Issue #23
26 August 1996
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Aardvark

Edition #23

POLITICS ON THE WEB
I've resisted writing about the arrival of political parties on the web for as long as possible - but I'm afraid I can't ignore it any longer.

Generally speaking, most of the major parties seem to be using the web to promote their propoganda to those who use the internet. I hope that the parties concerned realise that (as Dave Blyth is always keen to point out) "you only get one chance to make a first impression" because as you'll see, there's some pretty sad stuff out there! I'm not about to bore you all with my own political views but instead have decided to look at the various sites with a view to the way in which they've harnessed and embraced the internet as a vehicle for liaising with the electorate. I'll give a brief rundown on those I could find (in no particular order):

ACT have a little site which is decidedly light on content and instead promises us that despite the fact the election is rapidly drawing closer "the official web pages of Act NZ will be launched soon". This is politic-speak for "Under Construction" I guess - one of the biggest web-page sins of all time! If it's not ready - don't put it up!

Just about all you'll find on ACT's site are some promo's for Richard Prebble's book - wrappered under the description of a "sneak preview" and a warning not to mailbomb the site. I wonder if this is a pre-emptive move or whether the more juvenile net-users have already decided to display their stupidity.
Ardvark rates ACT's site as: Lacklustre

United New Zealand is a shallow attempt to use the web as a marketing tool. There is no feedback form, email address or any other type of net-based contact mechanism associated with this site. In fact the one and only way to contact this party seems to be to send a donation or sign up as a member by sending money to a postal address. Sounds like a "Make Money Fast" page to me.
Aardvark rates United's site as: A waste of web space

Christian Coalition - oh dear, this site is a masterpiece of procrastination. The front page is promising to offer essential information such as biographies and other information on party candidates, a summary of party policies and a piece on victims rights - it all falls a bit flat when you keep encountering the "Under Construction" virus. Just like so many other of these anemic sites, there's no email address, feedback mechamism or other signs of intelligent life behind this thin veneer.
Aardvark rates CC's site as: A hollow promise

Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party have a site which is best described (to be kind) as "concise". A single page outlining their stance on the legalisation issue. But.. it's another sop to the internet community, offering only a phone number for contact and a solicitation for money.
Aardvark rates ALCP's site as: Yawn..

The Green Party is a breath of fresh air. Whether you agree with their political policies or not, you have to admire their commitment to using the internet as an effective tool. Their site is clean, well designed, graphically balanced and (most importantly), contains a wealth of information to sate the needs of any intelligent voter. As if all that wasn't enough.. they even give email addresses for the majority of their candidates!
Aardvark rates the Green's site as: Excellent!

The Natural Law Party is a paradoxical site. While it offers a contact email address on the front page - there's also a page that promises more information but which actually turns out to be a form you must print and put in the post - erk! Go figure! Still, like the Greens page, there are links to other interesting(?) sites associated with the party. Perhaps the most glowing omission was a "karmic resonance link" :-)
Aardvark rates the Natural Law site as: "Ommmmmm"

Labour have put up a site which shows good web design skills and provides good party information. I'll even overlook the fact that they can't spell "succeed" on this page - but maybe it's a froidian slip - who knows?. Surprisingly this site lists the home phone numbers of all candidates - but there's not a single candidate's email address to be seen. Take a leaf from the Green's book guys and don't patronise us by just paying lip service to the internet - USE IT!
Aardvark rates the Labour site as: Very red

In all my ferreting around, I could find no "official" web site for the National party - outside of www.govt.nz. If there *is* an official national party site, could someone give me the URL.

ISP INDUSTRY PLANS RESPONSE STRATEGY (follow-up)
Well there really only was one story last week and that was the ongoing battle between ISPANZ and Xtra.

This story even made National Radio (but I've not heard a whisper about it on TV yet) where Clive Litt from Telecom did an excellent job of denying claims of foul play and proffering "facts" which he was not asked to substantiate in anyway. Bad interviewing by Nat Rad, I suggest that they get Kim Hill onto the issue!

IBM have announced that they're dropping their own internet rates in response to Xtra's agressive pricing. Under their new schedule, IBM can offer internet access for well under $2/hr, undercutting even Xtra's new pricing. The catch of course is that to qualify for IBM's lowest prices you need to commit to quite a hefty minimum monthly usage. Xtra still has the benefit that there's *NO* minimum monthly.

Where to from here? I have a sinking feeling that some ISPs will drop prices to match or better Xtra's rates - but at the cost of service levels. It's well known that any ISP could offer flat-rate access for what-ever price you'd care to nominate - BUT, as the price drops, so must the modem/user ratio and the average data throughput; in order to maintain even a small margin for profit.

Is this what internet users really want? I regularly get complaints from users of flat-rate services who are annoyed at the frustrations associated with getting online or being able to download large files in a reasonable amount of time. If a price-war errupts within the ISP industry I fear that this may become endemic.

Again... my own suggestion is that the only way to address this problem is to have two ISP accounts. One with "the cheapest" and another with "the best". That way you can choose which ever is most suitable for the time of day and type of use you're trying to undertake. Xtra's "no use - no pay" pricing makes this practical for most people who'd rather stick with their existing ISP for most of their internet access.

INTERNET EXPLORER 3.0 - More Bugs!
We all expected them and now reports of bugs in MSIE 3.0 are starting to come out thick and fast.

So far the most important is the discovery of a potentially dangerous security flaw which would allow any malicious site-builder to do whatever they chose to your PC - including reformatting its hard drive! Next up are the continued hassles with the way MSIE caches pages and graphics, seemingly not recognising when their content has changed and thus causing grief with some sites, even search engines and other CGI-based systems.

Microsoft has announced the availability of bug-fix patches at www.microsoft.com/msdownload/iepatch.htm - it's a shame that www.microsoft.co.nz doesn't have this patch on-line. In fact BOO HISS!! to Microsoft NZ, they're still making the original MSIE3.0 download available from their local mirror site but there's no mention of the patch or the fact that a major security flaw exists! It appears that MS NZ are still suffering from the "I don't understand the internet" disease that afflicted MS USA for so long. Come on guys - get with the program, to be effective your site must be always up to date!

Aardvark Weekly
I've had lots of favourable feedback about the format and content of Aardvark Weekly - thanks. I'm always open to suggestion when it comes to providing a site which is useful, entertaining and of some value to my readers. Feel free to send my your requests, comments and criticisms at any time. In the meantime - keep dropping in!

RIGHT OF REPLY
Anyone mentioned by Aardvark who feels that they have been misrepresented or who wish a "right of reply" are invited to send email to me at av@faxmail.co.nz and the contents of that email will be printed verbatim for all to read.

RIGHT OF REPLY
No right of reply received this week.

FROM THE "I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S TRUE" DEPARTMENT:

While cruising around the political sites on the NZ web this week I found something very interesting. Why not use the form below and enter the words "time waster" in the "Role" field, then enter the name of any party which currently has MPs in the house in the "Party" field. I think the results that come back simply confirm our suspicions as to the value of the average MP :-)

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The entire contents of this publication are copyright 1996 to Bruce Simpson, all rights reserved. Don't copy it without my permission - just ask, I'm unlikely to refuse any reasonable request.


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