The response from the Hacker News community was really encouraging. I want to thank you all for that. I especially want to thank ChuckMcM for his idea to turn it into a way to send a postcard to your congressperson (and his helpful feedback over an email thread), and prasincs for his additional re-enforcement of that idea.
From all that I built https://postcongress.io over the course of this past week. And already it is turning into a venture. A colleague of mine recommended I contact advocacy groups. I've started doing so and have some strong leads and a meeting on Monday.
So, thank you HN.
And there is still tweaks to be done so I'd appreciate any feedback.
Seems like you have to put a lot of effort into printing and mailing the postcards for $1.99.
Good turn around time.
Try putting black edges around your title text. Right now, they are just blending in with the background. The political background is a neat idea. Designing for it dynamically will be hard though. Set up A/B testing and test the various backgrounds you have, as well as backgrounds from subtlepatterns.com (just in case).
Rotate the bottom info bar so that it is horizontal instead of vertical. Nobody cares about the IO name I don't think. At this point the total message should be simple: "Send a postcard to your congressperson, PERIOD".
Not enough social buttons. Seriously, you need more buttons. Tweets and likes from political active people will garner attention from like minds.
Why don't I see any adwords from you here yet?
http://lmgtfy.com/?q=mail+your+congressman (no sacarsm intended, mostly this link was shorter).
Change the font that the message naturally displays with. Times New Roman doesn't look right to me. Also, include a picture of a real, finished card on the site.
And on the adwords, I must be missing 'mail your congressman' in my keywords. I definitely have 'write my rep, etc'.
I also really like the a/b testing idea.
It's since come down. Here are some things you need to consider
1.) Progressives won't respond well to this. I have some experience here, I spent a year working at the Democratic National Committee in DC on their Labs team. My observation is that unless you're "a name" in the progressive tech sector or have a name attached to the product it is going to be difficult getting notice. I actually respect the Republicans on how they adopt technology: throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. I can cite examples of this if people are interested.
2.) Since 911 Snail mail can take weeks to arrive. Everything that is sent to the Hill in DC is sent out for anthrax screening. It is very difficult to send reactionary issue snail mail unless it is hand delivered.
3.) The best way to get your rep's attention is to send mail, email, or call about a very specific issue. If you say "Support gay rights!" you'll most likely get a very well printed form response letter a few weeks later. If you say "I am one of your constituents and I want you to support SR 1992 up for vote in two weeks" this goes much further. Reps want to know that you are a vote and how you want them to vote on specific bills.
4.) Most hill staffers will actually ignore snail mail that doesn't have a postage stamp (the ones that the post office will put on the letter to mark its origin) from their district or state (for senators). Again, they really only care about votes. If you can't vote for him/her then you don't matter nearly as much as someone that can.
5.) I originally designed MailCongress because I saw a Communicating With Congress report when I was at the DNC. I cannot find the link now but this report comes out every 4 years (right after each mid-term). It represents the previous 4 years after publication of data on how congress responds to different forms of communication. The report I saw came out in 2006 which means it covered 2002 - 2006. At the time Email was way down around 30% efficacy and snail mail was up to 85% effective. I released MailCongress right before the 111th Congress left at the end of 2010. The next report came out that represented 2006 - 2010 and things changed a lot. Email went up to mid-70s efficacy and snail mail dropped to mid-70s. For the 4 years prior to 2010 email was just as effective at communicating with congress as snail mail. The report said the reasons for the swing was most likely because of the major turn over on the hill in 2006. When many new congress people come in they bring a new generation of hill staffers, younger, and more tech-savy. We had another major turn over in 2010. Which means more shift. I wouldn't be able to tell you what the numbers are but my guess is that email exceeds snail mail by now. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the next report's number were very skewed once you take Twitter and Facebook into consideration.
I applaud the effort, I really hope it works. Unfortunately you're fighting a lot of factors here. Your pricing is much better than mine (I was charging $1 per-piece and also would notify the senders when their letters should have arrived so they could follow up with phone calls). You should consider how the printing is going to scale if you get serious about this. I actually built out of mail queue backed by Redis. Scalability testing showed I could print 1000 letters per hour. Which is really not that many if it were to take off, any crazy issue that comes up (and they always do) can be an opportunity to get people to use this. The usage patterns in politics are very spiky so you need to be ready for immediate scale.
