Avenue Edmonton’s Top 40 Under 40 for 2014

top40Tonight, Avenue Edmonton unveiled their latest cohort of Top 40 Under 40 honorees at the TELUS World of Science. This is the sixth year that the magazine has recognized amazing young Edmontonians doing great things in our city.

“Every year, Avenue magazine recognizes Capital Region’s most exceptional young community leaders. The Top 40 Under 40 list honours individuals under the age of 40 who are excelling in their careers, giving back to the community and raising the profile of Edmonton.”

The event was emceed by Global Edmonton’s Gord Steinke who told attendees, “let’s swagger tonight!”

Here’s the Top 40 for 2014 and where you can find them online (in alphabetical order):

Congratulations to everyone who was recognized this year! I look forward to learning more about this new group of Top 40 alumni.

On the cover this year is Robin Mazumder, who is also a Make Something Edmonton board member. Inside the magazine, you’ll find a neat interior cover too. Apparently this issue is the biggest one Avenue Edmonton has ever released.

Nominations for 2015 aren’t open just yet, but keep an eye on this page for updates. You can learn more by reading the FAQ.

Want to see who made the list in past years? Check out my posts from 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Wayfinding in Edmonton inches forward

At Executive Committee today, Councillors discussed a report which outlined why wayfinding is important, a strategy for moving it forward, and initial implementation options and costs.

Edmonton has very little wayfinding information for citizens or tourists and what we do have is confusing and lacks consistency. It has become clear that our city’s haphazard implementation of wayfinding within the pedway system is a disaster and is a mistake we should not repeat. The City’s push to see Edmontonians shift transportation modes is another big reason to support this initiative – finding your way around can be difficult if you’re not in a car. As Edmonton grows and attracts both more residents and visitors, the problem is only going to get worse. And like most things, the longer we wait to do the work required, the more it’ll probably cost.

wayfinding

The good news is that the City seems committed to doing something with wayfinding in a coordinated, strategic way. Administration understands and has articulated the benefits of wayfinding. The risk is that the funding to do it right may not be available.

Here’s an audio overview of today’s meeting & news:

You can download the cloudcast here.

Hooray for citizen action!

Would the City have come around to this position without citizen action? Perhaps eventually. But without question, the work of the Edmonton Wayfinding Project has had a significant impact. They’ve engaged citizens, they’ve conducted surveys and have done some other public engagement work, they have connected with experts in other cities, and they have pushed for collaboration with City Administration. Perhaps most importantly, they’ve shone the light on a topic that could have easily been ignored, and for no reason other than they want to make Edmonton a better place to live and visit.

The founder of the project, Tim Querengesser, was at Council today to speak to the report and to make his group’s case for the importance of progressing this work. The group published a discussion document today as well, which concluded:

“The Edmonton Wayfinding Society recommends City Council support the reports it is examining and follow their recommendations, with one caveat. The Society recommends the City reconfigure the roadmap toward a unifying wayfinding system for Edmonton to include the pedway/LRT system. Further, the Society recommends that its volunteer-driven research suggests a comprehensive study of pedway users, attitudes and behaviours is badly needed to create a wayfinding system that works in all nodes of Edmonton’s transportation infrastructure. In the interim, the Society also recommends that Edmonton introduce, immediately, guidelines for all new developments that add wayfinding as a factor that is examined. “

Be sure to follow @WayfindYEG on Twitter for updates.

Concern about costs

Today’s report included both a business case and a detailed strategy. The two hefty documents (a combined 97 pages) provide all of the necessary background and detail that you could hope for. The opening paragraph of the business case highlights one of the big problems with wayfinding efforts in Edmonton in the past:

“There have been several attempts to create a corporate wayfinding program in the City of Edmonton which have failed at the value for money decision. While it is understood generally that wayfinding offers many benefits to a growing city, it has not so far obtained support as a priority for the investment needed for citywide implementation.”

Cost dominated much of the discussion today too. Councillor Oshry in particular peppered Administration with questions about the cost of implementation, and argued after the meeting that we don’t need “the Buckingham Palace version of the signs.” He told the Sun that the proposed wayfinding strategy “seems excessive”. Mayor Iveson, however, said “to cheap out on these signs is probably a mistake.”

