Is Jean Charest ready for Cyberspace? Part III.

Crystal Falls November 16th 1998.

A final say on Charest's website can best be summed up by this graphic clipped from the Liberal party website this morning. Mr. Charest, you've had at least 6 months to prepare... all other parties have taken the courtesy....

Crystal Falls, October 30 1998.

Following up on "Is Jean Ready?", I suggest you direct your browser over to, the website for the liberal party of Quebec. A new website has finally been put in place now for the election period.

Its a relief to see that the campaign organizers of Mr. Charest are finally getting this piece of the campaign in gear at this late date but there are some problems that need attention. I am not impressed for many reasons.

To start, the site goes into a cgi-bin retreival routine on initial request. Seems to me this is going to need one hell of a powerful server if a lot of people all want to be served at the same time. Next, there are no meta tags in the headers...maybe they figure helping search engines index the pages doesn't matter but let's face it is just not the first address a foreign journalist is going to intuitively think of. (Get pointed!) This is just one reason why the site should have been fully operational 3 months ago so the whole thing would have had a chance to be indexed in most popular search engines.

And what is there on the index page when we get there? A rolling billboard telling us this is his I'm not intelligent to figure that out. A few short descriptions of "star" candidates. An announcement that the site is to be active - real time (with two updates a day!..we'll see)....

A glaring mistake is that there appears to be no "english" selection button on the index page which is pretty much of a direct insult that I'd correct immediately. One level deeper and we find an english button and it loads a page announcing "coming soon!" yeah...thanks we knew we weren't an important "people" and second class citizens worthy of a second class schedule.

Is there a contact area...names of organizers and people we can contact in our own ridings if we are interested in volunteering? No. Is there an e-mail contact page for the whole liberal organization? Not that I can find. Is there an online telephone book with important numbers? No.

Every person running for office should have an e-mail address. This is 1998 isn't it?

The site is so obviously still under development you wonder why they put up a half done site.... It confirms a rush job.

The economic platform which looks like it is split into 4 PDF downloads gives a 404 error. I have yet to receive a response to my request for Charest's tax plan after 14 days.

Yes, the concern I expressed ten days ago was well founded. It looks like I expected: a thin cobbled-together last minute effort rather than a well though out strategic information tool representing some thoughtful planning over a six month period which is what they have had to get ready to go into battle.

A fancy point and click map to identify candidates in ridings is a juvenile way of approaching getting to a name. It takes 4 levels to get to the Westmount riding to find out who is running there. And then you are presented with a thin bio!

The web is a tool not a toy. Attempts at fancy javascripts that may not work on a lot of peoples' browsers and take time to load are distracting. A political site is about information and substance. You want to get to the information quickly with fast loads and re-loads. The javascript menu looks homemade. It is meant to be a sliding menu but it is annoying as the script requires you to click on the button before it will hold the sub-menu for selection. Tip...if you want a sliding menu script, there is a company in Portland Maine that will sell you a javascript that works. clearly weren't ready for cyberspace. If we had had the opportunity to give you input on this part of your campaign, we certainly would not have posted the site until the english section was ready and offended 800,000 of your constituents. We would have had spanish and several other languages as well as Montreal is truly muti-ethnic. We certainly would have a better mail handling team set up using something like Mustang software's mail tracking ( so I know each and every e-mail is auto answered right away (that's what people expect).

And another suggestion...we'd like to see statistics of the results in the past elections in each riding posted. If we really wanted to call on the troops, we'd get those stats down to the individual poll level and made available to campaign workers just so that they know how hard they have to work to get their man/woman elected. The whole point is to get organized to win. Information is a key ingredient!

Communication is what it is about Jean. The net could be a great tool for you to make one on one contact with Quebeckers but doing things at the last minute always seem to look that way. How to lose in cyberspace 101. If you are not ready.... don't post.

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Here is Part I in case you missed it.

Is Jean Ready?

