Jan 31, 2016

Outstanding sports journalism in Le Défi Plus

I recently wrote about Le Défi's poor journalism and how they should take the time to check their facts before publishing articles. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, you can read the article here.

I am pleased to report that the sports team at what is supposedly "the most read newspaper in Mauritius" has no time to check their facts when reporting on upcoming matches. The quote below is an excerpt from the Liverpool vs West Ham FA Cup match coverage on page 73 of Le Défi Plus which came out on 30 January 2016 (i.e. yesterday). For those who do not buy the newspaper, this is essentially the first sports page and it is typically used to cover the most important match of the week-end in the UK.

Here is what this article states about West Ham's line-up:

En défense, Carl Jenkinson manquera à l'appel et pourrait être remplacé par le jeune Sam Byram [...]

For this who do not understand English, this short text essentially means that Carl Jenkinson will not feature in the match and that he could be replaced by Sam Byram

I almost spilled my tea when I read this as Sam Byram, as talented as he is, cannot play for West Ham in the FA Cup.

Here's why.

Sam Byram joined West Ham on 20 January 2016. Now, the important thing about January transfers in the Premier League (and in any major league) is that many managers are wary about these for a simple reason: players are often cup-tied, meaning they will not be able to feature in cup competitions because they have already played for their previous team in these. Current football regulations state that a player cannot play for more than one team in a cup competition in the UK over any given season (again, this is also true in most countries around the footballing world).

If the journalist who wrote this article had bothered to check his footballing facts, he would have known that Byram had already featured for Leeds in the FA Cup and was thus cup-tied. And this is what the Internet means now: you can check up most facts online. Here's Sam Byram's profile on Soccer Base which clearly shows he's played for Leeds in the cup.

And here's a screenshot with beautiful arrows:
Follow the arrows

Unfortunately, checking facts before they are printed in a newspaper is now overrated!

Jan 20, 2016

Le Defi - crunching numbers the wrong way

Every end of year, Le Defi usually publishes an article to proclaim that it's the most visited only newspaper in Mauritius. 2015 was no exception. According to the article posted on their website on 29 December 2015, they remain the most read news website in Mauritius. This article was also posted in their print edition and I was planning to blog about this since then. Unfortunately, a combination of the festive season, booze and laziness meant I never got around to it.

L'Express however had a short article on their website in response to these claims and it's hilarious. I have taken that as a sign that I should get around to publishing my opinion on the matter before it gets way too old to warrant attention.

The Alexa way

My main gripe about Le Défi's assessment is that they are using Alexa as a benchmark. The article title itself clearly states that Le Défi ranks first according to Alexa rankings. There's however a main problem with Alexa rankings and this is stated on its official website:

"Alexa could not exist without the participation of the Alexa Toolbar community. Each member of the community, in addition to getting a useful tool, gives back. By using the Firefox, Chrome and IE toolbars, every member contributes valuable information about the web, how it's used, what's important and what isn't. Alexa returns this information to the community as Traffic Ranks, Related Links, and more."
In other words, Alexa-related information is entirely dependent on its toolbar which needs to be installed by users. As it turns out, most people will never install Alexa and this means we need to be careful when interpreting the data. In this situation, the one conclusion we would be able to make is that Le Défi is indeed the most visited news website by users who have the Alexa toolbar installed.

Let us not forget that online browsing behavior has also changed a lot over the recent years. Most people who use Alexa have it installed on their desktop/laptop. Moreover, many of those are usually literally conned into using it while installing other software. However, as everybody knows, a lot of web users now stay updated through their mobile phones and tablets and not just traditional computers. In these cases, people are even less likely to use Alexa, which means a lot of important data is not being captured by the Alexa algorithm.

Top sites in Mauritius

Alexa's unreliability is actually sort of obvious from its Top Sites in Mauritius page. Le Défi claimed that it was the sixth most visited website in Mauritius on 25 December 2015 according to Alexa and that it was ranking above L'Express. However, as of 19 January 2016, L'Express is fifth and Le Défi is only ninth, which means Le Défi lost an amazing three ranks in less than one month.

