Web marketing frog

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I won't beat around the bush.

This post is translated from my original French post Je n’irai pas par quatre chemins.

From birth, I have lived with a timebomb in my head, a bomb which exploded one Saturday morning in August 2007. After this precise moment, I was only sleeping three or four hours a night, I had lost 15 kg (33 lbs) and my life had been turn upside down to a point which was unimaginable to my partner, my near-and-dear, and my circle of friends.

Broadly, since I was a child, my brain tells me that I am a woman. To manage this situation, I had developed very strong denial mechanisms. I became the model of "manlyness". I went to the Royal Militairy College (St John's Royal Military College) (and prepared to be an infantry officer), I played American football, and I was a bouncer. But, you see, once my denial mechanisms came tumbling down, I lived with depression that led me to consult a specialist for these things, in Québec.

I suffer from gender identity disorder. When a person feels herself ill at ease with the roles or identity of her gender, the doctors say that she suffers from this malady; it is a psychiatric term describing a very grave mood disruption which implies sadness, anxiety, tension, irritability, and affects one in 30,000 people, according to medical statistics. In my case, it is a psychological state of a person who is unsatisfied with the sex in which she was born, and I was diagnosed a type II transsexual.

In my situation, the only therapy is transitioning to be a woman. The only other alternative is to do nothing and the consequence of that choice is a severe depression which might lead to suicide.

I asked my doctor if there wasn't anything else: injecting me with male hormones, aversion therapy, etc. He told em that for 50 years, all the alternatives have been explored (including electroshock) and that the only treatment which gave positive results was transition. One doesn't change the brain to correspond to the body, one changes the body to correspond to the brain.

Furthermore, a scientific debate rages about if GID is an illness or a condition. GID is in the psychiatric bible (which is called the DSM-IV). But this reality might well change because science presents the hypothesis that it is instead a condition present at birth. It seems that during the 7th week of pregnancy, an abnormal hormonal influx happens, so that at the time of sexual differentiation, the body develops as a male, but the brain remains female (see here, here, here, here and here). After birth, amongst social pressures and life risks, the child will forge denial mechanisms which fail sooner or later. Thus, when they fail, the inevitable will become the only reality present at all times.

The diagnosis is formal; I have thus begun hormone therapy two months ago, and I started to sleep again. It's another corroborating sign of the diagnosis that has been confirmed by many other health-care professionals and by my own self-knowledge. (I crossdressed in a non-fetishistic manner, in private, from age ten.)

I take this news with many joys and sorrows at the same time.

Finally, I will be the woman that my brain has always been, and I am very happy, but the anguish of the perceptions of others, the fear of being a freak, the aprehension of losing my lecturing contracts and the culpability of knowing the sadness that this news creates among members of my familly, weighs on me enormously.

The most cruel aspect of my situation is having to leave my sweet darling, whom I profoundly love and with whom I have been together for thirteen years. She has supported me, listened, loved, and helped in an admirable fashion, but now I am at a stage which causes her enormous suffering. In order to spare her, I must now permit her to grieve for the man she still loves. This is the most wrenching part of my situation. In the next few months, I will remain (socially, legally, in business settings and otherwise) a man. But from a future time, which I will determine, and after I have undergone facial feminisation surgery, and am recovered from this operation, I will change my status to Michelle Blanc.

I am reassured that I will survive, since my current clients and friends know of my situation and offer their support. I am happy to hear this from them and to be witnessing that friendship and professionalism can transcend the identity taboos of our society, and it makes me feel much more secure. I already know that I will be not-so-bad-looking woman. I don't want to be a man in a dress, but already, my friends tell me that I am a a much prettier woman than I am a man (in all subjectivity). I know I will survive this morally, because I have already grown enormously, and life holds for me many more positive surprises, such as being more emotional and able to express those emotions. Like my friend, Martin Lessard, who met me as a woman, said, it seems that I have become calmer and more "civilised". My friend Muriel told me that the shock was not to see me as a woman, but to see me as a man afterwards. She told me that I seem so happy, calm, and comfortable in my skin that afterwards, when she saw me dressed as a man, that it struck her how I had played a character all my life. Let's say that this encourages me.

On the other hand, the defects and qualities which you think of when you think of me won't change. I'll probably always have a big mouth for example, and as one has just seen it, it will be "sounding off", without a doubt. As a woman, I don's know why, I don't swear any more and I'm a little more reserved. I'm also more emotional. Altogether, other than my outward appearance, mannerisms, and some minor character traits, I will be the same person who is passionate about people, work, nature, and the simple things in life.

Now that the timebomb has gone off, know that I don't intend to go on about this subject here. I will create, in the future, another blog to furnish information about this phenomenon to other people who live with this problem and for those who are interested in the subject or who just want to understand and not be slaves to their prejudices.

So, there you go.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Consumer Goods, Retail Trade and Blogs

Although there is still little documentation on how blogs affect sales of consumer goods and retail trade, we can now confirm that there is a correlation between the number of times a product is mentioned on a popular blog and spectacular sales growth for that product.

This connection was put forth by journalists Copeland and Tilin put in their recent article “The New Instant Companies,” published in the latest edition of Business 2.0.(1) They cite numerous examples of manufacturing companies that have recorded phenomenal sales after a consumer’s blog praised the merits of their products.

A double-edged sword
There are myriad consumer blogs capable of boosting or destroying the brand image of a product or store chain. Just think of the many anti-Wal-Mart blogs such as www.alwayslowprices.net/ and www.retrovsmetro.org/blog/id/116. Derogatory comments about Wal-Mart can even be found in blogs devoted to other subjects.(2)

On the other hand, blogs hosted by aficionados can do wonders for a product or brand. For instance, Cesaraconcepts.com discusses gift ideas and Shoppingblog.com is focused on new shopping trends and popular consumer goods. But that’s not all. Each market segment also has its own expert blogger/guru, such as: Kosherblog.net, which helps Jewish consumers find kosher products, Treehugger.com for the eco-conscious, or luxist.com for lovers of luxury products.

What else can blogs be used for?
Other than the obvious link between how product/chain discussions in blogs can affect sales, blogs can impact retail business in other ways as well. For example, in as early as 2003, InfoWorld noted that companies likes Traction Software, Techdirt and Trellix offered blog technologies that helped companies manage data and conduct research marketing.(3) It can be very labour-intensive to send dozens of e-mails to all the collaborators of a project whenever a new piece of information arises, a price changes, or the time comes to get the team member’s opinions. By organizing discussion items by time and subject, blogs are a simple solution to gathering and publishing online information derived from a variety of sources, such as e-mail, text files, web sites, etc.

These technologies also make it possible to easily define and give access to a collection of information that only authorized people can share.(4) And when it comes to receiving news, the traditional e-mail channel can be replaced with blogs thanks to their publishing capabilities and RSS feeds. This function also enables you to receive news on an automatic basis about any competitors that offer this functionality on their web sites. You can also automatically receive notification anytime a blogger discusses you in either a positive or negative manner.

Stakes and Tools
For better or worse, blogs are marketing and public relations tools that can help or hamper product sales/corporate names. They can also be an added tool for sharing information between team members, for tracking changes in your market, or for keeping on top of consumer opinion of your brand.

(1) Michael V. Copeland, Andrew Tilin, “The new instant companies,” Business 2.0, June 2005, pgs. 92-94.
(2)To view an example, visit: http://stevegilliard.blogspot.com/2005/02/time-for-rat.html
(3)Cathleen Moore, Blogs refine enterprise focus, InfoWorld, Jan. 2003, http://www.infoworld.com/article/03/01/10/030113apblogs_1.html?s=tc
(4) A blog can be placed on an intranet where it will be visible only to authorized users.

This article was originally written in French and has been translated by Wendy Wolbert

Friday, December 02, 2005

World governmental electronic voting experiments)

I realised this study between August and October 2004(last years). Due to the nature of the changing Web and political world’s events, many hyperlinks and realities have changed since, many of the hyperlinks cited do not exist anymore. Nevertheless, I believe that the conclusions and comments made in this study are more relevant than ever.

