Even the President Gets Spam

The White House has changed the way in which people are able to e-mail the president. Previously, to e-mail the president, one had only to address a message to president@whitehouse.gov. Now, in what appears to be an attempt to control an overwhelming amount of e-mail, the White House is fighting spam with bureaucracy.

Sending a letter to president@whitehouse.gov produces a canned response, pointing you to the new White House Web Mail system. There, you can step through a multi-page submission process, answering a few questions, which, ostensibly, help the White House staff categorize your comments and direct them to the appropriate person or persons.

When the system debuted a week or two ago, it took quite a bit of heat. Like any change to a highly visible Web site, it garnered a lot of attention…and traffic. So much so, in fact, that the site was unavailable for some time.

Many of the people who could get on found the system difficult to use. The user has to step through as many as 9 Web pages to complete the submission process. The system forces the user to select a subject from a list, one which does not contain things like "unemployment."

However, since the system debuted, at least one oversight has been corrected. Previously, the user had to categorize their message as a "supporting comment" or a "differing opinion." There was, apparently, no middle ground until a new option appeared in the last day or two: "general comment."

Stepping Through the Process

So, for fun, I tried to send the President my comments about the new system. I selected "general comment" because I'm only really offering a critique, not necessarily to complaint. After all, I certainly understand the need to get some kind of control over the dreaded inbox.

I chose the top level category "Science/Technology." Unfortunately, the only sub-category listed beneath "Science/Technology" is "Energy." Oh well, I guess that's about as appropriate as any of the other choices. Let's just continue on.

However, pressing the "Continue" button produced the following error:

An error has occurred during your transaction. Please follow this link to start again.

I looked around for the link referenced by the error message but did not see it. I finally realized that the word "link" was itself the link. However, they very cleverly made it the same color as the rest of the text so I had to hold the mouse over it to figure out it was a link. Sure enough, clicking it brought me back to the previous page. "Write a supporting comment" was selected.

Oh well, maybe next time. At least this should cut down on the President's spam. After all, if a human can't get through the process, a computer sure won't.

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