In addition, consider the case that both Google.com and Google.mu are included in Alexa's Top Sites in Mauritius list. However, if you are in Mauritius, going to Google.com automatically redirects to Google.mu unless you use the no-country redirection. Most people are not even aware that the no-country Google redirection exists and will head straight to the Google.mu page.

This means that:
1) Google.com has no business being in the list
2) In real life, Google.com cannot rank above Google.mu

And this is what Alexa is showing:

Web rankings. Serious business.

Let's supposed we were actually interested in determining which newspaper was the most popular in Mauritius. There are actually many parameters that should be taken into consideration in addition to the number of website visits (provided these are provided by a reliable tool such as Google analytics):
  • number of Facebook users since it's the one social network everybody use in Mauritius - and L'Express has more than 350,000 followers compared to Le Défi's 93,000 users. In this case, Le Défi is not putting enough emphasis on its social profiles via its website. I actually had to look for the icon twice before I found it.
  • number of app users - L'Express has Apple and Android apps; I have not seen any such platform for Le Défi. It could be that those users who are using these apps have no need for the traditional website.
  • number of subscribers to the L'Express e-paper - it is my understanding that these users will not bother reading the online editions since the e-paper is available even before the print version comes out in Mauritius.

Personally, I could not care less which newspaper website ranks first in Mauritius whether it's according to Alexa or any other ranking provider. However, I take offense with bad reporting of news, especially when it's being done by a news website.

Jan 18, 2016

Would you work for free?

Most of us would balk at the idea of working for free. We value our time, we value our skills and the mere idea of working for free would annoy us and even make us as angry as Santa's little ferrets. As a matter of fact, even when we are getting paid for our work, we will often consider that it's not enough and that we should be getting more.

Yet consider this.

A lot of Mauritians are proud non-paid employees on Facebook. Not just Facebook, but I'll focus mainly on Facebook since it is by far the biggest social network in Mauritius.

Every time you post something on Facebook, you are casually working for them.

Every time you write a status, you contribute to increasing its net worth.

The new economy?

Every time you post a picture of your latest outing on Facebook, their investors strike big and you get absolutely nothing extrinsic in return. Although Facebook has mastered the art of intrinsic rewards , these are not enough to warrant all the time you may be spending to announce to the world how the week-end was and how fun you had taking pictures of your latest outing to post on your profile.

Every time you like someone's newest post or even your own, you are building traffic on Facebook.

And yet you most likely would never "work for free".

Jan 9, 2016

Need fiber optics in Mauritius? Here's how to get an appointment with Orange

In mid-December, I wrote about how difficult it was to get Orange to upgrade my Internet package to fibre optics. You can read the post here.

I was thankfully able to get things sorted out and my Internet's been upgrade as shown below. I have the ADSL 75GB data package which comes with in-built wifi. The speed is pretty sweet but I haven't done much downloading.

I'm 0.4Mb/s short

For those who are still struggling to get an appointment, here's how to proceed:
1) Go to an Orange shop. It's the only way that works. Don't bother using the online form on the Orange website. Apparently, it's useless.
2) Bring your ID with you and, if the telephone line is not under your name, you also need to bring a letter signed by the landline owner.
3) Get in the queue.
3) Fill in the service request form.
4) Wait until someone from the Orange technical team contacts you.

Once someone contacts you, they will ask you whether you want them to come in the morning or afternoon. Unfortunately, it seems that the technical team has a propensity to never show up on occasions, which I'm guessing is a result of a hectic time plan. Check out the user posts on their Facebook page and you'll see many users complaining about taking days off and the technicians never showing up.

The best thing to do would thus be to schedule an afternoon visit and drop whatever you're doing only when the technicians contact you to confirm that they are indeed coming. Of course, this degree of flexibility may not work for everyone.

Here's also what not to do when things go awry:
1) Do not phone the hotlines. They have generic messages and will tell you to keep waiting.
2) See above.
3) See below.
4) Phone the hotlines you must not. Generic messages they will say and angrier you will get.

And if nothing works, there's only one solution left. Share this post!

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