1.1 World governmental e-voting experiments

We studied e-voting activities in governmental contexts around the world and were surprised to discover that a wide variety of implementation and delivery scenarios are currently being tested. Experiments in e-polling, telepolling and televoting delivery scenarios are being carried out around the globe. In order to facilitate our analysis of these experiments, we focused our findings on the term e-voting, which is the parent term for the family of all electronic voting activities. (1)

This paper does not describe in detail the numerous implementation scenarios experienced by all these countries. And if we were to do that, it would be a task of monumental proportions since the possibilities are quite numerous. In order to understand the magnitude of the possibilities (136 combinations), we would like to share an e-voting taxonomy template that was used by Lawrence Pratchett (2) of De Montfort University for the famous British e-voting implementation effort.

Figure 1 : Electronic Voting Options Taxonomy

Taxonomie des options de votations électroniques

Source : Saidi, Nasser, e-Government: Technology for Good Governance, Development and Democracy in the MENA countries

Due to our proximity to the United States and the media fiasco of the last US presidential elections, it is impossible to ignore the difficulty that the United States has had with e-voting and especially with electronic voting machines. As a result, we naturally tend to believe that e-voting is a losing proposal.

However, the international – and particularly European – experience of e-voting paints quite a different picture. To grasp what is being done and to evaluate the success of international experiments, we invite you to consult Appendix 1 found at the end of this document. We have collected numerous news reports (3) that comment on the experiments under way in various countries around the world. We have classified these experiments as negative, neutral or positive. Negative experiments include those that were cancelled or qualified as negative by observers or commentators. Neutral experiences include experiments that were completed but whose success or failure we were unable to verify, or experiments that are still in the project phase. Finally, positive experiences are the ones that commentators or governments have deemed a success. Our findings are summarized in the figure below.

Figure 2 : World e-Voting Experiments

World e-voting experiments

1.1.1 Difficulties

Of the international implementation scenarios studied, we can outline some issues that have either facilitated or hindered the experiences. But before we begin, we would like to caution the reader that many particular local conditions may accentuate or diminish the impact of an e-voting implementation. For example, the socio-economic conditions, political history, geopolitical situation, technological awareness of local citizens, the public relations that accompanied the changes, the various channels adopted and the technologies themselves may all contribute to the success or failure of an implementation. This section therefore sets out our point of view on certain criteria that we feel might have had an impact on implementation worldwide. Single channel

Let’s start by describing certain difficulties that have been encountered by some jurisdictions. In the United States, the act of voting seems to have been a problematic issue for quite some time. There are no cohesive national standards on the electoral process and every state and electoral jurisdiction apparently chooses the electoral process that it judges appropriate for their constituents. Furthermore, many jurisdictions employ electronic voting machines for either the casting or counting of votes. Voting machine providers in the United-States are dominated by the now infamous Diebold (4) and almost exclusively rely on proprietary software that tabulates the vote. They are also deprived of a paper trail or audit mechanism that could be of use in the event of a judiciary recounting of the ballots. It is also important to note that in terms of a delivery mechanism, constituents were almost always offered only a single channel to vote. These simple facts have provoked an impressive array of protests against e-voting. It is also important to note that e-voting does not involve merely electronic voting machines and that voting machine software could be made available for the security expertise and scrutiny of dedicated electoral specialists. No source code access

Another jurisdiction that appears to have implementation troubles is Ireland. Although, the government has stated that it will seek to implement e-voting at a later stage, their commission on electronic voting scrapped the June 2004 experiments (system provided by Nedap/Powervote (5)) for the following reasons:

•“Insufficient system testing: testing carried out to date is insufficient to establish the reliability of the proposed system.

•Lack of time for software testing: there is not sufficient time before the June 2004 elections for fully testing the final version of the software, which is not available for testing at this point in time.

•No access to source code: the Commission did not obtain access to the full source code and there is not sufficient time before the elections to allow a full code review.

•Accuracy cannot be certified: as the final version of the software proposed for use at the forthcoming elections is as yet unknown, it is impossible for anyone to certify its accuracy.

•Secrecy concerns: the Commission still has a number of concerns about vote secrecy (for example, the voting machine “beeps” as preferences are being selected, and it could be possible for an insider to overcome the randomness of the method used for the storage of votes in the ballot module).” (6)

In light of these two examples, it seems important to:

•Have the opportunity to test the electoral systems and software

•Have access to the source code of the electoral software

•Provide a multi-channel electoral process mechanism

•Prepare the voters to gain their acceptance of the technology

•Provide an audit mechanism should a judiciary recounting of the ballots be required

1.1.2 Successes code access

What can be learned from the successes or positive aspects of world e-voting implementation experiments? We would first like to discuss the Indian and Brazilian experiences. These countries have immense populations (Brazil 115 million and India 675 million voters) and both nations also have illiteracy issues within their populations. They opted for kiosk e-voting and each country developed its own software.


    The Voting Machine

“At each step, the technicians improved on the system, mobilizing resources from the Brazilian National Institute of Space Research, INPE, and the armed forces. The programming language is completely encrypted. In places where electricity is not available, car batteries are used. The operating panel, with numerical keys from 0 to 9 displays the 3X4 picture of the candidate once their number is keyed in. The system covers state and federal representatives and senators, governors and presidential candidates. Once the voting is completed, the machine plays a tune to let the voter know that the job is done. This system became totally the norm at the current elections, 2002.” (7)

    The software was developed by Unisys:

“Unisys developed the Windows CE .NET–based voting machines in Portuguese in approximately six months. It started the project using Windows CE .NET 3.0, then, in the middle of the project, migrated easily to Windows CE .NET 4.1 when that version of the operating system became available. ‘We moved to Windows CE .NET 4.1 because it met all the technical requirements for our solution,’ says Luis Gaviao, Unisys Lead Project Manager. Once the system was ready, it was submitted to the technology commissions of Brazil's political parties for a thorough analysis, which confirmed the integrity of the Windows CE .NET–based voting machines. (…)To meet the Brazilian government's national security requirements, Microsoft also provided TSE with access to the Windows CE source code so that all the parties could examine the code to ensure the integrity of the system. ‘Microsoft was extremely helpful in opening the Windows CE source code to provide the access that we requested,’ says Paulo Camarão, Chief Information Officer for the Tribunal Superior Eleitoral. The political parties had access to the Windows CE Shared Source code and stated that there was no possibility of fraud or manipulation within this system. Prevention of fraud was one of the primary benefits of this technology.”


“The e-voting machines (EVMs), which were designed by the Election Commission in collaboration with two government-owned companies (Bharat Electronics and Electronics Corporation of India), cost about EUR 160 each. According to the Election Commission, the portable, battery-operated machines are ‘easy to operate,’ ‘reliable,’ ‘tamper-proof and error free.’ The machines were tested for the first time in 16 constituencies during three state elections in 1998.”

In those two cases, it is also interesting to know that:

>•Both governments had access to the source code

>•The machines were operated by supervised officials at polling stations

>•The illiterate were able to vote thanks to pictures and logos of the candidates and the party they represented

>•It greatly reduced the counting process
>•India and Brazil have attracted the interest of other countries that may purchase their technology

“In case of successful use during the Indian elections, the e-voting machines could be exported. According to Bahrat Electronics, four undisclosed South East Asian countries are currently evaluating the machines”

Several other countries have shown an interest in the machines.

"‘We are working on a model for European countries and also for the US,’ Mr Simha told the BBC News Online. ‘It is a complicated job. The quality expected is very high.’ Exports to other south Asian countries and Africa are also in the pipeline.”

“Latin America's biggest democracy has exported its electoral know-how to Argentina, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. A spokesman for the electoral commission here says the government has also advised India and the Ukraine on election procedures.”

