A Sad, Cautionary Tale: Respect the Power and Appeal of Online Interaction

Tracy Russo, the author of this post, "Millions of Dollars Left on the Table," is the new media strategist for the U.S. Department of Justice.  Her entry is about how successful the effort to get people motivated by a star-studded event intent on raising funds for Haiti failed to have an internet system that could handle the motivated.

Her thoughts in the section I've excerpted below struck me even more so because on Wednesday evening, I was named chair of Pepper Pike City Council's newly formed Communications/Techonology/Web committee (a combination of two committees that had already existed, Communications and then Technology/Web).  Here's the relevant portion:

I hate to offer such harsh criticism to those who worked so hard to make this event a reality, but it needs to be said. It needs to be made clear that you can’t make your website an afterthought -  especially not when you are directing hundreds of millions of viewers to that site to make emotional impulse donations.

Beyond the obvious functional failure - that the website should have been prepared to withstand the massive demand of so many simultaneous visits and donations attempts at once - the site failed the form test too. But that’s another matter all together. I’ll take an unfortunately designed site that works over one that’s just pretty any day.

For some of us, tonight’s beautiful program became a stark reminder of how much work we have to do to transform the culture inside our organizations and to make those with the power understand that a proper, functional website is a core business need.
Tracy has a long history in e-goverment and e-politics but what's most coincidental for me about her work is that her job is based in the USDOJ's Office of Public Affairs, which is where I interned and then worked, from 1982-1984, during the Reagan Administration and while I was in college.  Even more coincidental to the current times and issues is that I was in charge of monitoring media events attended by the likes of Ken Starr and Rudy Giuliani as they went around the country speaking about...immigration reform (what eventually became the Simpson-Mazzoli bill - it took the Reagan Administration three sessions of Congress to get it passed, for those really reading and wondering about the current climate in D.C.), a topic which many consider to be the next hot topic in D.C.

Aside from these parallels, that bolded phrase is what matters, regardless of how big or small a community is.  We are working on transformation, at many levels. It doesn't have to be scary, expensive or perfect. What's important is that we're engaged.

And I'm pleased to say that in Pepper Pike, I'm working my heart out to make it so.

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