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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Is this what Sir Bob meant?

I've been puzzling for a while now about Bob Geldof's anti-email tirade (BBC News, 15th November). I wasn't the only one - when I posted the link to my T175 group discussion of the pros & cons of email, it provoked quite an indignant backlash from people who knew how heavily the "Make Poverty History" campaign had relied on emailing.

Most of the follow-up "Have your say" discussion on the BBC site involved people trading "email is great"/"email is a pain" remarks based on its use in office or family, rather than political, contexts.

But I've just come across another condemnation of email as a campaign tool, from an equally surprising source. Jon Lebkowsky, online activist & founding figure in the libertarian EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) had this to say in a 1999 article:
Don't confuse email or fax campaigns with action. Decision-makers know how easy it is to create this kind of communication, especially if you're doing little more than typing your name onto a fixed message. If the feedback represents minimal commitment of time and energy, it has lacks weight and makes little impression. Phone calls are better.
When Jerry Berman was director of EFF, he told me that EFF-Austin should charter a bus to D.C. and show up in our legislators' offices there. This kind of personal investment and immediate presence is incredibly valuable. You could send thousands of emails and make no more than a fraction of the impact.

Now, doesn't Bob's starting point:
Live8 organiser Bob Geldof has revealed his contempt for e-mails, blaming them for tying up people's time and stopping genuine action.
Mr Geldof told a conference in London that e-mails "give a feeling of action, which is a mistake".

make a lot more sense?


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