Other e-voting success stories also involve government source code access to electoral software. Some of these countries even publish their source codes for the scrutiny of their citizens and the world. For example:


“While critics in the United States grow more concerned each day about the insecurity of electronic voting machines, Australians designed a system two years ago that addressed and eased most of those concerns: They chose to make the software running their system completely open to public scrutiny”


“Belgian Government publishes source code of e-voting software”


“Source code of Dutch Internet voting software made public”

While the single channel delivery scenario seems to have been one of the problems with the US experience, the multi-channel delivery scenario is another interesting feature of certain winning experiments in other countries. To better grasp the importance of multi-channel delivery scenarios, we point to the 1998 KPMG study:

“To take one obvious example—if Canadians had been obliged to move overnight to the use of banking machines, they would have objected vociferously. As it turns out, the machines were introduced gradually as adjuncts to traditional branch banking. Canadians gradually have come to accept and appreciate the presence of these machines as a way of increasing their access to banking services and keeping costs down.

Similar considerations apply in the case of electronic voting. If the proposal were to move to an entirely new method of voting, using whatever form of new technology, one could expect a similarly high degree of concern from Canadians. And rightly so. No new method can be ‘proven’ to work without extensive trials; more importantly, no new method can be accepted without exposure over a long period.”

Many countries (and Canadian municipalities) are unfortunately unilaterally replacing familiar electoral processes for unknown e-voting ones. Although the Brazilian and Indian governments also chose this path, they were spared the controversy that surrounded many American implementation efforts. One thing we know for sure is that the negative results of the US experience might have been avoided if citizens had been granted access to the electoral source code software, if there had been a gradual introduction of the new process, or if they had opted for a multi-channel delivery scenario. We would also like to address the fact that even if India reports a successful implementation of their e-voting machines, some critics have pointed out that the software was developed by a firm close to the government in power and that Indian citizens didn’t have access to the source code. It is also relevant to know that even in the US, the source code controversy is making progress. An e-voting provider called Votehere.com disclosed its source code in the hope that “scrutiny will boost confidence.” Furthermore, Diebold’s source code, which was made public against its will, proved to be unsecured. As is demonstrated in the following excerpt.

“We can now reveal for the first time the location of a complete online copy of the original data set. As we anticipate attempts to prevent the distribution of this information we encourage supporters of democracy to make copies of these files and to make them available on websites and file sharing networks.


As many of the files are zip password protected you may need some assistance in opening them, we have found that the utility available at the following URL works well:


Finally some of the zip files are partially damaged, but these too can be read by using the utility at:

As a final point to the source code dilemma, there is also a world-wide open source movement on the e-voting front. Many organizations (20) are devoting themselves to the task of developing free and open e-voting software that could lessen the security problems encounter by the electronic voting machines as well as the costs associated with the proprietary code of these machines. Of particular interest are several non-profit foundations or individuals such as Sensus (21) , the Cryptography and Information Security research group of MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science (22) , Open vote foundation (23), Cybervote (24) and The Open Voting Consortium (25) that are dedicated to developing alternative software for voting purposes. We should also mention the most developed and renowned world effort in this area. It is called GNU-FREE (26), The free e-democracy project, and is sponsored by the GNU Foundation (27). Voluntary multi-channel delivery scenarios

In other parts of the world, governments have frequently chosen to take the multi-channel path. For instance, countries that had multiple channel scenarios are:


“To overcome security concerns, Internet voting will only be voluntary, and voters will also have to pass by a 'real' ballot box to cast their votes.”


“Electronic voting (or e-voting) is not new to the Netherlands. It was made permissible by an amendment to the Elections Act in 1965. Mechanical voting machines were used until 1974, when electronic ones started gradually to be introduced. In the last general election, held in May 2002, 95% of Dutch municipalities provided electronic voting machines. In addition, voting by computer is now available at some polling stations.”


“From a total pool of 128,060 registered voters in the 9 participating municipalities, 50,562 actually voted and 9,390 of them accepted to participate in the pilot after casting their legal paper vote. Depending on the municipality, participants could try out three e-voting systems (a touch screen e-voting machine, a light pen system or an electronic card solution). All systems tested, as well as additional specific accessories for disabled people – such as headphones for those with sight problems – proved a great success among the voluntary participants. According to a voter survey conducted by experts from four Portuguese universities, 97% of participants said they ‘liked this new way of voting’ while 93% declared they ‘prefer this new way of voting.’”


“On 28, 29 and 30 June 2004, about 120,000 residents of central Madrid will have the opportunity to participate in a referendum via the Internet or through a mobile phone. Madrid Participa, the first multi-channel e-democracy referendum organised in Spain, will allow people to have their say on a number of local policy issues.”


“The voters will have a choice of three ways to cast their ballots Sunday. They will be able to vote at a polling place in the elementary school, mail in their ballot or, for the first time, vote on the Internet.” (32)

“This second e-voting experience was declared a success by the State authorities as 28.9% of voters decided to cast their vote electronically. According to a survey carried out online, 27% of those who voted through the Internet said they occasionally or regularly abstain from voting. With a total turnout of 59.3% against an average of 50% for these kind of local polls, there are reasons to believe that e-voting may have boosted citizen participation in the referendum. Another interesting figure was that 23% of the Internet voters were people over 60 years old.”

United Kingdom

“The results of the e-voting trials held during the local elections in England on 1/5/2003 have been branded as ‘encouraging’ by the UK government. According to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), the government department in charge of local government, around 21% of voters in e-voting pilot areas have used new methods to cast their vote (by text message, through the Internet, at electronic kiosks, and for the first time through digital television). 6.5 million voters 17 areas were eligible to vote by these new means this year.”

1.1.3 Conclusion

For another point of view on international e-voting experiments, we would like to mention an e-democracy seminar that was held by the Information Society Directorate General of the European Commission in April 2004. Their objective was “to take stock of eDemocracy experiments, to exchange views on results achieved and challenges, and to learn for future research in a dialogue of researchers, policy makers and practitioners.” (35) Of particular interest, they noted that:

“What became increasingly apparent with all presentations was that eVoting is both a technology and a social issue. It relies on an effective policy and legal framework to ensure viability of a technical solution. This is also explains the higher use in non-institutional or limited scope elections, exceptions being in Switzerland and the UK.

The core technologies presented were internet dominated, with security elements ranging from PKI to new protocols and open source usage. However, it was generally felt that ICT enabled modes of voting do not replace the traditional ballot box but should offer a host of alternatives to achieve a common aim.”

Thomas B. Riley of the Commonwealth Centre for eGovernance, which also published a report for the same e-democracy seminar, noted that:

“e-Voting is emerging as a tool for enhancement of democracy in many countries. Estonia plans to implement e-Voting in their 2005 general election, and Germany is moving ahead, with France already having conducted e-Voting experiments. The seminar raised many concerns about the reliability of voting machines, the technical problems that skew the results, the difficulties of authentication of the voters and often the lack of a verifiable paper trail. One of the problems has been malicious attacks by hackers against e-Voting software which then corrupts the results and compromises the identity of voters. One solution proposed for addressing this problem was to continue to have the paper ballot until these issues are worked out. There were differences of opinion on the veracity and reliability of online voting techniques. However, the overall majority consensus was that e-Voting should go forward and that good policy, in conjunction with appropriate checks and balances, and the improvement of the technology were important.”

To conclude, contrary to the ¨Americanized perception¨ we held prior to this research, we believe that e-voting has had significant positive impact in many countries and jurisdictions and will continue to do so if certain best practices are followed during the implementation phase. We will further develop these best practices in a later section.


1- See appendix 1 for a listing of e-voting experiments around the world.

2- Pratchett, Lawrence, et.al, The implementation of electronic voting in the UK, (Complete), De Montfort University, University of Essex, BMRB International, publ. Local Government Association (UK), May 2002, p.50

3- In assessing what had been done throughout the world, we have been greatly helped by the web site developed by the European Union http://europa.eu.int/index_en.htm . This web site contains an extensive e-government news watch index that was of tremendous help in this research.

