Monthly Archives: August 2008

Le Cas Roberge: Failure

Want to see the feature film based on the online hit Le Cas Roberge? Well, tough. It’s been pulled from theatres after a disastrous $40,000 over two weeks in cinemas. The problem, apparently, is that it sucks and the few people watching it fall asleep halfway through. They’re keeping their chins up, saying it’s “not a disaster,” but it’s hard to quantify it as much else.

Maybe you can catch it in a few weeks at Dollar Cinema, where screening in front of three people isn’t considered strange.

We need to rid our city of driver-side bus mirrors

After recent injuries to pedestrians due to rear-view mirrors on STM buses, some are asking why these predatory reflective objects are allowed to keep recklessly and deliberately attacking poor bystanders whose only crime was standing less than four inches from the driver’s side of a moving bus.

The STM has refused to retrofit their buses in order to remove these threats to our (taller) children, even after discovering that people can get hit with them.

This is about safety. The ability of a bus driver to look at himself or look back at roads he’s already driven through should not get in the way of keeping our streets safe for pedestrians.

We must not rest until our buses are mirror-free.

Loblaws could do better

Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you’ve noticed Loblaw’s’s new ad campaign promoting locally-grown fruits as part of a green strategy. I applaud Loblaw for embracing greener policies, but there’s still a way to go.

Take, for example, this bike rack outside the Loblaws at Jean-Talon and Park. Notice anything odd about it? The fact that no bikes are attached to it? The fact that it’s at an odd angle? Well, that’s because there’s nothing anchoring this bike rack to the ground. Seriously. Go there right now and just walk off with it.

Instead, everyone hooks their bikes up to the solid railings nearby. Although that keeps the bikes relatively secure, it also interferes with anyone wanting to use the railings to help them up the stairs.

This has been going on for weeks now, which means Loblaws is either lazy or just doesn’t care.

Underground, meanwhile, is a large parking lot that can hold over 250 cars. It’s free for shoppers up to two hours.

I was surprised to find, at the far end, parking spaces for bicycles. No signage exists anywhere else to point cyclists here, which is probably why it’s empty in the middle of the day (while bikes are locked to railings outside).

For a store so close to Park Extension, Villeray, Rosemont, Mile End and the Plateau, areas where bicycles are perhaps the most popular in Montreal, this store could make even a small effort to make cyclists feel more welcome.

Spot the green

Which of the following green-coloured products are made using recycled paper or make any other claims toward environmental sustainability?

The answer, of course, is none. They’re just green-coloured.

That’s the problem with greenwashing. There is no standard body to say what environmentally-friendly claims can be made and which ones can’t. And even if there were such a body with strictly-enforced rules, nothing prevents a company from simply using green-coloured packaging to subtly fool consumers into thinking that there is an environmental benefit to choosing a green product over a non-green version.

What’s the difference between these two products? They’re both from the same company, both weigh the same and are made from the same material. The difference, if you look at the numbers at the bottom, is that the green-coloured package has sheets that are half the size as those the blue-coloured package, and offsets that by having twice as many sheets.

In other words, the only difference between the two is that the one on the left has twice as many perforations. And yet there’s a sense that, because it’s green, it’s better for the environment somehow.

The one product on the shelves that does make green claims is this jumbo package of paper towels from President’s Choice. The paper towels here are printed on made using recycled paper, and I believe once you throw them away will explode into butterflies or something.

Whose bright idea was it to associate such a complicated, easily-abused marketing concept with little more than a colour?

Westmount doesn’t want trains on its train tracks

Apparently, the city council in Westmount isn’t keen on the idea of a high-speed rail link between downtown and the airport going through their little town on the lines currently used by the AMT commuter trains going to Windsor Station. Instead, they’d prefer if the route used tracks further south in St. Henri.

The reasoning is somewhat complicated, and has to do with some very technical aspects of the two tracks. In order to better explain it, I’ve created a diagram of the situation below:

As you can see, it’s better for everyone involved if the train uses the lower tracks.

(I realize this is classic NIMBYism and not specific to Westmount, but you’d think it would occur to them that such a suggestion without any reasons behind it would lead to this kind of impression.)

