Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Mauritius Shopping Fiesta begins on 29th June 2012

It's been a while since I've updated this blog. Those who have stuck around since the beginning may already be mumbling something about "déjà vu" but here I am, reading to post again and to shoot down all your ideas about my ability to maintain a blog for at least one year.

Since I have not written in a long while and I unfortunately do not have much to rant about (actually, I do, but that's for the next post), this post is decided to the Mauritius Shopping Fiesta 2012, the first event of its kind in the island. This supposedly being the "official Mauritius blog" and all, it would be a crime not to talk about it.

The Mauritius Shopping Fiesta 2012 (click here to visit its website) is, as its name implies, an event where you get Mauritius, shopping, and fiesta in 2012. It;s the first time an event of the kind is being run in Mauritius and there's quite a buzz around it. Obviously, as a shopping fiesta, emphasis in being placed on all kinds of offers, and there is already an amazing number of sponsors and participants. I don't know about you, but with the recession tightening my wallet, I could do with lower prices on tons of products.

However, more thrilling than the deals is the contests. I've seen banners sporting a Porsche (the real one, not a toy) and a BMW. I've been meaning to get a Porsche for a while now, so this may come in handy.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

An apology

I just found out that the blog's layout was completely screwed with all the posts pretty much unreadable. I guess this is what happens when you rely on a third party template. Unfortunately, I did not have much time to work on this blog lately, which is why it took so long for me to notice this. As a matter of fact, I only just noticed it after check my analytics where all my traffic completely went down the drain.

I have switched to another template for the time being and will tweak it once I have some free time.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Internet in Mauritius sucks and Mauritius Telecom does not care

There is an Internet in Mauritius that is a source of grief for 90% of its users. The other 10% cannot connect to the web to post about their grievances because their Internet has not been working for 3 months. Worse yet, they are still paying for an Internet service they cannot use and never hope to use again. However, I can (hence this blog) and I have finally decided to put on my masked avenger's mask and write about the joke Internet offered by Mauritius Telecom.

There are many things to complain about when it comes to Mauritius Telecom's "Internet" services. In fact, there are so many I do not even know where to start. As such, I'm probably going to end up just rambling at a certain point without any due regard for structure, flow, and all the intricacies of Shakespeare. However, it does not matter because whining about the crap Internet in Mauritius never gets old. It's actually almost become a hobby for many people now. This is made even more thrilling by the blantant fact that Mauritius Telecom is impervious to any kind of criticism and very clearly taking its users for jokers.

Since the world is now primarily about money, I will start with the rates of the different Internet packages offered by Mauritius Telecom. There are two kinds of packages offered which are MyT and ADSL. The main difference between the two packages is that MyT also includes the availability of digital TV channels while ADSL is only concerned with connecting you to the Internet (sort of). The points covered in this post are based on MyT but I have no doubt whatsoever that there is absolutely no difference with the ADSL package (which is supposedly worse than MyT when it comes to Internet speed).

Up to December 2011, the rates for the different MyT packages were as follows:

MyT 1Mbps - Rs. 999
MyT 2Mbps - Rs. 1,699
MyT 4Mbps - Rs. 2,999

However, after everybody kept pointing out the exorbitant prices practiced by Mauritius Telecom for what is essentially a crap service, these prices were finally lowered at the start of December 2011 as follows:

MyT 1Mbps - Rs. 949
MyT 2Mbps - Rs. 1,499
MyT 4Mbps - Rs. 2,499
As you can see, the decrease in price is as big a joke as it gets. While you could say that the 2Mbps and 4Mbps Internet package rates were lowered by Rs. 200 and Rs. 500 respectively, most home users typically go for the MyT 1Mbps Internet deal, where the new rate is only Rs. 50 lower.

In a world where Internet bundles are getting supremely fast while incurring a more than reasonable cost everywhere else, Mauritius is one of the few places where a Rs. 50 reduction is considered worthwhile. With prices going up everywhere and wage rises stalling, Rs. 949 is still a lot to pay for an Internet connection that is usually extremely slow and quite unusable during weekends. On weekends, even the Google home page takes a long time to load and Gmail often redirects its users to its crap-connection format.

Google Mauritius homepage
Evil meets evil.


I also cannot forget the multiple times the Internet connection is down either due to cable problems or a fault in the server. This obviously always happens during peak hours when everybody needs to go online to check their email, bet on Champions League matches, or stalk other users on Facebook (I hear it's very common nowadays). In July 2011, Mauritius was even faced with a strange but not unpredictable situation where the island completely went offline. The cause was a server failure at Mauritius Telecom which caused everybody to be deprived of an Internet connection from around 11am to 7pm.