4- See:
• Kuchinskas, Susan , E-Voting Suit Highlights Legal Lag, article, InternetNews.com, July 2004, http://www.internetnews.com/ec-news/article.php/3382541

• Hope, Barbara Jean, Who is counting your vote? Diebold & Bush vs. the public interest, article, Peoples Weekly News, Jan. 2004, http://www.pww.org/article/articleview/4642/1/197/

• Slashdot.org, CA Secretary of State Bans Diebold Machines, http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/04/30/2130206

5- http://www.election.nl/bizx_html/IVS-GB/

6- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=2520&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-338

7- http://www.centerdigitalgov.com/international/story.php?docid=3030000000025892.0

8- http://www.microsoft.com/resources/casestudies/CaseStudy.asp?CaseStudyID=14533

9- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=2243&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-348

10- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=2243&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-348

11- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/3493474.stm

12- http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,61654,00.html?tw=newsletter_topstories_html

13- Zeter, Kim, article, Wired news, Aussies Do It Right: E-Voting, Nov. 2003, http://www.wired.com/news/ebiz/0,1272,61045,00.html
The source code for their software is available at : http://www.elections.act.gov.au/Elecvote.html

14- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=2686&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-332

The source code for their software is available at :


15- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=2652&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-341

The source code for their software is available at :

16- KPMG /Sussex Circle, Technology and the Voting Process, Final Report, June 1998, pp. 58-59

17- http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=7561&mode=thread&order=0

18- http://msnbc.msn.com/id/4677716/

The source code for their software is available at :

19- http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0307/S00064.htm

20- http://www.01net.com/article/230593.html

21- Electronic polling system http://lorrie.cranor.org/voting/sensus/

22- http://theory.lcs.mit.edu/~cis/voting/voting.html

23- http://open-vote.org/

24- http://www.eucybervote.org/main.html

Demos available at: http://www.eucybervote.org/demo.html

Prototype is available at : http://www.eucybervote.org/reports.html

25- http://www.openvotingconsortium.org/

26- See:

• Web site :http://free.planetmirror.com

• The source code for their software is available at : http://free.planetmirror.com/download/

27- http://www.gnu.org/

28- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=1539&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-333

29- Ministry of interior and kingdom relations, Netherland, http://www.minbzk.nl/uk/different/remote_e-voting_in

30- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=2633&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-342

31- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=2610&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194

32- http://www.iht.com/articles/83105.html

33- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=1845&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-347

34- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=1054&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-345

35- Macnaughton, Gareth, eDemocracy report v5, Seminar report, eGovernment Unit, Information Society Directorate General, European Commission, April 2004 p.3

36- Macnaughton, Gareth, eDemocracy report v5, Seminar report, eGovernment Unit, Information Society Directorate General, European Commission, April 2004 p.8

37- Riley, Thomas B., Report on e-Democracy seminar, eGovernment Unit, Information Society Directorate General, European Commission, Feb. 2004, p. 10

Appendice 1

Tableau des expérimentations de votes électroniques mondiales

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Developing an Incoming Links Strategy = Optimal Positioning!

Why are incoming links toward your site important?

Search engines (such as Google, Yahoo, or MSN) use complex mathematical algorithms to select and position search results each time an Internet user enters a query.(1) These algorithms use several parameters to complete the equation, factoring in the quantity, quality and relevance of incoming links to your site. A good way to understand it is to know that search engines view your site’s online popularity as a measure of its relevance (among other factors). Online popularity is therefore calculated by evaluating the number/quality/relevance of incoming links, which are ultimately viewed as a vote of confidence for your online content.

The number, quality and relevance of incoming links

For incoming links to truly affect your positioning, the engines must deem the links to be of good quality and relevant. Additionally, you must have more incoming links than your competitors who are positioned for the same keywords. Quality is judged using a concept that Google calls “PageRank.” People who use Google’s toolbar will notice that there is a PageRank tab that attributes a value between 0 and 10 to the page you are visiting. This value represents the quality of each page. In this way, an incoming link from a page with a PageRank of 10 would be considered to be of superior quality than a link originating from page with a PageRank of 3.

As for relevance, the determining factors are the site’s content and the keywords used to define the hyperlink leading to your site. For instance, a hyperlink positioned on a site with content devoted to golf equipment and golf in general would be considered more relevant for a golf instructor’s site than for a site on foreign literature.

How to develop efficient incoming links

Now that you understand the important role that incoming links play in your online positioning strategy, you should think about efficiently developing the links you have previously established and about promoting your site to other external web partners. To begin, create a list of all the sites that currently have links leading to your site. Of these, identify the ones with whom you share a certain rapport and ask them to modify the hyperlinks to your site to contain text using the keywords that correspond to your online content and to the products, services or keywords for which you would like to be positioned. A hyperlink can be a URL address (e.g. http://www.etceteara.ca) placed on an image, or, better yet, it can be a short, descriptive text. Once you have done this, I recommend that you create another list, this time of any satisfied customers, distributors, affiliates, partners, trade associations, professional associations, business publications or blogs hosted by your personnel. Then contact these people or organizations and ask them if they would be willing to put a link on their web site leading to your own site. Please note, however, that I discourage you from establishing reciprocal link programs because search engines can easily identify them and they will consequently disregard such links when evaluating your site’s relevance. I also urge you to avoid link farms, which are poor in content and are likely to have your site banned from the search results entirely since link farming is penalized by many search engines.(2)

I also advise you to get listed on your industry’s various reference sites. Each industry has a variety of sites dedicated to displaying references, comments and news about participants and clients in the domain. These sites often have a good page ranking thanks to the high volume of targeted visitors they attract and due to their undeniable relevance and specialization. In addition, many of these sites offer a free directory of the various players in each sector. It’s in your best interests to contact the site managers of these portals and convince them – diplomatically, of course – that your content merits attention and should be referenced on their sites.

Without a doubt, incoming hyperlinks are important elements of your positioning strategy and, ideally, should be defined using relevant keywords.

(1)- A previous article explains this topic in more detail: Michel Leblanc, How to Avoid Falling Victim to Certain SEO Specialists, .
(2)- Idem

This article was originally written in French and has been translated by Wendy Wolbert

Monday, November 28, 2005

e-Voting: Approaches and Risks

E-voting, and online democracy in general, are of vital importance to the evolution of our democracy, our e-businesses, and to increasing citizen participation in state governance. In addition, over the long term, these mechanisms will undoubtedly make it possible to greatly decrease the costs of operating a democracy.

Electronic voting (e-voting) is the umbrella term for a spectrum of technologies that operate on several possible distribution channels. Citizens can vote in different locations (i.e. home, office, polling stations, public venues) using a variety of authentication methods on diverse interfaces (PCs, voting machines, optical scanners, WAP/3G, telephone, lottery terminals, ATMs, digital TV), and via various networks. Lawrence Pratchet of De Montfort University tabulated 136 possible combinations of the above elements in any e-voting project.(1)

The Approach

For the second time, Greater Montreal is preparing to use electronic ballot boxes (voting machines and/or optical scanners) when voters go to the polls in the next municipal elections.(2) On a broader level, the governments of both Quebec and Canada have considerable interest in investigating, experimenting with and adopting online democracy practices and technologies. In fact, the Government of Quebec, via the chief electoral officer and the ministère des Affaires municipales, du Sport et du Loisir, supervises and authorizes e-voting experiments. These parties will ultimately decide which parameters must be respected and reinforced when implementing e-voting solutions for municipalities, school boards and the provincial government. If we want to benefit from the numerous advantages offered by e-voting – advantages that many other countries have already tasted – then these parties must ensure that the experiments carried out will favour the adoption of feasible technologies.

The Risk

Jean-François Lisée(3) and Michel Dumais(4) have candidly written of the assorted objections they have encountered towards e-voting. It is not difficult to recall the many disastrous snags that our American neighbours dealt with in terms of both e-voting and non-electronic voting (the chads incident during George W. Bush’s first election is hard to forget). Why am I talking to you about Americans? Because they are the most commonly cited e-voting example in the media and yet they represent the worst-case scenario. The unfortunate thing about Greater Montreal’s choice of adopting e-voting via voting machines, is that our municipal
representatives have opted for the e-voting technology that global experts view with the most skepticism.(5) In addition, they are adopting only a single channel, which unilaterally eliminates the traditional option to vote on paper. Citizens are not given the choice to vote electronically if they find it convenient – they are forced to vote in this manner. This may alienate citizens from future e-voting initiatives implemented in their jurisdiction and on other governmental levels as well.