The overall cost of implementing the wayfinding strategy is estimated at around $10 million. That includes the development of signs, apps, plans, artwork, and more. It also includes the rollout of hundreds of physical signs. A big chunk of that cost, $5.5 million, is for the installation of maps at each existing LRT or transit station. Options for funding the project include: direct funding, which Council would need to approve; incremental funding, which would mean signs only appear as projects are completed; and revenue generation, which could be from sponsorship or advertising. Rollout options were also discussed, such as focused on downtown first and other areas later.

The business case concludes that “a pedestran-focused wayfinding system in Edmonton offers a positive benefit to cost proposition” and that “wayfinding has been shown to be a cost-effective means to overcome barriers to modal shift, a way to improve the local economy and a contributor to overall city liveability.”

Design standards

A lot of design work has already been done, which you can see in the report but also in the prototype signs that were installed around Churchill Square back in April. Future signs will include both “Walk Edmonton” and the City of Edmonton brand, and they’ll likely look a bit different than the prototype signs based on feedback and other lessons.

wayfinding

Icons are meant to be based on national or international standards, to ensure widespread recognition. The Benton Sans typeface is proposed for use across maps and signs, because it has good legibility at both large and small sizes, comes in a wide range of weights, and is a little more unique than Helvetica or other commonly used typfaces.

wayfinding

Consideration has already been given to colors, themes, cartographic elements (like the “you are here” markers), 3D landmarks, and incorporating the pedway.

Governance and maintenance

There was some discussion today about the need for a wayfinding czar, or as the detailed strategy calls the position, a “Wayfinding System Manager”. Harry Finnigan, who worked on wayfinding in Winnipeg and who spoke at Council today, said he wished they had implemented a similar position in Winnipeg. Ultimately though, Administration today decided they would rather have a team of people take responsibility for wayfinding, and Council didn’t push the point.

wayfinding

On the topic of maintenance and operations, the strategy identifies the importance of both a procurement strategy to efficiently buy and maintain signage, and an asset management database, to record information about each sign. That database of information is sorely lacking from the pedway system currently, and would certainly be important to have going forward.

The wayfinding strategy will be managed by Walkable Edmonton, under the Walk Edmonton brand. ETS and Great Neighbourhoods are the two main internal partners. Mayor Iveson also suggested that the Edmonton Design Committee be involved.

What’s next?

To some degree, the City is going to move ahead with its efforts to develop the corporate wayfinding program. At some point however, more funding will be required. There are four capital profiles being recommended for funding in the proposed 2015-2018 Capital Budget, which is when we’ll likely hear about wayfinding next. If those four profiles were funded, that would enable the City to complete roughly 60% of the wayfinding strategy.

That means Edmontonians need to keep pushing for wayfinding if they think it is important! Tell your Councillor if you want to see more funding go into this important project.

For more on wayfinding, check out the City of Edmonton’s website here and the Edmonton Wayfinding Project here.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #128

I saved a few media-related links while I was away, things I really wanted to link to, so you’ll see a few older items in the list below. Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

SIMONSxDMD

I wanted to share this video by Alex Scuccato, called “Outpost – This is Edmonton”. It was pretty popular on social media networks recently. His description is pretty simple: “A journey with my friends through some of my favourite places, restaurants, festivals, and attractions in my hometown, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada over summer.”

How’s that for some Edmonton storytelling? Nice work Alex! Now, maybe make one for winter too?

You can follow Edmonton media news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegmedia. For a great overview of the global media landscape, check out Mediagazer.

So, what have I missed? What’s new and interesting in the world of Edmonton media? Let me know!

You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here.

Edmonton Notes for 10/26/2014

After three great weeks away, Sharon and I are back in Edmonton! We had a wonderful time and will be sharing many photos and blog posts in the weeks ahead.

Don’t forget that Daylight Saving Time ends at 2am on Sunday, November 2 – your clocks go back an hour that night!

