Wednesday, November 03, 2004


Mass E-mail Campaigns

Mass E-mail Campaigns May Do More Harm Than Good

Report: Internet is shifting how public participates in regulatory process

PITTSBURGH—Groups that send out tens or hundreds of thousands of similar e-mails seeking to influence government regulations may be "inadvertently petitioning themselves into obscurity," according to a new report by a University of Pittsburgh professor. "The assumption has been that the more people participate in the policy-making process, the more they'll be listened to," said Stuart W. Shulman, assistant professor of information sciences and public administration at Pitt and senior research associate in Pitt's University Center for Social and Urban Research. "The fact may be that the more they participate in mass e-mail campaigns—without creating substantive, detailed, specific new information relevant to a decision—the lower the agency estimates the role of the public to be over time."

Read the full press release or the full report

welcome addition to the blgosphere, and pioneering effort of results dissemination, outreach. well done.
Good to see the blog. Welcome to the blog world.

I would love to talk or debate this report with you if you like.

I've got a mass email campaign. I've been doing this for some time. In Pittsburgh, my outreach is now greater than 8,000 contacts. But, my style and message is unlike that of most others.

Let me know if you're interested in these insights. Otherwise, I'll take the report and doctor it in PDF with NOTES and comments.
Mark, it would be great to have you tell the blog about your campaign and what makes it unique. This is precisely what I hope to see happen in this forum.
Hi Stuart. I love the work you're doing -- it's so important.

I hope sees this.

Here's where it gets personal: I'm not a political scientist, and I haveno idea what's talked about during the daily business of rulemaking. I didn't even know that public comment could be part of the record. Sign me up -- but I have no idea how to do that or where to direct my attention.

What _is_ clear is that my days as a mere voter and bland newspaper reader are over. If this is my democracy, I want to add my voice to the mix,
even if it's just harrassing my congresspeople.

I would love to see technology enable an elegant, changing, easily navigable toolkit for the masses. One-stop shopping for updates, contact info, instructions, voting records, and whatever else I need to participate in the business of government.

Thanks for letting me vent. Now I feel better. Well, sort of.
I'm glad to finally see a more-or-less long-term online forum for eRulemaking. I was disappointed that the Harvard-sponsored online forum only lasted a month. That's not enough time for a community to develop and/or substantively interact. Hopefully this forum can be a seed for growing such a community.

As for the premise that mass email campaigns actually reduce the impact of people's feedback, that would not surprise me at all. The current tools for handling public feedback are not designed to handle large volumes of input.
From the Federal eRulemaking Project team:

While the Harvard online dialogue was posted as being open for use during September 2004, it is still up and running (you will need to 'register'). We check it periodically for any new comments/ideas. The September date was because we were looking for specific functional attributes that the public wanted a government-wide electronic regulatory docket to include. During late summer, early fall we were in the design stages of developing what will become the Federal Docket Management System.

The Harvard dialogue can be found at:

Brief background information on the federal eRulemaking project can be found at:

For an example of an online electronic docket, see the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) electronic EDOCKET at:

Background materials on the federal eRulemaking project can be found in EPA's EDOCKET (docket number OEI-2004-0002) or at:
Also from the federal government eRulemaking Project team:

- more information on the project and other federal eGov projects can be found at:

If you have a group meeting, conference, undergraduate/graduate school class, or other event where you would like to hear more about the federal government's eRulemaking Project, please let us know. We would be happy to do a presentation.


Rick Otis
US Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA is managing the interagency eRulemaking Project)


Kristin Tensuan
Program Outreach and Communications
eRulemaking Project Management Office

And for a bit of shameless advertising: if you would like to see how EPA is using eGovernment to achieve our mission, read our recent report (483KB PDF) on the subject at:
Last month, a group of more than fifty scholars submitted commments on the design of the federal docket management system to OMB and to the rest of the Administration's eRulemaking Initiative team. The most current version of the comment letter is available at:

In addition, the American Bar Association's Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice recently endorsed the group's recommendations. The ABA section's endorsement letter is available at:
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