Many countries, such as Denmark, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Great Britain and Switzerland, have obtained successful results with their e-voting experiments. What in particular made their trials successful? They carried out progressive and multi-channel experiments that gave voters the chance to become familiar with the different e-voting technologies, while still maintaining the option to vote in the traditional manner (with a pencil and paper).


To take an example cited by KPMG in a 1998 report on e-voting,(6) if banks had introduced e-commerce (ATMs, telephone banking services, debit cards) too abruptly by eliminating the option to continue carrying out transactions via bank tellers, consumers would have protested vehemently, and with good reason. Instead, banks chose to introduce various transaction technologies progressively. These technologies were accepted, adopted and are now widely appreciated by consumers. Today, banks can benefit from a 10-to-1 cost ratio for teller transactions vs. online transactions.(7)

Our elected representatives should therefore find inspiration in the progress made by banks and countries other than the United States. They should implement a range of technologies progressively using a multi-channel approach, while still allowing citizens the chance to vote according to their own preferences. This course of action will yield long-term cost savings, identify the most popular channels, and above all, would avoid dissuading the population and critics from adopting a process that we have not even begun to explore.

1 - Pratchett, Lawrence, et.al, The implementation of electronic voting in the UK, De Montfort University, University of Essex, BMRB International, Local Government Association (UK), May 2002, p.50
2 - View the press release: http://communiques.gouv.qc.ca/gouvqc/communiques/GPQF/Janvier2005/28/c8097.html
3 - http://www.vigile.net/ds-lisee/docs/04-5-15-votehightech.html
4 - http://www.ledevoir.com/2003/09/29/37206.html?247
5 - Thomas V. Riley, Report on e-democracy seminar, eGovernment Unit, Information Society Directorate General, European Commission, April 2004, p.8. “The seminar raised many concerns about the reliability of voting machines, the technical problems that skew the results, the difficulties of authentication of the voters and often the lack of verifiable paper trails.”
6 - Technology and the Voting Process, KPMG/Sussex Circle, June 1998, p. 58-597 - For more information on this subject, consult our publication: Online Banking Services in Canada, Pratte, Nantel, Renaud and Leblanc. Adviso Conseil and RBC Financial Group Chair of E-commerce, Feb. 2004, p. 27-28. Online Banking Services in Canada

This article was originally written in French and has been translated by Wendy Wolbert

Acquire Online Customers Without Search Engines

Search engines are undoubtedly the preferred place for acquiring customers online. However, many other types of referrals are just as necessary for securing your place in consumers' decision-making processes. In fact, while nearly 39% of Web site visitors originate from search engines, 33% are referred by external links and 27% access the site directly.(1) These stats clearly show that close to 60% of Web site traffic actually originates from sources other than search engines.

Where is the traffic coming from?

External links are incoming links from other sites. As for direct access traffic, it originates from people who click on a link in their toolbar favourites or in e-mails, or who type a URL directly in their browser's address bar.

External links can usually be placed on your business partners' sites. We strongly advise you to develop an affiliate program with these partners because in addition to the likelihood that these links will send clients your way, they will also improve your site's search engine positioning. Search engines view incoming links as a vote of confidence for your site and, consequently, they tend to have a positive effect on your site's positioning. Qualified customers who are interested in your products/services can also find their way to your site via many non-partner sites. What kind of non-partner sites am I referring to? The answer to that question will vary tremendously depending on the type of company you operate and on the particularities of your economic sector.

That said, all companies have the opportunity to be publicized in the electronic media.
You can register your site on a vast number of economic portals in your sector. For example, get listed on the sites of your local chamber of commerce, trade associations, local development associations and various governmental databases. Lastly and most importantly, you should register your site on any portals dedicated specifically to your product or service.

How to identify key portals in your industry?

Put yourself in your customers' shoes and try to find your product/service on the Internet. Don't type your company's name in a search engine; instead, enter a generic name for the product/service you offer. Look at the first five pages of results (in both English and French) and take note of any trade portals, intermediaries, specialized directories and targeted media sites listed in those results. This will give you a good idea of who the key players in your sector are.

Once you have done this, repeat the same procedure, only this time instead of typing the generic name of your product/service, enter the problem that your product/service solves. Internet users usually want to solve a problem rather than purchase a solution! Furthermore, this exercise will enable you to identify the blogs, forums, portals and product comparison sites that specifically discuss the products/services you offer. These specialized discussion sites are all places where you can talk about your products and services, post hyperlinks to your site and boost your visibility.

How to generate direct access traffic ?

Many opportunities arise on a daily basis for you to generate direct access traffic to your site. Each time you come into contact with your clientele is a privileged moment to inform them of your site. Promote your URL everywhere: in your e-mail signature, on your telephone waiting message, letterhead, business cards, uniforms and anywhere else you can think of. We also recommend that you display it when sending newsletters, giving interviews, sponsoring an event and each time that your company is mentioned, regardless of the medium used. Having a URL that is easy to memorize and that effectively represents your company is a sure-fire way to boost traffic to your site. To conclude, consider your URL equally as important as your phone number and remember that your business partners are your primary allies in building an efficient e-business strategy.

(1)- La revue du référencement : http://www.revue-referencement.com/CHIFFRESCLES/panorama_dec04.htm

This article was originally written in French and has been translated by Wendy Wolbert

How to Avoid Falling Victim to Certain SEO Specialists

referencing, also known as indexing or search engine optimization (SEO),(1) is an essential service that ensures an efficient web presence and generates new clientele who use the Internet in their purchase processes. The popularity of referencing is growing continually and with good reason. However, when the time comes to choose a referencing service provider, managers must learn to avoid a number of dangers.

Pertinence – the number one criteria for search engines

Google, Yahoo, MSN and all the other search engines are popular because Internet users are confident that when they perform a search, the results listed will be pertinent . These engines make money by selling placements for ads – clearly identified as such – next to pertinent search results (which are obtained according to criteria unique to each engine). The owners of such search engines have considerable economic interest in continuing to offer pertinent search results to Internet users and to sell ad placements to companies that wish to position themselves on certain specific keywords (known as pay-per-click ). Yet referencing specialists interfere with these economic objectives because they alter a search engine's “natural” selection of pertinent sites (results listed on the left).

Do legitimate referencing professionals exist?

Search engines do not have any close bonds with SEO specialists. They do, however, harbour an unequivocal dislike of so-called SEO specialists who employ illicit tactics to achieve favourable positioning for sites that have absolutely no reason to be ranked in the highly desirable top positions. So how can you differentiate between a legitimate and a corrupt referencing professional? Good SEO specialists – and certain bad ones as well – will help you clinch better web site positioning for specific keywords that describe your company, products and services. In turn, this will greatly boost traffic to your site. Therefore, the only difference between the good and the bad specialists lies in the methods they use to achieve this result. A bad specialist can actually obtain spectacular results for your site for several weeks, only to get your site banned without warning from the search engines soon after. Such scam artists will likely fail to mention that in order to obtain an outstanding positioning, they violated one or several of the conditions that all web sites must respect to avoid being banned for life from the Google index.

Conditions for banning sites from search engines

Many practices are considered illegitimate by the search engines. New illicit techniques emerge everyday and search engine firms must hire thousands of engineers to attempt to counter them. The common feature of these practices is that they attempt to deceive the pertinence of result listings, which is vital to the survival of all search engines. Google offers webmasters a non-exhaustive list of guidelines to avoid being banned from the index:(2)

  • Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
  • Don't employ cloaking or sneaky redirects.
  • Don't send automated queries to Google.
  • Don't load pages with irrelevant words.
  • Don't create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
  • Avoid "doorway" pages created just for search engines, or other "cookie cutter" approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.