Such an event is highly ironic given that the government still apparently wants Mauritius to become a strategic IT hub in the Indian Ocean. "Cyber towers" have been set up to this effect and many companies that simply cannot function without an Internet connection now make up Ebène. However, on that fateful day, dozens of companies were suddenly unable to function, which effectively resulted in a loss of revenue and a lot of free time for employees.

Moreover, the speeds advertised and billed for are lies. This has even become a recurring joke among both Mauritius Telecom MyT and ADSL users as it is widely known that the download and upload speeds are far from what users are paying for. This is evidenced by the following test run on a 1Mbps connection in Port Louis 10 minutes from Mauritius Telecom (not that it matters but I enjoy being picky):

MyT 1Mbps test in Port Louis
I like downloading Bluray rips in my spare time.


If you have a problem with your Internet connection, the support provided by Mauritius Telecom is non-existent regardless of the package you signed up for. For example, I was once deprived of my online personae for a whole weekend because some dumb ass messed up the cables while performing some other maintenance routine.

Upon phoning Mauritius Telecom and informing them of the situation on Saturday (the day the cables went poof), I was informed that the earliest a team could come over would be Monday as they did not provide support on weekends. Moreover, those two days without Internet connection (also typically the days when I am actually able to go online) would not be reimbursed. Even if the technicians came only a whole week later, I would still need to pay for a full month package.

I fail to see the logic behind this reasoning. Mauritius is supposed to be a "cyber island" but Mauritius Telecom, the company most Mauritians are relying on for their Internet connection, cannot ask its personnel to work during weekends? Even more amazing is the fact that they consider charging their users for an unusable connection completely normal.

This is not a one-off situation either. I know many MyT and ADSL users who have had to wait a few months before Mauritius Telecom would send people to fix their Internet woes. Obviously, the two or three months they could not go online were still being billed. Any attempt to get a reimbursement would be met by being put on hold for 20 minutes. Once those 20 minutes had elapsed, they would then be told that not grabbing their money does not fall in line with Mauritius Telecom's practices.

This is what the Internet in Mauritius has come to. Unfortunately, as long as Mauritius Telecom holds a monopoly, things will not change. The latest "new rates" I covered at the beginning of this article clearly show this. Unless another company comes to challenge Mauritius Telecom and offers cheaper but reliable Internet, Mauritians will have to endure the lousy connection speeds while paying small fortunes to get absolutely no support once their Internet craps out on them...which happens a lot in Mauritius!

If you hate Mauritius Telecom as much as I do (and I'm pretty sure you do), don't forget to share this article!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The best football adverts that have nothing to do with Mauritius

While I like football, there's unfortunately not much to write about in the Mauritius context. There supposedly exists a Mauritian football league with a bunch of teams kicking the a ball around from time to time but its death has already been documented.

On the other hand, here are the best football adverts (my opinion) ever conceived courtesy of YouTube.

Take It to The Next Level is an advert by Nike directed by Guy Ritchie (mostly known for Snatch and Sherlock Holmes). Since it features a Dutch player who signs for Arsenal, there have been a lot of debates about whether this is Robin van Persie (also known as The Glassman) or the player is actually supposed to be the viewer. I personally believe the latter theory as van Persie is left footed but the player in the advert is very clearly right-footed.




The FA: Whatever Your Level is a parody of the Take It To The Next Level ad by Nike. It is obviously only popular in the United Kingdom but is absolutely brilliant.




Nike's Write the Future was created for the World Cup 2010. While a great video, it nevertheless features several inaccuracies such as Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo performing at national level.




Jose +10 by Adidas - possibly the best football advert ever produced.



Germany also recently release a really cool advert depicting the young German squad training IN REVERSE.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mauritius is not yet ready for Q&A web sites

If you are wondering what exactly a Q&A (Questions & Answers) website is, it's a website where users ask questions and other users answer. The most popular Q&A website is without doubt Yahoo! Answers, which, as far as I am concerned, is the only Yahoo! product we should all still be bothering about. You can find out more about Q&A websites on Wikipedia.

Since I'm bothering to write about Q&A websites on this awesome Mauritius blog, it is to express my concerns that Mauritius is not yet ready for such websites. While Q&A websites are plentiful on the Internet and range from general websites to more specific topics (some of which are downright dodgy but I will refrain from linking to these), there are actually only 2 Mauritius-related Questions & Answers websites.