Clearly, not for cyberspace politics. Further to my tongue-in-cheek look at the progressive conservative candidates websites on LaurentianWeb I was curious what was going on with Jean Charest.

Actually, I wanted to examine the unfiltered policy papers on Charest's new economic proposals. Where is the logical place to go after the big media splash about tax reductions in the past 48 hours?

The Liberal party website of course. One would expect that the latest news and press releases would be there.

I logged on to and waited for the pages to load. Right there on the first page is Charest's economic plan (in french) and I eagerly clicked again. Wait. This is not his new tax plan announcements but old stuff. Stuff three months old! Stuff presented in Quebec City.

Back to the homepage and then select the english website. Click on "what's new" and the latest update is for ...wait for this...for the month of May! Wow is this real time cyberspace?

The last time my heart sank like this was before the 1995 referendum when I stuck my nose into the website affairs of the Liberal Party and was politely told to take a hike and that they had it all under control. Yeah, they had it under after day went by and finally a website was posted. It wasn't good. It wasn't informative and it didn't target the most cyber oriented political market, i.e., young Quebeckers who are the biggest users of internet relay chat in North America. Yes, log on to IRC and see how many young Quebeckers are using the Quebec, Montreal, Trois Rivieres, Rimouski, Lac St. Jean, St. Jerome conferences and then look at Ontario and Canada and figure it out for yourself. This society is hip. This group is open to someone who wants to use the media tools to influence them.

The Liberals didn't have a proper website before the referendum and I would have thought things would have changed and Mr. Charest would see to it that the party was prepared to deal in cyberspace with the latest and greatest. Clearly not so. Sadly not so.

Will this be indicative of the preparedness of his overall campaign? My feeling is that if there are "loose ends" like this so late in the campaign as not to have a fully functioning up-to-date real-time website on which the media and inquisitive people can get information, then he has very poor campaign managers and he, himself, is not as "wired" as I thought he was. In fact, if this reflects his organization, he is sunk. He's had all summer to have a dynamite website up and running and a group of good webmasters working cyberspace for votes. Anyone today running for office should have this base covered and well covered with a very savvy political operative who knows cyberspace...not someone who just can mouth the words.

Hasn't anyone figured out this is the cheapest direct mail machine in the world? If I were running a campaign I'd be out buying every e-mail address in the province and soliciting opinions, help and votes by this inexpensive format.

At the very least there should be a real time media centre on the website to retrieve the press releases as soon as they are issued. At the very least. Give me a break...what's new ...last May?

I placed a call immediately afterwards on Saturday morning to Charles Sirois who is head of Teleglobe and Charest's headhunter for talented candidates. One would think you could get a real person at Teleglobe on Saturday morning, but I was forced to leave a message and it will be interesting to see if I get a reply Monday. I want to ask Mr. Sirois who is in charge of communications. Is he himself aware that if you go to the site and click on "what's new", you get news from the month of May!

Incidently, the PQ website is up to date and well organized and everything is there as it should be. They are organized. They've always been organized.

For fun I ran a Traceroute on the PQ site and it is hosted on a machine off Teleglobe! The big red machine is hosted on a server off UUNET...a fine American the very least they could have given their business to Sirois!

I ran anonymous FTP connections to both. Both sites could be penetrated and are not secure if you know what you are doing. You can get an anonymous log in on the PQ site. You cannot log in anonymously on the Liberal site. Log in to both as "root" and try a few well worn political names as passwords and you might just surprise yourself and get inside!

I sent a message Saturday morning to ... it will be interesting to see if I get a reply from anyone or will the email end up in cyberspace heaven?

And I'll pose this question to Mr. Charest right here on LaurenbtianWeb where we get over 1500 hits a day, why haven't you or someone on your team locked up the domain names or which are two very logical places where anyone interested in your politics would go to look for you?

I'm tempted to register them for you! Get hip Jean...this is going to be a tough race. You need a V-P of the internet.

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