Monthly Archives: November 2007

Journalists don’t check ID

Anonymous blogger “Emma”, who was recently approached (via email) by Radio-Canada and asked to identify herself for a story, waxes philosophical about the idea of anonymous blogging, especially in the wake of the “Elodie Gagnon-Martin” scandal where an ADQ blogger turned out to be … maybe … an ADQ staffer of another name.

As a journalist who writes about blogs (and for that matter other online stories), I see both sides. But what is perhaps being forgotten in all this is the simple matter that journalists don’t check ID. Unless they have some reason to believe that you’re lying to them, they’ll take your word for it that you are who you say you are. Unless you say your name is Hugh Jass (and even then…) or the name of someone they already know, whatever name you give them is the name they’ll use.

So with that in mind, what’s the point, really? There will always be situations where journalists get tricked and have to apologize, and unless they ask for a driver’s license before every interview there’s no way to ensure that won’t happen again.

Anonymous blogs should be simply identified as such in the news: Take ideas at face value, but trust at your own risk.

CTV News about to get less Cavallarific

According to Coolopolis, CTV weatherman Frank Cavallaro‘s days are numbered, thanks to a decision by management not to renew his contract.

One can guess at why this decision was made: hair not blond enough, boobs not perky enough, insufficient ratings boost from teenage boy masturbation (though I dispute that last one, see below).

But no matter his meteorological credentials or his mad witty-banter skills that he displays with other hosts, Frank has always been a polarizing figure, as evidenced by two Facebook groups: one praising his giant zucchini, another recommending his lynching, that are fiercely competing for membership (28 members in the former, 26 in the latter as of this writing).

Of course, with looks like these, the World’s Top Weather Presenter probably won’t be out of a job long:

Frank Cavallaro

The news also has a funny timing to it. Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the departure of Bill Haugland.

So who’s next off the island?

CTV News personalities

Here’s a quick cheat sheet of CTV News’s big personalities (hey, where’s Rob Lurie?), assuming of course that looks is your only criteria. It’s ordered by seniority, with the newest members on the left. I’m discounting lead anchors Mutsumi Takahashi and Brian Britt (lower left), since I’m pretty sure they’re set for as long as they want the jobs.

UPDATE (Dec. 21): The Suburban’s Mike Cohen has some career suggestions for Frank: either radio or a job at CBC.

Transit fares going up (but down in Laval)


It’s about to hit December, which means it’s that time of year when the STM announces its fare increases for the coming year. It’s required to give 30 days notice of fare increases, so that’s why it happens now.

The skinny:

  Adult fare
(Jan. 1, 2008)
Now Increase Reduced fare
(Jan. 1, 2008)
Now Increase
Monthly CAM $66.25 $65 1.9% $36 $35 2.9%
Weekly CAM Hebdo $19.25 $19 1.3% $11 $10.75 2.3%
Six tickets $12 $11.75 2.1% $6.50 $6.25 4%
Cash fare $2.75 $2.75 No change $1.75 $1.75 No change
Tourist card (3 days) $17.00 $17.00 No change      
Tourist card (1 day) $9.00 $9.00 No change      

The STM argues that these fare increases are modest (average of 1.9%, and lower than last year’s increases), and combined with a hefty increase in the amount Montreal is giving the corporation will help pay for increased capital expenditures and better services, some of which have already been announced or implemented. These include:

  • Running six trains all day on the Blue Line
  • Replacing 40-year-old train cars (currenty operating on the green line) with new ones
  • Increased metro service (26%), especially before and after rush hour on the green, orange and blue lines
  • Increased bus service on its 30 most popular lines, including the 121 Sauvé/Côte-Vertu, 18 Beaubien and 24 Sherbrooke
  • Longer service hours for rush-hour expresses 470 Pierrefonds and 194 Rivière-des-Prairies (running both during the day between rush hours), and running the 12 Île-des-Soeurs on Sundays.
  • General budget expenses to cope with a 2% increase in ridership.

