Texas abortion rights are currently undergoing a siege, something I didn't really learn until late last night when I found out that hundreds of citizens were installed at our capitol building just 9 blocks from where I live.

I subscribe to several email lists, but because I get emails literally ever day about the same cause, I've grown inured. If your minister drones on and on about the same subject week in and out, you learn to ignore him. Similarly, I've learned to ignore the constant pleas for money and emails from abortion rights groups.

Having worked in several nonprofit organization, and having started one of my own, I can understand the notion. Someone has a job, and their job is to crank out the news, to make sure that people are in the know. They generate email lists and content, but never once do they think about targeting their audience.

Your emails should be about very specific information, and if you have announcements more than once a week, you should bundle those announcements. I say this, not because I don't care, but precisely because I do care, and I want the information to reach me. I hate that I missed this opportunity to support the pro-choice movement. I hate that the age of information has led to over-information.

But that's not all. If you look at the email that was sent to me, it asks me to sign onto a letter which has already been written. It's the kind of thing that diehard conservatives will ignore, but it still has its uses. But I wanted something else, some web page where I could refer you. I went to their webpage, but I couldn't find it. I could find the specific letter via email, but not an official press release. What I'm saying is that their website is convoluted. I bet the people working there could explain it to me, but that shouldn't be necessary. The information stream should be coherent within itself. (They have two links, the Media Center and the Press Room, which is the exact same information: standard semantic issues that many websites employ, but that always tend to make me wonder if I'm navigating some arcane user's manuals. )


Information design really matters. It's not just about flooding an email list with information. It's about creating useful websites and prioritizing information. I don't need to hear from you every day or even every week. And more than anything, it's usually about grassroots structure; meeting people face to face. What the pro-choice movement needs is boots on the ground. They don't need a million emails that nobody reads.

I know I sound like a catty quibbler, but dammit, this is too important to mess up. I would have been there, and should have been there. I can't help but think that it is now actually harder to pass along vital information rather than easier. Should I have joined their Twitter account? Maybe I should have received a text message? I didn't want to hear about this from a vague reference on Facebook at 6PM last night. (Thanks to Austin media maven, Kate X Messer, for her tireless service to the community.) In the end, I heard it from a friend, which tells you that word of mouth is always more important that information via institutions.