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The Texas Red Tape Challenge and Crowdsourcing »

User Friendly Upgrades and Spreading the Word Might do the Trick

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.

Submitted by 2 years ago

Comments (13)

  1. Pinned Moderator

    The Texas Red Tape Challenge is a pilot project, albeit a very well developed one, on a limited budget with limited staff. Billboards and commercials, which may increase awareness but may not increase participation, would cost tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars at time of limited state resources for even high priorities such as education and transportation. However, committee staff has issued numerous press releases, committee members have mentioned the site in speeches, websites, and Facebook pages. Staff also notified government departments in higher education throughout the state, which is how you were notified.

    Reverse posts via Twitter and Facebook may be a good idea for future upgrades. Have you ever seen this done on other websites? Is it even technologically possible?

    2 years ago
  2. Pinned Moderator

    Several participants have provided similar comments within separate idea threads regarding the Texas Red Tape Challenge's publicity. Those separate idea threads have been consolidated within this single, parent thread to allow for easier reading and comprehension. Ideally, and as suggested in the Higher Ed Open Government Challenge description, participants would collaborate on developing a workable solution for the Committee's consideration.

    1 year ago
  3. cj1075 Merged

    The Red Tape Challenge should require each agency to have a Red tape challenge Link on each homepage of all State agencies to get more input!!!

    submitted by TX State University

    2 years ago
    1. How can you crowd source without getting the word out? I definitely agree. This also arises question if this challenge should be limited to graduate students and professors in Public Administration.

      2 years ago
    2. Other users point out that more marketing for a wider audience would get a better result. Marketing, however, can be very expensive and would come at the tax-payers expense. Adding the banner to state agency websites, however, should be a fairly low-cost solution and is a good start for a project that will eventually gain a great deal of advertising through word-of-mouth. It tough economic times, it will be more practical to the taxpayer to implement advertising steps one piece at a time.

      2 years ago
  4. The Red Tape Challenge categories of Public School Mandates and Occupational Licensing have not received much feedback to date. Perhaps this is because groups effected by these policies do not know about the Red Tape Challenge. By informing these relevant populations of the existence of the challenge, you may increase not only the quantity but also the quality of feedback of these topics.

    This may be done by informing school Superintendents of the existence and purpose of the challenge. The Superintendent can then pass this information on to educators and administrators. Similarly, if you contact the heads of schools where licensed occupations are taught (such as cosmetology, nursing and social work schools), you may be better able to solicit appropriate feedback from students and teachers at these institutions.

    In this way you are targeting respondents who have a working knowledge of the policies being discussed and what the strengths and weaknesses of these particular policies are.

    1 year ago
  5. hg1071 Merged

    The concept of this project is a great one; Giving people a place to voice critiques of government policies based on current facts, legislation, and policy is beneficial to effective government. An improvement I suggest is making the Texas Red Tape Challenge more well known. I think the recommendation made by another commenter of providing a link on every government agency's website is a good idea. But I think the ultimate way that the Texas Red Tape Challenge can improve public participation is guaranteeing that popular opinions posted on this site will be discussed and voted on by a legitimate government committee. The steps that the House Government Efficiency and Reform Committee will take to implement ideas generated from this Challenge need to be specifically defined and guaranteed to happen. People care more about giving their opinions when they know they will actually be considered and potentially put into action.

    1 year ago
  6. rep49 Merged

    This website is a wonderful idea and I am enjoying looking around a reading everyone's opinions. However, the only reason I knew about this website is my professor told me about it. When we were shown the letter sent to the dean of our department the entire class was left scratching their heads. The dean did not recieve the letter until October the 12th and the website was created in September. To me, this does not not make any sense. If the Department of Efficieny wanted prompt opinions about particular issues, why would they wait until the last possible minute to send notices out? Also, the publicity of this website is horrible. as far as I can tell, the only people who have heard of this website are college professors and their students. If the opinion of the people of the state of Texas is really wanted, then there should be commercials on public TV stations, newspapers, and other media sources to hepl spread the word.

    1 year ago
    1. I just finished early voting this afternoon. I think a good solution to the combined issues of no public awareness and no advertising budget is to perhaps hand out a flyer or work some sort of information into the ballots at the polls. Even something as simple as printing a 'blurb' on the sample ballot that they hand out while you're waiting in line could increase awareness. Another positive factor about using polling places as platforms for free advertising is that the public outreach would be astronomical compared to any other sort of free publicity.

      1 year ago
  7. pjh11 Merged

    I think having a forum for input like this is a modern spin on the old-fashioned town hall meetings and it is relevant for today. However, I would never have heard about it if I had not been in a Graduate School class. I did a brief, informal survey of my friends and no one had ever heard or seen it mentioned on any news broadcast or in any newspaper.

    1 year ago
  8. amygreene Merged

    It seems the general consensus thus far in this forum is that accessibility is key. Without receiving a letter regarding this forum, I would not have been aware of its existence. I agree that placing the link on state agency websites would be the first step in establishing accessibility. But I also have a couple of other suggestions.

    We are in the final days of an election and people are heated about issues. Presidential elections stir the pot and encourage people to feel like they are really able to contribute. Even sending out banners or flyers for polls to post in the area about a place where individual people can be heard would be a great start.

    But what about the times when we aren't in the middle of an election?

    People often think the only way they can be heard is to write their representative. Unfortunately, they will often receive a form letter that has adopted some personal details to make it seem more personalized. I suggest all elected officials in Texas be required to offer a link to an open forum such as this.

    This may seem like a small step, but I believe it will target those people who are ready to communicate their ideas and suggestions.

    What about sending out information to public libraries or other places where voters expect to access information. The library even offers voter registration cards. The library would also offer the support and equipment to access an online forum for those without a computer, internet access, or the technology skills.

    1 year ago
  9. ym02 Merged

    We need to have more formal announcements from our leaders regarding programs such as the Red Tape Challenge. I would not have heard of this had I not been enrolled in class. If this program has the full support of the Governor, then he should make a public announcement of this new program encouraging Texans to "get involved." Information filtering down to those most affected by these kinds of programs will only receive a response if they know that there is a response to be made. I would like to have seen a big billboard ad on all the major interstate highways and a flag on each agency main face page.

    1 year ago
  10. cjbarela08 Merged

    I found the site to be insightful and generally a good idea, however I only came across this website through the word of my professor. Our graduate class was shown a letter that the Dean of the Department received on October 12th. It is known, to the best of our knowledge, that the website was created in September. It seems nonsensical to have the Department of Efficiency request students go to this website and convey their opinions on particular issues/topics yet they send the notices out late, allowing the students only days to visit the website. I think public participation for the Challenge could have been improved with the general publicity/marketing of the Challenge itself. Like I mentioned, had it not been for my professor, I would not have heard about this site. While I understand that marketing campaigns can be expensive, social media would have been truly beneficial in a situation as this.

    1 year ago

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