Laval cheapens up

  Adult fare
(Jan. 1, 2008)
Now Increase Reduced fare
(Jan. 1, 2008)
Now Increase
Monthly pass $74 $72.50 2.1% ? $43.00 ?
Eight tickets $18 $21 -14% ? $12.25 ?
Cash fare $2.50 $3.00 -17% ? $1.80 ?

The Laval transit corporation, meanwhile, is going in the opposite direction, reducing its single-use fares. A single fare will now be $2.50 instead of $3. There will also be cute little incentives like increasing the age at which children can travel freely from 5 to 11 on weekends and holidays.

The decrease makes sense, especially because now it’s cheaper to take the metro from Montmorency to downtown Montreal ($2.75) than it is to take an STL bus down the street ($3). The change will reverse that. (The fact that neither STL nor STM tickets are valid at the Laval metro stations is still a huge annoyance though.)

On the other hand, the price of a monthly pass is going up, from $72.50 to $74. This changes the math of how often you have to use transit for the monthly pass to be worth your purchase. Right now, if you use public transit fewer than 28 times a month (14 round trips), it’s better off to get tickets. That number goes up to 33 (16.5 round trips). So in the unlikely event that you travel by bus exactly 14, 15 or 16 times a month, you’re now better off getting tickets than passes.

The STL is also dramatically reducing fares on smog days to just $1, if a smog warning is in effect as of 3pm. That sounds great and all, but it takes effect during the evening rush hour, when people either have their cars at work with them or they don’t. It will also require some system to inform travellers (and drivers) when the reduction takes place.

Still no word from the AMT, which controls prices of regional transit passes, on what its 2008 rates will be.

Bid for a date with Patrick Lagacé

Some holiday charity schemes expect you to give away your money with only pride in return. They think you’ll be happy just knowing you’re a good person. But La Presse has a better idea. They’re offering this:

Patrick Lagacé = hot date

Up for auction are 10 lunch dates with their most popular journalists, including cartoonist Serge Chapleau, sports columnist Réjean Tremblay and teen heartthrob Patrick Lagacé (seen above with semi-exposed chest).

Though the auction is far from over, it kind of disturbs me that Lagacé and this woman:

Marie-Claude Lortie

(food columnist Marie-Claude Lortie) are bidding far below this guy:

Pierre Foglia

Pierre Foglia.

What does this say about our society?

The auction continues until Dec. 6. Proceeds go to Sun Youth, the Société Saint-Vincent-de-Paul and Moisson Montréal.

So far the leading bidder for a date with Lagacé is “R. Martineau“. Surely you can do better than his paltry $550.

UPDATE (Dec. 6): The auction’s over, and despite his incessant pleading on his blog, Lagacé brought in the least of the lots, only $1,900. (Foglia brought in $4,500.) He’s still a winner in our book though. Clueless

For the first time ever, a Canadian company is going to be broadcasting videos on the Internet.

At least that’s what Quebecor would have us believe. They’re calling their new service Canada’s first Internet broadcaster. In its newspapers, it clarifies that it’s the first Canadian web broadcaster “to feature specially commissioned programs in English and French“, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

The service, available in French and English, is basically a YouTube clone, only without any of that user-generated content junk that nobody wants. It also includes live content from networks like LCN, though the live feeds use Windows Media instead of Flash like the rest of the site.

On the French side, its content includes Prenez garde aux chiens, as well as interviews from Larocque-Lapierre, Denis Lévesque and others. Curiously, no Vlog despite the fact that Quebecor Media owns the show and the show is about online video.

The English side is even stranger. There’s more content from CBC (Just for Laughs, Rick Mercer, Peter Mansbridge, etc.) than there is from Sun Media’s crappy SUN TV. There are, however, plenty of Sunshine Girl videos.