TL:DR; I once built something similar, best of luck! :)
In political debate, all sides are sometimes guilty of various kinds of bad behavior, but it's usually lefties who have this particular problem. For example:
Think homosexuality is wrong? You're guilty of Hate Speech!
Think affirmative action isn't a good thing? You're guilty of Racism!
Approve of your town's Christmas celebration? You're Intolerant of Other Religions!
Regardless of your politics, name calling and ad hominem attacks like these do not inspire confidence in the strength of their originators' positions.
I'm not saying you're not within your rights to close down your service if you disagree with how it's being used, but it's interesting that your instinctive reaction to a message you don't agree with is to suppress it.
> it's interesting that your instinctive reaction to a message
> you don't agree with is to suppress it.
I want an App that lets me join a "ring of awared" and execute an action, leveraging the power of Web 2.0/Social.
Very simple example: recently you had something called SOPA being pushed through. You would go to the App and create a thread "call representative X and tell him you are against SOPA". You put Rep name, phone number, and click "submit the project". Then everyone that feels compelled to participate, joins the "ring". Then simple algorithm puts everyone that joined into a chain: now A is calling rep. Once A finished his call, A press the button "done" and focus is switched to B that is notified via email/inapp notification/ etc that it is his time to call. If he wont do it in 10 minute timeframe, system moves forward to C, D, E ... n.
Sorry, but nowadays I think its the only way to get some traction. If rep staff memorize those $1.99 postcards, they will be simply throwing them without even reading, which is the same as clicking "trash" in your gmail judging just by subject/sender.
If you wont get the ICE/DHS ceasing your domain and servers due to "domestic terrorism", this could go viral and grow big. Perhaps then, overloaded with phonecalls from people that care about their future and future of their children, those in charge would start to care.
Great idea, love it. :)
See the "How it works" section: http://heritageaction.com/grow/using-popvox-email-congress/
> Unlike electronic mail, which is both free to send and easy to ignore, receiving a postcard sends its own message. It says to the congressperson, "I feel strongly enough about
this to go to the expense of sending an actual card."
No. A postcard will never make it to the congressperson. It will be read by a staffer and most likely tossed unless it expresses support or opposition for a current issue or bill, in which case it will be tallied and then tossed in the garbage.
Heritage Action is using a POPVOX widget -- any site can do the same. https://www.popvox.com/services/widgets
Yes, organizations that conduct grassroots campaigns are frequently partisan, but POPVOX is absolutely NOT. We are just a platform for getting messages to Congress and providing a transparent record of what Congress is hearing.
We work very closely with Congressional offices to make sure messages go in in the best way possible -- with a 100% delivery guarantee. If for any reason it doesn't go electronically (99.5 % do), we print it out and hand deliver. You can see when you message is delivered on your POPVOX home page.
In July, House Democrats announced that POPVOX info is now feeding directly into their internal staff intranet via APIs.
We're working to make that a bipartisan, bicameral thing.
If you would like to weigh in on any bill in Congress (or pick up a widget to use on your own site) you can do so on POPVOX: http://popvox.com
Otherwise, are you willing to share some of the details about the fulfillment side of things? How did you find a printer? How are they receiving the orders?
We were going to allow people to send "SOPA" soap for $8 to their congressman with the tag line "Vote no on SOPA and help keep congress clean".
Then SOPA got tabled. Luckily it was right before I setup the website and place the order with a soap manufacturer I was working with.
Other than that, looks like a pretty neat concept. I like the emerging trend of producing physical output from digital actions.
One thing I'd suggest is to send a random assortment of postcards and don't includ your logo or company info anywhere on it. Ie make it look like it actually came from a citizen.
Otherwise congress people will just think they're form letters and throw them out.
Are you printing/writing out the postcards yourself? Or are you automating/outsourcing it?
Quick feedback: there's a typo in "sign, sealed, delivered"; should be "signed" rather than "sign".
I guess the idea with advocacy groups is that they can subsidize the cost of postcards and get a bulk rate?
And yes, that is part of it.
In chrome, at least, the background starts loading in, then goes white, then loads in again. It's a bit odd.
Have you thought of saving the image progressive or interlaced? Don't know what the common knowledge is on this at the moment, but watching an image that big and busy load in slowly from top to bottom takes time away from getting to the actual point of the site.