The first Q&A website about Mauritius is Answers.mu (note: as pointed out in the comments section, Answers.mu actually came well after Clever Dodo -- by "first Q&A website about Mauritius", I am merely referring to the first website I will be discussing and NOT the first one that was launched; I apologize for the misinformation), which was created by Akash Callikan this year (he's the guy behind the Le Matinal website). I was inspired to write this article after signing up for Answers.mu, visiting it quite regularly since I am personally a big fan of Q&A websites, and eventually getting frustrated with the whole website. I first found out about the website via a traditional newspaper and my discovery of the website had nothing to do with the Internet, which says a lot about the marketing of the website (more on that later).


Answers.mu is an excellent concept, especially considering the complete lack of competition as far as Mauritian Question & Answers websites are related. When Answers.mu was created, its only competitor was Clever Dodo. As such, it should not be very hard to be listed within the first three results on the first page of Google. I have not gone into determining the volume of search and the competition for the website's audience but I'm positive the competition should be extremely low.

My main gripes about Answers.mu have nothing to do with its marketing though. A first issue is that the website is unusable. The text color is extremely annoying and I often find myself logging out after only fifteen minutes browsing the website (which is actually a lot given the website's apparent small user base). As for the top menu with the black background, I cannot even read the damn thing without squinting. However, even these usability concerns are a distant second behind the main problem with Answers.mu.

Answers.mu
Answers.mu


The biggest problem about the Mauritius Q&A website Answers.mu is that the community is mainly comprised of trolls. Now, I'm not saying everybody who signed up on Answers.mu is a troll with nothing better to do than to engage in Internet warfare. In fact, I signed up myself, so this alone shoots down all your mass conspiracy theories. In most cases, it would have been easy to chalk it off to the users themselves and to argue that the webmaster is not actually responsible for what's happening on his website and what the users are using it for (also known as The Facebook Excuse).

Except it is totally the webmaster's fault in this case! The huge flaw with Answers.mu's model is that it is using explicit incentives to encourage people to participate on the website. You are only awarded points (which to be fair cannot actually be used on anything other than to brag about them) but this has led to most users posting garbage questions and garbage answers to go with these to rack up their points. There are also many cases where questions are evolving into forum-style threads and the moderators (if any) seem quite unresponsive to these.

Answers.mu's concept of gift questions, where whoever first gets the right answer to a question, is also a poor decision as it means people are visiting Answers.mu simply for these particular questions. Below is an example of a gift question on Answers.mu.

Which of the following gives you the best survival chance? You must explain why this is so.

1. Flip 5 heads in a row or get your head cut off
2. Roll two sixes when throwing dice or eat cyanide for dinner
3. Roll a 4 twice in a row or be drawn and quartered
4. Get dealt 2 kings (standard 52 card deck; 2 cards dealt) or jump from the top of the Cyber Tower in Ebene



These gifts are probably given by sponsors but my guess is that Answers.mu will eventually face a huge problem in retaining its users once they figure out these gifts are not worth the hassle. Attracting news user on a long-term basis is another issue that will without doubt pop up.

In contrast, Clever Dodo, the other Mauritius Questions & Answers website, is actually well-done. The layout is extremely user friendly and the users frequenting the website are actually helpful. I have not signed up for Clever Dodo, but you do get the feeling that a community actually exists there. From what I have seen, the moderators are actually taking their duties seriously and actively moderating the website.

CleverDodo.mu
CleverDodo.mu


It probably will not matter to both webmasters, but Clever Dodo is actually more search engine friendly than Answers.mu, which is funny because the Answers.mu owner states that he specializes "in building user-friendly and well-structured W3C standard-compliant websites [sic]". However, a user-friendly and well-structured website should be easy to navigate(I still cannot use the top menu), not hurt my eyes and use a flat structure. This is not the case as each question's link on Answers.mu includes a question folder, which is completely necessary and which should not be that hard to remove (example below).

http://www.answers.mu/question/how-to-make-money-for-life-in-limited-time/


As a more general outline of these two websites, while Clever Dodo is clearly better, the user base on both websites is however still quite small. My guess is that Mauritians clearly do not have much time for such websites when they could be instead be spending all their time on Facebook and reading this blog. In any case, both websites are completely invisible on Google unless you actually know their name. A search of "q&a websites mauritius" yields nothing when they should logically be targeting these for traffic.

They do seem to have proper visibility for related queries on Google.mu but their main traffic should come from foreigners and thus other versions of Google (I verified on Google US, since it has the potential for the most traffic). In this aspect, Clever Dodo is winning as its home page title (Clever Dodo - Mauritius Questions & Answers) includes its main keywords. It would however gain from a rewrite though as it can easily be further optimized and I do not understand the point of putting the brand name first.

As usual, sharing is your best friend. I am also eager to feedback from both communities' users as long as these are not limited to trolling and spamming. If you want to troll me, it's easier to do so by sharing this post on Twitter and Facebook.