But aside from their arrogance proclaiming to be the first to do something everyone else is already doing (in fact, the entire site was designed by a company called Feed Room), here’s why I don’t like the site:

  1. There’s no way to embed individual videos in blogs
  2. There’s no way to comment on videos
  3. Videos are referred to as “stories” in the “bookmark” page (that’s how you find out how to link to individual videos), and have 81-character URLs (just long enough to get cut in emails — YouTube’s URLs are half that length, and they have a lot more videos)
  4. Navigation uses some sort of proprietary Flash/JavaScript system which breaks just about every tool my browser has (opening links in new windows, the back button, scrolling)
  5. Videos are undated (probably deliberately, since most of them are old)

If I wanted to design a web video portal that was doomed to failure, it would look something like this. It might get some traffic, thanks to exclusive video (though anything worth watching is available straight from the source), but it’s not going to take off.

In short: FAIL.

UPDATE (Nov. 29/30): Some more reaction from the blogosphere:

InfoPresse points out that the site has virtually no fiction content, because of licensing issues. Le Devoir also has an article with detail about the problem.

UPDATE (Nov. 30): Pierre-Karl Péladeau does a very awkward-sounding presentation of In it, he says it’s a “totally Canadian” site, which is laughable because it was designed by an American company.

He also says that Sun Media can do a better job than the Canadian Television Fund at producing Canadian programming. The CTF funds things like Degrassi: TNG, The Rick Mercer Report, Slings and Arrows, ReGenesis, Intelligence and Little Mosque on the Prairie, all of which won Gemini awards this year. Sun Media funds sucker-generated-content show CANOE Live and … uhh … that’s about it.

Also, the Sun Family blog points out that 24 Hours Toronto didn’t even bother to rewrite the press release announcing the network so it conforms to its style.

UPDATE (Dec. 6): CBC tech guy Bruno Guglielminetti (whose name I can spell without looking it up first) interviews Peladeau for an article in Le Devoir.

UPDATE (Dec. 11): has an interview with Dominique-Sébastien Forest, who has some long title at In the overly long interview that sounds more like a press release until the last few minutes, he notes:

  • They’re working on getting a real-time Flash encoder for live feeds, which are currently displayed through Windows Media.
  • Quebecor doesn’t consider CBC as competition online. They’re just another content provider who will share in the revenues.
  • The site is focused on professional content only (you know, like the Sunshine Girls I mentioned above).
  • It doesn’t offer embedding because their content license agreements don’t permit them to.
  • Nobody apparently noticed that there are no dates on the videos.
  • They’re working on adding comments to videos, like Espace Canoë has
  • He’s confirmed that Vlog will be coming back as a web-only show on

Free speech isn’t a right on blogs, it’s a privilege

There’s a minor crisis happening in the Quebec blogosphere over Richard Martineau’s blog. He and Canoe are being sued for $200,000 over allegedly libelous comments made by visitors to his blog about lawyer Susan Corriveau.

The concern is over what impact that might have on comment policies at mainstream media sites. Traditional media (especially local empires in Quebec) are still trying to figure out what to do with this whole Internet thing, and are entirely clueless about the implications of user-generated content. They think forcing users to click a button that says “I agree not to post libel” is enough to protect them from liability.

Coincidentally, an earlier post this week by La Presse star blogger Patrick Lagacé mentions that he’s asking for tougher moderation of user comments to get rid of the junk and even cap the length of some discussions.

Ironically, both Martineau’s blog and Lagacé’s blog require user registration before people can make comments. This stands in contrast to websites like The Gazette’s which removed the login requirement to encourage more comments. (Then again, even The Gazette is starting to move back — their only popular blog, Habs Inside/Out, has changed its policy to require moderation of anonymous comments.)

As any forum gets more popular, it starts to see problems it couldn’t predict. Spam is the first to show up, in the form of junk sent by computer to advertise some money-making venture. That can be solved by installing a spam filter, requiring registration or manually moderating comments (or a combination of these).

But then comes the problem of real people posting unwanted things. Libel, flame wars, factual mistakes, personal attacks, trolling, copyrighted works, personal information, pornographic images, off-topic comments, the list goes on. The worst ones will get deleted outright. Border cases might get a polite warning from the blogger or moderator.

For some reason, there’s the implication that the goal is to have unedited, unrestricted, free communication in the comments section of blog posts. This innocent-until-proven-guilty mentality means that a lot of useless, mean or uninteresting comments get attached to blogs, comments that are of no use to anyone and are a waste of time and space.

