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Dublin Opinion >>
Contact.ie | Contact The Politicians
rights, freedoms and repression |
Saturday December 13, 2008 19:59 by Mark C - Contact.ie
They Work for Us
Contact Those Who Work For You
Contact.ie, a website for contacting politicians in Ireland, went live today. Indymedia.ie caught up with Mark Conroy, the site's owner, to discuss the site with him.
Related Links: Contact.ie
Hi Mark, can you tell us firstly what contact.ie is?
Hi, sure. Contact.ie allows users to contact all TDs and Senators at the click of a button. It's a new political campaigning tool; one that does not exist and one that there is a need for. It's intended to make campaigning easier. Simply put, it is a big contact form in which users can select which political party or constituency they want to email, or they can simply email all TDs and Senators.
There's nothing revolutionary about contact.ie, in the sense that all the information that is on the site (such as every TD's and Senator's email address) is freely available on the web; the only problem is that it is not available in such as way as would make contacting different groups of them easy - I'm not sure if that is a deliberate effort by government or an oversight; what I have done is simply made the information user-friendly.
And how did you came up with the idea for contact.ie?
Like many activists I have been signing petitions and writing to our elected representatives but after signing many internet letters whereby a standard letter is written and then your name is inserted in the from field, for example with Amnesty, Oxfam, Concern, etc., I thought why not start writing more letters myself and then email them to all our politicians – or at least our TDs and Senators.
I'm still not sure I understand why you needed to setup contact.ie.
Well, the thing is, when I looked for a site that would allow me to write my letter to our politicians and then send it to them all, I was amazed that no such site existed. The closest thing I could find was Act for Climate, which allows users to send emails to any TD, but the problem with that system is twofold:
1) You must select a constituency, and since we have 43 constituencies in Ireland that would mean sending the email 43 times.
2) If I was to use the service offered by Act for Climate I would not necessarily be using it for Climate Change campaigning and I felt that it would be unfair to do so.
They are some of the reasons behind contact.ie.
Couldn't you have just got a copy of all the email addresses of TDs and Senators and kept them in your email address book?
Of course I could have done that, and I kind of did – I sent an email to the indymedia.ie mailing list asking if anyone had a list of email addresses for TDs and Senators and within a couple of hours another indymedia.ie activist had gotten back to me with what I was looking for (or rather what I had asked for), as I also wanted the option of being able to contact only, say, Laois/Offaly TDs or Mayo TDs or Green Party TDs and that would take ages to organise into folders and something that I wouldn't like to have to put others through. So, I thought, if I do this and spend all this time at it, why not share my work with others?
A “Creative Commons”-type approach.
And lo and behold [drum roll] contact.ie was born.
To all intents and purposes, yes. Although it did take me about two weeks to get it together, getting all the TDs names and then organising them by political party and by constituency and then adding all the email addresses. Add to that, I am not in any way a professional website designer, so I had to learn a lot as I went along.
Do you have a target user group/audience?
Yes and No. Yes in the sense that everyone can use it; no in the sense that, actually the yes will do. Yes: my target user group is every person who would like to use it or see some value in it – young, old, healthy, sick, Irish, foreign; actually part of the project is that I am a teacher of English and CSPE (Civic, Social, and Political Education) and co-ordinator of our school's Amnesty group. As part of this I constantly tell our students to contact their elected representatives, and hopefully this site will make that task easier for them.
Do you have any problems with the site at the moment?
Well, the one thing that is bothering me is that you can only email TDs by either “All TDs” or by “Political Party” or by “Constituency” and you can only do one grouping at a time. I'd like to set it up in such a way as to be able to email, for example, all Fianna Fáil TDs and Laois/Offaly TDs at the same time, rather than two emails – one to Fianna Fáil and one to Laois/Offaly.
This is something that I'll be working on in the coming weeks, but for now I think the site is in good enough shape to be useful to many individuals and groups.
Do you have any further plans for the site in the future:
Yeah, I'd also like to add a section for County Councillors (and eventually Town Councillors, etc) but I think I'd have to rope in some more people to do that with me. [If any indymedia.ie readers are willing to help, get in touch.]
After that, I think it'd be great to have a section for media contacts (organised by print, radio, television, and also national and local, etc) so people and groups could send press releases and self-written articles more easily to more outlets.
Also, I need a logo and logo image designed (which I can do myself, but time is limited), so if anyone would like to design one, please do.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Yeah, this is also a call for activists in other countries to setup similar endeavours. It's quite easy to do using free software such as Drupal. I'm not aware of any such site in other countries; England has WriteToThem.com (which was partially the inspiration for my site); hopefully this endeavour will encourage others to do the same as I have..
Thanks for talking to us; good luck with contact.ie.
Contact Those Who Work For You