A new remedy for controlling the plague of illicit practices

In order to validate the pertinence of a new site that appears on the Internet with many incoming links (a characteristic that tends to boost a site's relevance), it appears that Google is now putting these sites automatically on probation (known as sandboxing or sandbox theory ) for at least two to six months, before granting them authorization to emerge. The objective is to verify whether the high-ranking links are still present several months down the road. If so, then they are probably legitimate and the site will reappear with good positioning. If not, then it was a ploy to sell external links simply to position a fraudulent site. This type of site has a good chance of disappearing completely from search engine results.

In short, it is certainly possible and desirable to ensure that your site meets the requirements and is optimized in accordance with the rules of the various search engines. However, this is a task that necessitates analysis, critical thinking and a precise and continual positioning. Do not place your trust in people who try to sell promises along these lines: “Let us register your site on over 1500 search engines around the globe. Price: $149.95 .” Because if they really do what they say they will, they are using automated queries, a practice banned by Google. Though such techniques may yield short-term results, they can be very harmful to your site over the long term.

1- For more information about indexation and referencing, feel free to consult these articles:

2-Google Information for Webmasters

This article was originally written in French and have been translated by Wendy Wolbert

Dismantling E-Business Myths (Part V)

Myth No. 9: Online advertising is not efficient

Internet advertising is indisputably efficient. What's more, the Internet offers significant performance metrics, unlike other media. To take an example, in order to measure the impact and cost of a billboard following an extensive billboard campaign, agencies must rely on analyses of motor traffic passing the billboard and on brand-awareness polls.

On the web, it is obviously possible to calculate the number of impressions per banner ad (equivalent to an analysis of motor traffic, but in real time) and you can measure the increase in brand-awareness just as you would with any other media. However, the web also allows to you to determine how many people were sufficiently interested in your ad to click on it (known as click-through ). In addition, online advertising makes it possible for you to collect precious personal information about people who clicked on your ad and who went so far as to complete a questionnaire specifically targeted to their profile. Once this happens, you can initiate a dialogue with your customer, which is very difficult to do, if not impossible, with other media.

Another important feature of web advertising is customer segmentation. Thanks to the Internet, you can pinpoint the precise audience targeted by your ad. This characteristic introduces the concept of “one-to-one marketing” or relationship marketing.

The web also happens to be a medium particularly rich in advertising concepts. You can broadcast videos on the web, as BMW did with its Guy Ritchie ads. The web also makes it possible for you to carry out “advergaming,” which is a type of advertising that links video games with publicity, as demonstrated by Miller Lite. Furthermore, you can choose from numerous banner ad formats that can be static, animated or even interactive. It is equally possible to carry out e-mail marketing. In any case, one of the most powerful advantages of online advertising is the opportunity to build a database containing priceless information about your customers.

Is online advertising truly efficient? According to an article by Janis Mara published on ClickZ, online ads have an obvious effect on in-store sales.(1) She notes that when at least 5% of an advertising budget is allocated for online publicity, the returns on this investment outdo other media by 30% in terms of generating sales.

As for cost, the web is very advantageous compared to other advertising media. In fact, if the other media benefited from the accuracy of web metrics, their costs would very certainly drop.

Myth No. 10: An online presence is all you need to drum up business

Having an online presence is undoubtedly an important step towards eventually selling online. However, many other elements contribute to ensuring an efficient presence. First of all, customers must be able to find you on the web and they will most frequently do so via search engines such as Google, Yahoo or MSN. To achieve ideal positioning on these search engines, you must use referencing techniques to optimize your site and its content. Next, you must ensure that your web site meets the needs of Internet users in terms of ease of navigation (ergonomics), functionality (functional analysis) and content (density analysis and content relevance analysis). Lastly, once customers have completed a transaction, wouldn't you like them to return again? In this case, it would be time to discuss Customer Relationship Management (CRM), relationship marketing (e-mail marketing) and loyalty programs. As you can see, having a web site is only a single element in a comprehensive strategy.

he web is enriched daily with tens of thousands of new sites and existing sites are continually perfecting and refining their online presence. The web is growing larger and more complex with each passing day. This is why your web presence must continue to evolve on the basis of its own internal criteria, but also in response to its changing environment.

(1) - Janis Mara, New Study Links Online Ads, In-Store Sales, ClickZnews, March 2004
This article was originally written in French and have been translated by Wendy Wolbert

Dismantling e-business myths (Part IV)

The top ten most common e-business myths continued…

In Parts I and II, we presented the following myths:

  1. E-business is having difficulty recuperating from the dot-com slump
  2. B2C companies corner the majority of online sales
  3. E-business = online sales
  4. Informational sites generate no business spin-offs
  5. It is dangerous to use your credit card online
  6. The web is an image-based medium

Myth No. 7: An efficient and profitable Internet presence necessitates hefty investment

A web development budget can entail a few thousand dollars, but it can also involve much higher amounts as well. The sums or efforts invested in any web operation can only be profitable if the company begins by setting its business objectives. One can evaluate the profitability of a web presence in various ways, yet all measures of the efficiency of a web investment must be done using previously identified metrics. The web is in fact one of the mediums that is best-equipped and efficient in terms of performance metrics. Therefore, it is essential to first know why your company wants to be online and what objectives it would like to obtain via its web presence. Once these steps are completed, it will be easier to identify the tools that will enable you to measure your virtual and financial performance (tangible and intangible); and therefore, calculating the returns on your investment will be easier as well. A web presence can in fact be very efficient, profitable and cost only a few thousand dollars. However, a detailed study of the business processes to be digitized, careful planning of the activities to be developed and attentive management of the implementation process are invaluable skills that will be needed to achieve this ideal scenario.

An example

A florist would like to build his local clientele’s loyalty and increase sales. To that end, the florist gives a questionnaire to in-store customers, inviting them to subscribe for a value-added tool that will remind them a week in advance of family members’ birthdays or of upcoming holidays. Next, the florist uses an e-mail application to contact customers a week prior to the dates of any birthdays they entered or of any national holidays or celebrations (e.g. Secretary’s Week, Mother’s Day, Easter, etc.) to remind customers that an important date is approaching. Also included in the florist’s e-mail is a “tell a friend” function that is designed to increase the merchant’s clientele base (for national holidays). The florist could verify the impact of his e-business activity by verifying the e-mail open rate and by watching how this open rate evolves with each mass mailing. The florist could also include in the e-mail an exclusive offer to validate the impact of these mailings on sales (e.g. 5% discount for customers who print the e-mail rebate and present it in-store). At year’s end, the florist will be able to easily compare the operating costs of this activity vs. the gains generated, both tangible (sales) and intangible (e.g. increased notoriety or customer satisfaction expressed in clientele’s comments). This type of operation demands only minimal investment, it does not necessarily require a web site and it can generate profits in the very short term. What is required, however, is prior consideration, planning, performance metrics and a certain understanding of various e-business mechanisms.

Myth 8: Operating a transactional site is the only way to make online sales

The web is about much more than having your own web site
There are a plethora of activities that can be done on the web. Many of these activities can take place on free or inexpensive portals. For example, you can sell nearly any product on a site such as eBay.com without having your own web site. You can also sell products or services on a number of vertical industry portals (vortals). For instance, APCHQ (Association des professionnels de construction d’habitation du Québec) has recently launched their go-affaires.com portal where entrepreneurs and professionals in the construction industry can post their needs, products or services at no cost. Many other vortals offer similar services. There are also a variety of permanent databases that keep a listing of all the companies that take the time to subscribe. For example, you can sign up for free on Quebec’s ICRIQ site and Canada’s Strategis site. Many buyers, businesses and consumers regularly visit these lists to find potential new contacts, products, services or suppliers.

On the web, you can have your own business space in a virtual shopping mall (e.g. Magasiner.sympatico.msn.ca//, Vitrineq.com/, etc.). You can also enter different forums that discuss companies and the pros and cons of doing business with them (e.g. tripadvisor.com), or you can even create your own web log (blog) and share your passion for your business with the community.