Little by little, big bloggers are starting to restrict that freedom and filter out the noise.


I moderate comments on this blog. I don’t require user registration (because I know how annoying it is), and I tend to let most non-spam through. But nobody but me has the right to say what is published here. I have deleted plenty of personal attacks, unhelpful garbage, trolling comments and other junk that doesn’t belong here, and I will continue to do so. At the end of the day, I’m responsible for all the content published here, and it’s my ass in the courtroom if anything crosses the line.

I welcome criticism (in fact, some of my best comments are those who reject my entire hypothesis and ridicule my interpretation of the facts), but you have to show your work. Comments like “you suck” and “you’re gay” have no place here or on any other blog.

The Toupin Blvd. “solution”

Faced with growing opposition from local residents, the city has come up with a solution to the northern Cavendish extension to Henri-Bourassa Blvd.: Fudge it.

Toupin “solution”

The solution to the problem of traffic barrelling down Toupin Blvd. toward a non-existent bridge to Laval would be to simply disallow it. Traffic heading north on Cavendish would be forced to turn left (toward Highway 13) or right (toward Marcel-Laurin Blvd., Route 117), the nearest roads with bridges to Laval. Traffic heading south would be unrestricted.

Meanwhile, a couple of “environmentally friendly” additions to the plan include reducing the width from three lanes to two in each direction (Toupin is two lanes, Cavendish is three), and adding bicycle paths in both directions (which is great and all, but they don’t go anywhere on either side).

Internet providers have better things to do than monitor my bandwidth

Le Devoir has an article today claiming that Bell and Videotron deliberately ignore unusual increases in clients’ Internet bandwidth usage which might tell them that someone is gaining access to their connection without their knowledge.

The logic is simple: They can see clearly when bandwidth usage goes up, but they don’t warn the customer because they profit heavily off bandwidth overage charges.

Thing is, I’m not terribly convinced that’s the answer.

First of all, there’s an assumption that Internet Service Providers like high-bandwidth users. But they don’t. They hate peer-to-peer networks and other bandwidth-intensive activities. The vast majority of Internet users are well below their monthly quota, and the difference between the two is free bandwidth the companies are not eager to give away. There’s also the problem that a high-bandwidth user will slow the connections of other users on the network.

Secondly, I have no reason not to believe the providers’ PR-clouded appeal to their own laziness. They say they don’t have the resources to check every account for unusual activity (and if they do for one customer, they’ll be expected to do it for all). They’d have to hire tons of new people just to do this (and they won’t, of course; they’ll just pull people off technical and customer service). They’d have to do it on a schedule more often than once a month (because that’s when people are billed for excessive bandwidth use), and that’s really not feasible.

Similarly, the comparison with credit card companies and banks is a bit silly. These organizations deal directly with money, which is very important. You might get charged $30 for maxing out on bandwidth for one month, but it’s hardly the end of the world.

Finally, this isn’t an exact science. An increase in bandwidth usage might mean someone’s stealing your Wi-Fi, or it might mean your grandson is over for the holidays and is playing Halo 3 all day. And how many Wi-Fi leechers really run up the bandwidth meter anyway?

Just my two cents. (That doesn’t put me over the limit, right?)

Concordia Student Union needs a clarity act

The Concordia Student Union is in the midst of their by-elections this week. The small sibling to its March general election, this poll fills council seats left vacant, and asks referendum questions that people couldn’t get their act together in time to get on the March ballot.

The CSU is still trying to figure out if two of its current councillors were properly elected in March. The council nullified a decision of its own judicial branch under suspicious circumstances and has now used stalling techniques to avoid the issue of whether two independent students (those that don’t belong to one of the school’s four faculties) were in fact independent at the time of their election.

Nevertheless, it’s trying to conduct a clean election.

I can’t speak for the candidates (six candidates for three seats, with clear party affiliations), but the referendum questions leave much to be desired.

Three of the four involve fee increases (student-imposed student fees have skyrocketed this decade), and they’re all written by the people who want the fees approved instead of an impartial third party. As such, they include irrelevant statements about what the fees will pay for.