UPDATE: Aww Pat, I’m touched (again). Your kickback will be in the mail shortly. Pour vos lecteurs, vous pouvez lire mes billets sur les médias, Montréal et, surtout, sur Patrick Lagacé.

Reporters gone wild

Monday’s paper contained a couple of first-person pieces from reporters who were a bit closer to the action than they normally are. In the first, Gazette reporter Jason Magder recounts walking by a relative’s place whose burglar alarm had just gone off. Nothing happened, but he got scared when he thought there might be nefarious burglars nearby. He later learns that police recommend always calling them first, even if it’s more than likely a false alarm and will result in a fine, because (and this is pretty good logic here) a fine is worth less than your life.

The other, a few pages down, comes from Canwest’s Scott Deveau, who is a reporter in Afghanistan and came face-to-face with a roadside bomb. Again, no serious repercussions, but a pretty huge scare.

So what should we learn from this encounter? Simple: Jason Magder and Scott Deveau are pussies.

But perhaps we can look into this a bit deeper. What purpose do these first-person articles serve? There have been other home break-ins and other roadside bombings that have been worse but gotten less coverage. Is a reporter’s first-person account better than a second-hand version given by a witness? Is this a this-happens-every-day story? Or is it just a way for reporters to placate their enormous egos, a preview into their future memoirs, and an indication that things are more significant when they happen to people we know?

Discuss. Please include unnecessarily personal references in your comments.

Just use YouTube

Bruno Guglielminetti, seen above giving a video update from what appears to be an airport bathroom stall, has become the latest journalist to discover that it’s easier to simply upload videos to YouTube than deal with his company’s complicated proprietary system.

The advantages of YouTube are pretty astounding:

  • Free storage space, which means you don’t have to worry about server maintenance, technical support or web programming
  • Familiar interface to web users, instead of the Windows Media, RealVideo or Quicktime systems that half the audience might not have the proper plugin for
  • A much, much, much larger audience of millions of web surfers who might stumble upon your video through search, instead of the few dozen people who might reach it through a direct link from the media outlet’s website
  • The ability to share advertising revenue with Google, a company that understands Internet advertising a heck of a lot better than those kids you have trying to sell print ads.

Given that, why don’t more non-television media outlets mothball their video systems and just switch to YouTube?

The main reason is control: They want 100% of all that ad revenue they’re not getting. They think they can do everything because they did everything in print. They don’t trust some outside company to handle this for them. And they don’t want to throw away something they spent thousands of dollars getting the CEO’s nephew to develop over the weekend.

On the other hand, many of these same websites use Google Ads, Google Analytics and Feedburner.

When it comes to video, I think they’ve hit the wrong side of this equation.

The evidence can be seen on their own blogs. Look at how many of them embed YouTube videos, or even unofficially upload their own videos to YouTube because they can’t figure out their company’s proprietary system.

Bruno’s step makes sense. Let’s hope others follow. And not just with YouTube. They should have channels on Vimeo,, Metacafe and others. Their business shouldn’t be in distribution, it should be in content.

Global TV opens foreign bureaus

Global News has announced that it is sending five of its journalists to foreign bureaus to report for Global National. This follows a similar move a while back to open foreign bureaus for the Canwest News Service print and web news wire. Among them are two Montrealers (and ex-Global Quebec reporters), Stuart Greer (in London) and Ben O’Hara-Byrne (in Beijing), as well as weekend Global National anchor Tara Nelson (in London).

(Full disclosure: I work for The Gazette, which is owned, along with Global, by Canwest.)

STM adds service, but still short on buses

As part of its promise for vastly increased service for users (and in order to meet government-imposed quotas to get extra cash), the STM has announced sweeping improvements to bus service across the island, as well as better service on the Orange Line of the metro (which will now use renovated MR-73 trains exclusively), all starting next Monday (Sept. 1) as the new schedules are released.

The actual improvements to bus service aren’t quite as dramatic as the long press release would make it seem. Part of the reason is that the STM simply doesn’t have enough buses to meet up with all the increased service it wants. More are being manufactured, but won’t arrive here until next year.