This article was originally written in French and have been translated by Wendy Wolbert .

Dismantling e-business myths (Part III)

The top ten most common e-business myths continued…

In Parts I and II, we presented the following myths:
E-business is having difficulty recuperating from the dot-com slump
B2C companies corner the majority of online sales
E-business = online sales
Informational sites generate no business spin-offs
It is dangerous to use your credit card online

Myth No. 6: The web is an image-based medium

At the end of the 90's and beginning of the 21 st century, the demand for Internet sites exploded. Many communications companies, design firms and programmers of various backgrounds seized the opportunity and began offering their services to fulfil this sudden demand. A great many of these new service providers acted professionally and offered adequate production services; their offers evolved continually as they adapted to and learned from the new state of affairs.

Unfortunately, many other image specialists proceeded to simply copy highly graphic concepts originally destined for print and audio-visual mediums and transferred them online for their clients. They viewed the web as the virtual extension of the concepts they had previously developed for other media. They used animation technologies (such as Macromedia Flash) anywhere and everywhere and illustrated these sites abundantly with highly studied concepts that relied on images that could be retouched as needed. However, these concepts, images and many of these technologies were poorly adapted and even detrimental to online visibility and to the reality of this new medium. Although web site design elements are very useful for improving Internet users' perception of a company's professionalism, the web is above all else a content-based medium. In fact, search engines have great difficulty (or are completely incapable of) recognizing image files, yet most sites depend considerably on search engines to attract new visitors. Furthermore, image files are often quite large and therefore take an extremely long time to download for people who do not have a high-speed connection. That said, I must add that it is not impossible to reference a Flash site. Nevertheless, the majority of the content of such sites will remain invisible to the search engines and direct links (towards a specific page) are simply impossible to implement. Lastly, sites that are “over-designed" can be difficult to navigate for many Internet users since they must constantly learn to navigate new interfaces rather than becoming accustomed to interfaces that conform to well-established standards.

To conclude, the aesthetic qualities and design of a site are of utmost important when it comes to developing a strong identity (branding) and can contribute to building Internet users' trust in a company. However, don't forget that a large proportion of Internet users are actually searching for words, texts, information and descriptions. Images should therefore act as textual supports rather than the other way around.

This article was originally written in French and have been translated by Wendy Wolbert

Friday, November 25, 2005

Dismantling E-Business Myths (Part II)

In Part I, we examined the following myths:
1. E-business is having difficulty recuperating from the dot-com slump
2. B2C companies corner the majority of online sales
3. E-business = online sales

Myth No. 4:
Informational sites generate no business spin-offs

In order to respect the confidentiality of the mandates entrusted to me by my clients and to illustrate how it is possible to generate business spin-offs from an informational site operated by a business in the service industry, Iwill present to you the case of hypothetical company called Whatever.

Whatever offers various types of informational content that is derived from research and analyses. From a marketing perspective, this content is divided into what we can call generic, bait and value-added content. Generic content includes a range of pertinent information about the company. Bait content is comprised of excerpts of longer, value-added documents and is designed to present just enough material to interest visitors and incite them to download the value-added documents. Value-added content consists of documents with sufficient informative substance to motivate visitors to willingly give us their contact information in exchange for the document.

In Whatever case, it is easy to understand that one important step towards generating business spin-offs from the informational site, is to create a database using the information we can collect from visitors who download the documents. When visitors register to Whatever, they provide Whatever with their contact information and give permission to contact them in the future for promotional purposes. Equipped with the prior consent of the visitors and armed with a privacy policy that protects their personal information, it is then possible to solicit the visitors in keeping with a marketing concept and thereby attempt to convert them into clients.
Furthermore, when Whatever contact visitors, either individually or via personalized messages, it is possible to know exactly where their interests lie since we can verify which content they selected to download. This makes it much easier to ensure that the first conversation with a visitor is relevant, and increases the chances of success. From that point on, achieving business spin-offs is a matter of follow-up, opportunity and talent. This example illustrates how a company can indeed benefit from the business spin-offs of its informational web site. It is important to note that numerous other strategies can also be used to achieve equally satisfying results.

Myth No. 5: It is dangerous to use your credit card online

It is dangerous to give out your credit card number on the Internet, in restaurants, at gas stations, as well as in a multitude of other situations. In the real world (as opposed to the virtual world), your credit card is frequently handled by individuals. We have all heard plenty of horror stories about customers who gave their credit card to an employee in a store only to notice a month later that the transaction they authorized for a specific amount turned out to be processed for a completely different amount, generating losses for the parties involved. However, in the virtual world it is primarily machines that handle your confidential information. These machines do not know who you are and they safely process millions of transactions per week. The machines have no interest in your personal information, although they are sometimes manipulated by human criminals who use them to their advantage.

Nevertheless, as in the real world, credit card companies frequently protect unauthorized online transactions. For instance, MasterCard Canada offers a “Zero Liability” program that will protect you from losses in the event of the unauthorized use of your credit card on the web as long as:

  • You have an account in good standing
  • You have exercised reasonable care in safeguarding your card
  • You have not reported two or more unauthorized events in the past 12 months

It is, however, still important to take the appropriate security measures before disclosing your credit card information online, just as you would in the real world. For those who are interested in finding out more, the Canadian Bankers Association web site provides a list of the precautionary steps consumers should take to protect their personal information.

This article was originally written in French and have been translated by Wendy Wolbert

Dismantling E-Business Myths (Part I)

Top Ten E-Business Myths:

  • E-business is having difficulty recuperating from the dot-com slump
  • B2C companies corner the majority of online sales
  • E-business = online sales
  • Informational sites generate no business spin-offs
  • It is dangerous to use your credit card online
  • The web is an image-based medium
  • Money is a decisive factor in the establishment of a dot-com company
  • Operating a transactional site is the only way to make online sales
  • Online advertising is not efficient
  • An online presence is all you need to drum up business

Myth No. 1

E-business is having difficulty recuperating from the dot-com slump

In as early as 1996, Forrester forecast that B2C sales figures would hit US$12.1 billion by 2000. At the time, while many other analysts were putting forth equally high predictions, numerous sceptics adamantly argued that those numbers were far too optimistic. As you can see in the table below, the figures predicted by Forrester and other firms were, in fact, all wrong. Nearly all of them had actually underestimated future sales by almost half. You will also notice that actual sales between 2000 and 2003 registered a steady and significant growth. This fact clearly proves that the dot-com slump did not greatly affect the rise and adoption of e-business.

Year Forecasts Actual sales
2000 $12.1 $27.9
2001 $17.3 $36.9
2002 $28.8 $45.5
2003 - $86.9
B2C sales: 1996 forecasts vs. recorded sales
(US market, in billions) (1)

Myth No. 2

B2C companies corner the majority of online sales

Contrary to what you may be led to believe, B2B commerce is the true motor powering e-business exchanges. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, while B2C generated sales of $3.3 billion in Canada in 2002, B2B sales amounted to $10 billion. (2) Moreover, this hefty dominance of B2B sales over B2C sales is a widespread phenomenon confirmed in all countries.

Myth No. 3

E-business = online sales

There is no denying that e-business includes the sale of products and services online. However, a plethora of activities other than sales also falls under the term “electronic business”. In fact, the Grand dictionnaire terminologique ( Quebec 's official French language terminological dictionary) defines e-business as: “ A method of conducting business that involves transforming a company's main business processes by integrating Internet technologies .”

This definition implies that all the traditional functions of a company can be potentially affected by e-business. For example, in terms of human resources it is possible to recruit candidates online (e-recruiting), share knowledge online, conduct training online (e-learning), manage scheduling online, etc. This example demonstrates how other functions, such as a company's finances, supplies or sales and marketing are also affected by a vast array of digital applications and procedures. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that each business, depending on its products and services, activity sector and business model configuration, may or may not benefit from transferring certain traditional business functions to an electronic version.