The Concordian student newspaper, which is desperately trying to increase its fee to bring it on par with its competitor The Link (some background on their bickering here), has this question on the ballot:

Do you agree to raise the fee level of The Concordian, a free weekly, independent newspaper covering news, sports, arts, music, features and opinions for Concordia by $0.09 per credit, from $0.10 to $0.19 per credit, to cover the rising costs of printing the newspaper, repairing old and failing equipment and increasing the creative quality and scope of the paper? This fee will be charged to all Undergraduate students beginning with the 2008 Winter term (2008/4 courses) and will be subject to the university’s tuition and refund policy.

The problem is that the question implies that the fee increase will only cover rising costs of printing and equipment replacement. Though that’s part of it, the editors are also interested in offering contributors a small honorarium and saving some money for a rainy day.

If a competent election officer was running the show, the question would look like this:

Do you agree to raise the fee level of The Concordian by $0.09 per credit, from $0.10 to $0.19 per credit? This fee will be charged to all Undergraduate students beginning with the 2008 Winter term (2008/4 courses) and will be subject to the university’s tuition and refund policy.

The other two fee questions have the same problem. Unnecessary campaigning is emphasized below:

Do you agree to raise the Concordia Student Union Fee Levy by $0.25 per credit, from $1.50 to $1.75 per credit in order to fund important services and initiatives such as the creation of an emergency food bank for students in need, a free daily lunch offered to Loyola students and Concordia Student Union 101’s. This fee will be charged to all Undergraduate students beginning with the 2008 Winter term (2008/4 courses) and will be subject to the university’s tuition and refund policy.

Do you agree to adjust the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) membership fee levy (which includes the membership fees of the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Federation of Students- Services and the Canadian Federation of Students-Québec) to $0.41 per credit per student, thereby continuing to support the increased demand for campaigns and services of CFS, some of which include lobbying for student debt reduction, better student financial aid, more funding for post-secondary education, cell phone discounts through StudentPhones, student discounts at hundreds of retailers in and around Montreal and free ISIC cards? The fee adjustment would represent a $0.01 decrease for Arts & Science, Fine Arts, and Independent students, and a $0.41 increase for Engineering and Computer Science and John Molson School of Business students, thereby equalizing the fee levy paid by ALL undergraduate students. The fee adjustment would be implemented in the Winter (2008/4) term and collected in accordance with the University’s tuition billing and refund policy.

The last question is even worse. In order to correct a decades-old discrepancy between fees paid by various faculties, it proposes to “equalize” the fees by slightly decreasing the fee for the largest group (Arts and Science, Fine Arts and independent students represent more than 65% of the population) and creating the fee out of nothing for the rest. The large group will vote to decrease their fees, and even if engineering and commerce students vote against their huge fee increase en masse, it won’t matter because other students make that decision for them.

It’s a horribly unfair system.

So why are these dirty referendum tricks tolerated? Because they have been used for years.

Just about every fee-related referendum question for the past five years has included unnecessary and leading information. The Art Matters festival, People’s Potato free lunch service, CJLO Radio, Frigo Vert, Sustainable Concordia and the Concordia chapter of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group have all used this technique to get fee questions passed.

The divide-and-conquer equalization technique, meanwhile, was first used by the Concordia Student Union itself back in 2001, and has been adapted for use at The Link (full disclosure: while I was an editor there, though I still feel bad about it). Other groups like QPIRG have used a similar technique but with a slight increase instead of a decrease for the majority.

I suppose I could just let it go and dismiss it as the work of uneducated students, but some of these people are going to be involved in real politics someday (Mario Dumont was a Concordia graduate). They’re going to have to learn at some point that this kind of manipulation of the electoral process isn’t kosher. It might as well be now.

UPDATE (Dec. 1): This post is referenced in’s Nov. 30 daily campus update. Though it’s “Concordia Student Union”, not “Concordia Student’s Union”.

Also The Concordian’s Tobi Elliott informs me that The Concordian’s referendum question passed. So did all the other ones. What a surprise.