Nevertheless, there are some highlights in the new schedules:

New route: 480 Pointe-Nord-Île-des-Soeurs (plus collective taxi)

The 480 Pointe-Nord Île-des-Soeurs route, which was first announced back in April, finally gets started. It’s an express link between downtown and Nuns’ Island’s new Bell campus. That route will also be paired with a collective taxi service which will run between the campus and Nuns’ Island’s commercial area during lunchtime.

New “seniors” routes: 252, 253, 254

What do you do when a pilot project fails miserably? Try it again in another place without changing any of the things that were wrong with it, of course. After trying “seniors” routes in NDG and Côte des Neiges, the STM is repeating the experiment in Montreal North, Saint Michel and Rosemont.

Like the previous incarnation, these buses will only run on certain days (and it’s not the same days for each bus), during midday, on a confusingly circular route at unreasonably large intervals of between 50 and 80 minutes. The latter two will also use minibuses, which are high-floor buses (it’s unclear if they’ll have lifts like adapted transit buses do) and tough to get into for older people.

The stops will be identified with the same yellow signs as the previous versions, even though yellow signs also indicate temporary routes (like the shuttle running through Georges-Vanier metro) and tourist routes (like the 515 Old Port bus)

470 adds weekend service

As part of its incremental increases to service to the 470 Express Pierrefonds, a route described (repeatedly) as a “home run” by STM director Marvin Rotrand, the STM has finally added weekend service for the first time. Service will be provided in both directions between 6:30am and 6:30pm, at intervals ranging from 20 minutes (during weekend rush-hour times) and 30 minutes (around noon). That’s great, only it took them a year to do it.

103 service intervals to plummet

Service intervals on the 103 Monkland will drop dramatically next week during all hours of service. On weekdays during the day, intervals will be closer to 10-12 minutes than the current 15-20, and during rush hour it will drop below the 6-minutes-or-less threshold.

On Saturdays, morning eastbound service will be at 15 minutes instead of 20. Westbound, intervals will drop from 20 minutes to 15 from 1-4pm, and from 30 minutes to 20 minutes during the evenings.

Sunday’s schedule stays mostly the same.

Neighbourhood routes get later evening hours (but only during weekdays)

Following up on a promise to offer late-evening service to certain routes, new schedules for five seven-day routes show less truncated weekday schedules, which will now end closer to the metro’s closing time of 1am. Weekend service, however, will remain unaffected and still end as early as previously:

Sundays start earlier on the West Island

Anyone who’s tried to get around the West Island early on a Sunday morning quickly realized that it’s not possible before 9am. For some arcane reason, service starts at 7am on Saturdays, but everyone’s expected to just sleep in on Sundays. Only certain routes like the 68 or 211 offer any service before 9am. That changes next week, as the late-rising routes through Fairview start getting up at 7am instead of 9:

Seven-day buses with slightly improved service during rush hour:

(Barely) extended rush hours, up to 1 hour on each side:

Existing “all-day” (but not evening or weekend) routes whose service will end at 7pm instead of 6:30pm:

Service reductions advertised as service increases

Perhaps there was a mixup of some sort. But comparing schedules, it seems there are actually slight reductions in the service on two routes where the STM has advertised slight increases:

  • 268 Trainbus Pierrefonds: Two fewer departures eastbound cutting service after 4pm, three fewer departures westbound cutting service before 9:30am. In exchange, two extra departures at the end of rush hour westbound.
  • 430 Express Pointe-aux-Trembles: One fewer departure westbound in early morning

UPDATE: The papers have stories on the schedule changes. La Presse, notably, mentions nothing about the 470 weekend service nor the earlier Sundays for routes going through Fairview. I guess they think the West Island doesn’t matter.


I admit, I’m pretty vain when it comes to my blog. I don’t advertise it or spend hours obsessing over search engine optimization. I don’t use Feedburner (yet) or Google Analytics to obsessively pry into my readership. But I take a look at my server logs and I’m pretty curious who comes here.

My traffic is a modest 1,000-2,000 visits a day, 20,000-30,000 unique visitors a month. For a locally-focused blog, I guess that’s pretty good (so everyone keeps telling me), though it’s nowhere near the readership of even a tiny local newspaper.