(1)PowerPoint presentation given by Jacques Nantel, Holder of HEC Montréal's RBC Financial Group Chair of E-Commerce, to the Professional Marketing Research Society on April 2004. Source: Forrester Research 1996 and the U.S. Department of Commerce, Feb. 2003.

(2)Source: “ Enquête sur le commerce électronique et la technologie ,” Statistics Canada, April 2003.

This article was originally written in French and have been translated by Wendy Wolbert

Positioning yourself in e-business!

Paradoxically, though Internet users want to buy, or at the very least choose, many types of goods and services online, businesses must be practically dragged kicking and screaming before they finally establish an efficient online presence. Many companies falsely believe that e-business has not lived up to its promises. They will be surprised to learn that contrary to popular belief, online sales figures have never stopped rising, even while the Internet bubble was collapsing. Moreover, the sales forecasts made by specialists, such as Forrester in 1996, were thought to be exaggerated when if fact they all turned out to be wrong in the opposite sense. In reality, they had almost all under-estimated future sales by nearly half.(1) When I attend business cocktails, I often hear entrepreneurs making statements such as this, “E-business is not profitable. I know what I’m talking about because I invested $30,000 and have not seen a single dime in return.” Business people who say such things probably did business with suppliers who focused only on technologies and not on business objectives. For these entrepreneurs, it easier to believe that e-business is inefficient than to admit that they made an investment without establishing any prior strategies or planning.

Attracting customers

One step that facilitates setting up an efficient web presence is to have the ability to acquire customers. On the web, customer acquisition is achieved chiefly via search engines. These engines are the preferred tools of Internet users to search for information, products or services. For this reason, it is of utmost importance to appear in the first pages of these search engines if you want to have any hope of receiving a visit from Internet users who do not know your company and of having them include you in their decision-making process.

Though there are several regional search engines in Quebec, they receive only a tiny percentage of visits due to the fact that the engines of choice in this province are the same as those preferred everywhere else in the world: Google and Yahoo. This is why it is crucial to be well positioned in the result listings of queries entered on these two sites. “Referencing” is the term used to define the various methods to get positioned on search engines. A number of different techniques and strategies exist to get a web site referenced. Note that this positioning can also be a technical or paid service. When a company has efficient referencing and has a site that is well positioned compared to its various online competitors, customers show a clear preference to do business directly with that company rather than with intermediaries.

Grabbing customers’ interest

Once an Internet user is on your site, several elements are necessary to help them navigate the site, build their confidence and enable them to carry out a transaction online or via other distribution channels (i.e., via a store branch, telephone service, sales intermediaries, etc.) Though the decision-making processes of Internet users may vary drastically from one industry to another, in most cases they will be primarily interested in the content of the site rather than in images displayed on the site. In addition to site content, various search functions,(2) navigation aide tools, decision aid tools, promotional offers and other value-added functions will satisfy customers. A company’s web site must provide visitors with information and, at the same time, make their lives easier.

Building loyalty and customer retention

How can a business secure a second sale? Undoubtedly, the best way is by establishing a customer database and a process to fill it with information. A database is a computer file that stores all relevant information about your customers. It is a good idea to also include which method you used to obtain their authorization. Using a database for marketing purposes is a crucial strategic asset for any company. Even if a business cannot envisage having need of such a list, it should, without exception, begin the process of collecting both the permission of customers and their personal information. This way, when companies finally do find a need for such data, their database will already be brimming with precious information. What can a company do with such a database? It is the key ingredient to any follow-up marketing campaign based on e-mail processing software, an activity that is widely known as relationship marketing. Databases are also very useful for supplying information to customer follow-up software such those used for CRM (Customer Relationship Management) purposes. Lastly, there two other aspects of e-marketing that you should focus on. This first is viral marketing which consists of a series of online activities or functionalities that encourages Internet users to spread information about you to their circle of friends. The second is affiliate marketing which makes it possible for your various partners to redirect Internet users toward your site in return for compensation when a transaction is made thanks to their efficient online references. As you can see, there are many online elements that enable companies to attract customers, grab their interest and build their loyalty. Which of these elements are implemented in your e-business strategy? The answer to that question may be the key to increasing the profitability of your online presence.

(1) - PowerPoint presentation by Jacques Nantel, director of HEC Montréal's RBC Financial Group Chair of E-Commerce, at the Professional Marketing Research Society, April 2004.

(2) - To find out more about online value-added functions, I invite you to consult: Pratte, Nantel, Brunet and Lamarche, Online retail trade in Canada : Department stores, Adviso Consulting/RBC Financial Group Chair of E-Commerce, Feb. 2004, section p. 43 to 47

Web services technology is drastically changing the integration of business applications

Web services technology is drastically changing the integration of business applications

A new paradigm is making its entrance, drastically altering computer architecture, software development, and the internal and external integration of business applications. We're talking about Web services, a technology that has already become greatly profitable for certain innovative, chiefly American, governmental and multinational institutions. Yet in Canada and beyond the American border, this phenomenon still seems to have gone unnoticed.
Web services offer a very different approach to generating business value with information technologies (IT). As opposed to technologies that have preceded them, Web services do not oblige companies to abandon the IT infrastructures they have accumulated over the course of preceding decades. Instead, they entail minimal modifications to existing equipment and software, which maximizes prior investments.

Web services are a collection of standards and protocols agreed upon by every computer manufacturer and numerous international standardization organizations. These standards favour universal communication between all development platforms, programming languages and business applications. Based on the XML language, this technology is composed of a series of protocols that are already, or on their way to being, established. The following protocols are currently in use by certain American businesses and have already been integrated into the software and computer material used by the majority of players in the industry: SOAP, UDDI, WSDL and XML standards. Web services are therefore the result of a particular momentum between the various major players in the computer industry who favour universal interoperability.

This technology, or rather this collection of standards, shifts the client/server architectural model to a distributed architecture paradigm. In other words, the Web service makes it possible to modify the program or application (Web services consumer) independently from the Web service in question. This is completely contrary to what exists in a client/server architecture. The client/server architecture requires high levels of integration (and considerable capital) from its different component owners. The main problem with this architecture is what is known as n 2 ( n-squared ), a problem that describes the exponential growth of costs created by the complexity of integrating numerous technologies. If you must connect two applications (in a client/server architecture), it would be done with the aid of a connection that takes into account the functionalities that are specific to each application. This solution is called an end-to-end connection. In the case of several applications that must all be connected together, the number of applications to integrate is ( n 2 ). In a Web service context, however, this is not the case. Moreover, it is not necessary to know the language, machine, operating system and all the other details usually needed to allow communication between the two extremities of the communication continuum.

Another interesting feature of Web services is the fact that once they are developed, the Web services interfaces may be used and reused as often as needed and may be recombined with other modules. This aspect of the interfaces makes it possible to centralize the complexity via the shared services without limiting the flexibility and access to the various networks that support the exchanges. This also introduces the concept of modular software development. A functionality developed in the form of Web services can now be recombined with a suite of other functionalities to create a new application. This functionality is, in fact, just one brick in a wall built of many.

Web services reduce the hassles and worries associated with the different “ lock-ins ”(1) that companies endure at the hands of computer systems providers. Added economic value is also gained with Web services from existing computer infrastructures and open platforms such as the Internet.

Finally, Web services take into account the diversity of a company's internal and external platforms and applications. They can create more business value by making the most of a company's internal/external duality, by enabling various computer and business resources to connect and communicate with each other. Web services are the computer industry's solution to the numerous commercial and technological annoyances brought on by the client/server architecture.

(1)- Lock-in : A company's dependence on an existing solution due to the inherent costs or logistical difficulties associated with changing solutions.

You can view a presentation I have given of this subject at the Conference Board of Canada during the Council on e-business innovation : Web Sevices Global Overview

you will also note that the backgrond of the presentation present Adviso Consulting. This is a company I used to own and that I sold a couple of months ago. I just started a new venture called Analyweb.

This article was originally written in French and has been translated by Wendy Wolbert