I was made aware of The Texas Red Tape Challenge by my political science professor in my Graduate Program and as an avid consumer of information regarding various topics, and I was upset that I did not hear about this opportunity earlier. I recently heard about another similar idea through the U.S. government called the U.S. Cyber Challenge and I think that it is a very proactive and cheap way to get input and ideas from individuals outside of those who work in the fields professionally. With certain social networks that we have today and the technology that we used to develop them, I think that society has a higher expectation and appeals to using online forums and sites that are user friendly and aesthetically pleasing. I do not find The Texas Red Tape Challenge site to be aesthetically pleasing because it looks extremely bland. The white background and with black text makes people want to deter from visit the site and if they were to visit, would make them want to fall asleep. I do not find it to be user friendly because the average person is so accustomed to clicking on icons, pictures, or bright and bold text to navigate sites. I do find that the hyperlinks throughout the text allows people to navigate to different parts of the site quicker and also that the links on the side allow people quick access to the various topics that are being discussed. However, to make this section more visually appealing, I would add borders around each topic and instead of having the confusing (Expires on 10/31/2012) note on each topic, I would make all of the topic entries due on the same date, as they seem to be anyways and just put a countdown clock at the top of the page. I find that giving people a deadline and giving them a countdown allows them to be cognizant of the impending due date for their ideas and they can fit it into their schedule when they have time to complete it. I would also make it more similar to social networking sites like Twitter and Yahoo, that have a constantly updated list of the most talked about or most commented on topics; people like competition and the rankings of topics gives a competitive edge. Personally, I have a vested interest in the topic of State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (Testing): Policy Focus Area Ideas. Due to my vested interest, I want this topic to be highly discussed and I am more likely to share the link and get my friends, family and social network involved if I am able to better visualize how this topic ranks in comparison to other topics in regards to comments and discussion levels. I did like the ability to see other peoples’ ideas and comments and I feel that it will encourage people to expound on their own comments and ideas.
I took the time to do additional research and Googled The Texas Red Tape Challenge, just to see how well the word was spreading and in what venues people were using to spread the word. I found that a decent job was done to spread the word to local businesses; however, I did not find anything that was used to encourage the general public to participate. On the actual Texas Red Tape Challenge site I did see some attempt to push the use of Twitter and Facebook and it is evident that that method was a failed attempt. I think part of the problem was that the use of Social Networking was underestimated or at least it seemed to be because the ability to share the information is hidden below all of the topics of discussion. However, I did find that the TRTC did a great job of emphasizing the use of social media and put the links to tweet, like, email and follow particular comments and topics once a user clicks on a topic to review. I see one major impediment to public participation on the Texas Red Tape Challenge is that people are already inundated with Facebook messages and Twitter Feeds and not to mention the grind of life, that yet another site that is asking for feedback may be asking too much. Is there a way to work with Facebook or Twitter to allow posts on those sites to be put on the Texas Red Tape Challenge site as a comment or a new idea? I know that there has to be some way. As I mentioned, I was disappointed that I did not hear about this opportunity sooner and I feel that there may have been a break in the chain of communication. I have not seen one commercial, billboard, or sign that would have caught my eye to this opportunity to get involved. Lastly, I feel that crowdsourcing is a 21st century step to include the public and encourage them to be accountable and participate in their state government.