive Note

It’s difficult to draw something positive out of such an outrageous petition that was obviously a joke, but the White House pulled it off. Instead of just listing evidence to why this is a terrible idea, they ended with an encouraging message.

The second to last paragraph says “We are living in the future! Enjoy it. Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field.”

____

Despite the brilliance of the response, there is something that doesn’t sit well with me: I couldn’t find the article on We The People. Of course, if you use a search engine, the article shows up at the top and there are plenty of technology and government blogs that link to it, but if you start from the We The People homepage, it’s very difficult to navigate to the response (I couldn’t do it but someone else probably could). It’s as if the White House is purposely trying to hide it from accidental visits.

Even the title of the response is extremely vague. It’s called “This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For.”

Despite the fact that it’s hidden, I still have to applaud the author for a brilliant and refreshing response. This is a great example of what government can be: clever, in-touch, educational, and inspiring all at the same time.

Is Web 2.0 Always the Way to Go?

February 9, 2011 4 comments

Just because government is further behind the private sector when it comes to jumping on the Web 2.0 train doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of chatter about getting on board. I’ve heard things like

“We need an app where citizens can take pictures of potholes or graffiti with their camera phone, geotag the location, and have it entered into a maintenance request in real time which then generates a tweet with the work order.”

or

“We need an iPhone app that can play a song of their choice and as it gets closer to their registration renewal date, the song will play faster and faster until they renew their license.”

or

“We want a platform-agnostic, web-based application that can pull public datasets from every agency overlayed on top of a Google maps mashup with an augmented reality iPhone and Android app integrated into a custom Gowalla trip with flickr integration and vote up/vote down capabilities.”

Ok… I’m exaggerating. But my point is, sometimes we get so enamored by the shiny new jewel that we forget about less attractive options that might be just as useful, if not better than the shiny jewels.

More specifically, I’m talking about text messaging, the premier choice of communication for an overwhelming demographic in this day and age. The statistics are so astounding, there’s no need to list them. Just ask a teenager. People like love being able to communicate in quick, asynchronous digital bits, and this is definitely a channel that works well with government communication needs.

an old flip phone

SMS is so simple, even this old flip phone can do it!

Yesterday, I came across an article in the New York Times blog about a service for pregnant women and young mothers that sends text messages with health tips, information, and resources based on their location. What a great idea!

It’s

  • simple,
  • effective,
  • inexpensive,
  • don’t require smartphones,
  • unobstrusive, and
  • completely integrated with normal communication channels.

With all the convenience and benefits of text messaging, why aren’t more government programs getting on board? I’m not saying that nobody uses SMS, but I hear so much more about Twitter, Facebook and other more 2.0 types of tools.

What do you think? Even though it’s not as “shiny” as some other applications, should government use text messaging more often? What are some other examples of highly effective programs taking advantage of this tool?

Categories: eGov Tags: , , ,