Friday, July 23, 2010
Cluelessness Volume III
I can't swing a dead cat without finding an example of bad communication. This time it is France that takes this week's prize. On July 14, Bastille Day, the French government launched france.fr which was to be a global and multi-lingual portal for all things French -- tourism, investment etc. The problem was that the same day that the site went up it then came back down and has not come back to life since. Visitors to the site receive the following message, "France.fr, a complete and complex site, is temporarily unavailable. We are in the final phase of our audit to find out the causes of the technical failures which led to us closing the site, and are close to finding a solution. We would like to thank all the web users who helped us spot the bugs. We aim to have the site fully operational again in the second half of August, and can confirm that a version with a participatory dimension will be released in November. Thank you for your patience." At least the SIG, France's government information service, bit the bullet and re-set expectations with a new availability date. What I don't understand is how they got themselves into this mess in the first place. I mean this is cyberspace not outer space and creating a website -- even a complex one -- is not like sending astronauts to Mars. This has been an embarrassment for the French government. Maybe it is because the web is inherently a bottom up environment and not top down. The most visited websites -- Google, Facebook, eBay -- were bottom up / entrepreneurial ventures. Maybe this is why Microsoft has struggled with Bing and Live. At this point the damage has been done and my advice to the SIG would be to ensure that when the site launches it works flawlessly -- even it it means delaying the launch past the late August date. The last thing the SIG needs is to make the headlines again with a buggy site.