Cyberpresse Doesn’t Get It

Cyberpresse, the online arm of La Presse, has a report about the number of health infractions found in Montreal restaurants over the past year. Let’s just say there were a lot, but let’s also keep in mind that many of them were probably minor.

However, what really interests me about the Cyberpresse report is that it’s a great example of how mainstream newspapers still don’t “get it” when it comes to the web.

Check it out; at the bottom of the report is a link to the web site for the Ville de Montreal, where we are told we can find the list of infractions. (Verbatim: La liste des contrevenants est accessible à ville.montreal.qc.ca.) However, there are two really big problems with that link.

First, the link is badly formed. The “http://” part is missing (missing from the link code, not just the display text). As a result, your web browser thinks that “ville.montreal.qc.ca” is simply an address within Cyberpresse’s web site. It is not, so you get a “page not found” error.

Cyberpresse's bad link

OK, that’s a small glitch. I see this same error all the time on people’s blogs. We’re used to it.

However, this is a major metropolitan newspaper’s site, and that article has been up all day and has still not been fixed. This demonstrates a complete lack of awareness that things posted on the web are not “put to bed” the way print materials are. Web content is alive and dynamic. You can go back and fix errors as soon as they are spotted. You can post updates to the story as it evolves. Unless, that is, you are in the old school “newspaper” frame of mind, in which once it goes to press it’s gone and can’t be recalled.

The second problem is that even if the link worked, it’s essentially useless. All it does is point to the Ville de Montreal’s municipal home page. Getting from there to the actual list of infractions is a whole separate task in itself.

Cyberpresse should have linked to the actual page where you can get the list of infractions. (And of course, they should have formed it correctly). Therefore, as a public service, I will step in where Cyberpress failed, and provide the link:

List of health code infractions in Montreal.

Damn. That link opens up a whole other can of cockroaches, so to speak. If you follow it, you’ll see it does not, in fact, lead to a list of infractions. It leads to a search form, where you have to search by both key words and criteria.

That really puts a damper on the list. For example, I can’t just sort by the names of the establishments; I have to search by the name of a particular establishment. That leaves me high and dry if I don’t know the place’s correct name. This method also limits the ability to simply browse through the list. But that’s a whole other conversation.

But at least my link works (as of this writing), which is more than I can say of Cyberpresse.

6 thoughts on “Cyberpresse Doesn’t Get It

  1. The big problem is that the people who upload stories to the web in these cases are the same copy editors who have for decades worked only on the print edition. They have very little training on how the web works, what constitutes a valid URL, etc. Unfortunately, you pointing out this one issue won’t change anything.

    I’d also add that Montreal’s website is also pretty bad, especially when it comes to URLs.

  2. Inefficiency and incompetence are just so rampant, one wonders how this world actually manages to function. It really is a Rube Goldberg existence, just all cobbled together in a vaguely working fashion, but sometimes the absolute absence of rational thought makes the mind sheerly boggle.

    The hilarious idiocy of just so many ways in which people have tried to come up with solutions: Okay, I’m rambling here, but the MOMENT you ever try to get behind your VCR and, of course, everything is in the back, against the wall, and all the little jack titles are BLACK ON TINY BLACK, and you just think, after the nth time, after the fiftieth VCR that is EXACTLY THE SAME AS THE OTHERS, ie., extremely badly designed, what is going on here? Who thought this through? Out of all the nice people who came up with the Internet, you go on a site like the Gazette and you just shake your head. Ouf. How can so many people be so incompetent?

    I remember going to Air Canada when I worked for them, to their little cubicle farm. They would have a Meeting. There would be six people all sitting around a conference room table. Six presumably smart people. So how could a whole hour just disappear in just a babble of incompetence, everyone not having a clue what was going on but pretending they did . . . it was incredible. I could not believe what my eyes were witnessing.

    Rant over, but sometimes it’s nice to just once, assume that someone knows what they’re doing. Blork, you’re up for Web 3.0.

  3. Fagstein, you’re right, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t complain about it, if for no other reason than for the sake of the broader discussion.

    That said, I also recognize that the URL listed was written and intended for the print edition. After all, the actualy URL is about 1000 characters long (bad Ville de Montreal!), and a newspaper would never print such a URL. But this just serves to reinforce that many newspapers see the web editions as afterthoughts, and not as full editions in their own right.

    I hope to see the day when there is an electronic editor who, among other things, is charged with making sure links are properly formed and presented for the electronic editions.

    Nick. Rampant incompetence indeed. It’s the main reason why I’d love to be able to retire early. Small and insignificant example: I was invited to a meeting at work last week. 18 other people invited as well, all expected to attend. The room that was booked seats eight, max, and maybe six more standing (uncomfortably). D’oh! So we commandeer the big room across the hall, which throws off the schedule for that room, creating a ripple effect that probably took half the day to correct. :-/

  4. The city’s web architecture, like civic government itself, is a mass of fiefdoms fitfully straining to justify their existence (and budget). From my involvement in the Griffintown issue I can say that the city doesn’t get it — mailing lists for important meetings will contain all the information as a Word document or a PDF. What if your recipient doesn’t have Office? Why not just put the information in the text of the email itself? (I wonder how much money is wasted on bandwidth charges.)

    Meanwhile, as readers of Spacing Montreal will attest, Google Maps’ web-based Montreal transit info is miles better than the actual STM site. Tous Azimuts takes upwards of minutes to return a result; Google Transit info is instantaneous.

  5. Oh, and, um, meetings are usually pointless. I try to avoid staying in them for much longer than I personally have to.

  6. They could always use a service like tinyURL or CiteWeb to capture the URL and convert it to something shorter.

    BY the way, to search the site of restaurants with infractions and generate a list, you can choose the “Critère” – ville, and enter the “mots clés” as Montreal, for example, to get a long list of restaurants alphabetically. Or you could search by street. This is one way of getting around knowing the exact name of a restaurant.

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