Whenever I start thinking I’m all that, though, I usually get a good swift kick in the pants when someone much more popular links to me. A single link from Patrick Lagacé, for example, can easily double my traffic on a given day. MtlCityWeblog also ranks highly in terms of incoming links.

And then there’s Fark.

Fark is like Slashdot (for whom the “Slashdot Effect” is named). Small-time web hosts fear these popular websites because of the insane spike in traffic they are reported to provide.

So you can imagine my concern when I saw that a bunch of people were coming here from It turns out a thread had been posted there linking to my recent CRTC roundup featuring the new Canadian porn channel. That thread then made it to the main page, which resulted in thousands of web surfers being directed here.

Thousands, but not hundreds of thousands or even tens of thousands. My statistics show only 7,000 people clicking through to the page (Fark’s counter is above 8,700). Turns out that’s about average. Some popular ones might see 15,000, and those promising pictures or other goodies might go up to 70,000. But barring some “epic thread” it doesn’t go much beyond that.

Perhaps Fark isn’t as popular as it once was. Perhaps with the Internet as huge as it is, there are fewer large gathering places with the power of God behind them.

Oh, and to save you some time, here are the thread’s highlights:

  • Rita MacKneels
  • The Great White Load
  • Roll Up the Rimjob
  • Edmund Fits Gerald
  • 2 Girls 1 Puck
  • Montreal Triple Expos
  • Summer of 69
  • The Littlest Homo

There, I just saved you 20 minutes.

In related news, my blog hit its 200th Google Reader subscriber recently. It kind of gets me that I have more blog subscribers than Facebook friends. Added to subscribers through other feed readers (Bloglines, Newsgator, Netvibes, Livejournal — in that order), the number comes up to somewhere between 270 and 282.

And that doesn’t include people who read the blog the old-fashioned way.

Now how do I cash in on this new-found fame? Where are those groupies they always tell me about?

Globe thinks colour will solve newspaper crisis

The Globe and Mail and Transcontinental have signed a $1.7 billion, 18-year deal for the Montreal-based printer to print the newspaper everywhere but the prairies.

The highlight of the deal (from the Globe press release) is a promise from Transcon to buy new presses capable of printing full-colour on all pages. Currently newspapers have to budget which pages get colour and which stay black, mainly because colour is a four-plate process (CMYK) and black requires only one plate and one colour ink. (The change will also mean a shorter paper and another redesign)

That sounds pretty cool. But spending $200 million on new presses to satisfy an 18-year deal (2010-2028) when we’re not even sure that newspapers are going to last that long?

Like the New York Times and other larger papers, the Globe will probably weather the crisis a bit longer than most (the fact that it hasn’t drastically cut the number of journalists recently certainly helps). But 20 years is a long time in the future, especially when you consider where we were 20 years ago. In 1988, newspaper staffs were at their peak, television production values practically nonexistent, and nobody knew what the Internet was.

Crocs needs copy editors

As a copy editor and therefore grammar nut, I’m especially attuned to errors of grammar, spelling and punctuation. But I realize not everyone can be as prefect as me when it comes to proofreadign, so I’m willing to cut them some slack., for example, the website of those awful-looking plastic shoes that everyone seems to love. I can forgive their awkwardly-phrased taglines like “men: that’s all you need!” or “lifestyle: every day with style” or “work: even at work!”

I can forgive their aversion to the use of capital letters, their tenuous grasp on the rules of proper hyphenation and their missing commas.

I can forgive small mistakes like neglecting to superscript the “TM” that comes after their trademark.

I might even, on a good day, forgive an accidental misspelling of one’s own trademark.

But when your business is creating “comfortable” shoes and you misspell “comfort” multiple times in prominent places right next to the correct spelling, that’s just unforgiveable.

I don’t know what world these people live in, but translation isn’t something companies should hire amateurs to do.

UPDATE: I just checked the website’s terms of use, which apparently doesn’t allow me to link to it:

you may not create links from other websites to this website, except if expressly permitted by the site owner. (to obtain permission, contact our website administrator at

Just for kicks, I’ve gone ahead and asked permission. I’ll let you know what their response is. The email was rejected by the server because doesn’t exist.