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Rough Around the Edges
The first of two beautiful shots by Jeff Wallace that I wanted to share

Upcoming Events

Tribute
In this photo, Jeff Wallace captures the local tribute to WO Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo

Recap: Launch Party Edmonton 5

Last night Startup Edmonton hosted its fifth Launch Party, “the city’s flagship startup event that celebrates and showcases the hottest startups in town.” Hundreds of Edmontonians attended to learn more about ten new local companies. A short program at the start included an overview from Startup’s Tiffany, remarks from presenting partner QUALICO Commercial, remarks from EEDC, and greetings from Mayor Don Iveson.

Mayor Don Iveson

Mayor Iveson said that startups are another reason that Edmonton is getting noticed. He shared a thought that he heard recently, which is that your city isn’t on the map when someone opens a branch office there, it’s on the map when a company from your city opens a branch office somewhere else! Citing the recent news that 40% of all new jobs in Canada last year were generated in Edmonton, he told the presenting companies, “you’re going to create a lot more!”

This was one of the first public events at which EEDC acknowledged the acquisition of Startup Edmonton, a relationship highlighted by the recently relaunched Ignite Edmonton website. Chief Operating Officer Derek Hudson talked about Startup being part of the EEDC family, and highlighted the strengthening startup ecosystem in our city.

Edmonton Launch Party 5

The ten presenting companies represented a range of industries and opportunities, including education, HR, oil & gas, and home automation. They were:

I spent some time checking out Alieo Games and their creative learning product called COW (Creative Online Writing). Alieo’s Kit Chen explained the idea to me, which is that kids don’t practice writing enough and through gamification, there’s an opportunity to change that. We co-wrote a short story that I very creatively called “the monkey by the river” to get sense of how the tool works. Kids can choose between a blank page or a prompt to help them start writing. As they write, they’re presented with bonus words that they are meant to incorporate. If they do, they earn Alieo dollars that they can spend on their avatar. When they’re done, the system presents some statistics of their writing to help them improve.

Edmonton Launch Party 5

The plan is to try to get schools to adopt the tool, but they are also pricing it so that a single teacher could use it with his or her own class with discretionary funds. The three primary people behind the company are all PhD candidates at the University of Alberta, so they’re building this company alongside that already ambitious endeavour! Alieo Games is an eHUB Startup, and won first place in the TEC VenturePrize Student Competition last year. You can follow them on Twitter for updates.

I also spoke with Alexis Alchorn from Pogo CarShare. They were probably the most high profile of the participating companies, given they had just done a big reveal earlier in the day. Pogo is similar to other carsharing services like Car2Go, but it is created by Edmontonians for Edmontonians. Basically you use a mobile app or the website to see where the cars are currently parked, you go and pick one up using your membership card and PIN code, take your trip, then park the car somewhere within the zone when you’re done and it becomes available for another member to use. It really could enable two car households to drop down to one, or maybe even allow some people to go without a car altogether!

Pogo CarShare

It costs just $35 to sign up, and after that you only pay for what you use – $0.47 per minute, $14.99 per hour, or $69.99 per day, and those costs are inclusive of gas, insurance, etc. You can even take the car out of the city for the weekend, and you pay $0.30 per km after 200km. Pogo is starting with just 20 vehicles but they hope to expand that number pretty quickly (down in Calgary, Car2Go has more than 500 vehicles). You probably have more questions, so fortunately they have an extensive FAQ page.

Given that Calgary is one of the fastest growing markets for Car2Go, I have long wondered why we didn’t have a carsharing service here in Edmonton. Now that Pogo is here, I hope to see them succeed. That said, it won’t be easy. They’ve done the heavy lifting of getting the right parking permit created in Edmonton, so in theory a competitor could more easily come to our city now. And one disadvantage as I see it is that if you’re a Car2Go member, you can use the service in any of the more than 30 locations they operate in. In practice I’m not sure how often that happens, but it’s a nice perk of being a member if you travel a lot, and at least for now, Pogo is Edmonton-only. Anyway, I wish them well!

I was intrigued by the name MASV and the “cloud communications” subtitle, so I spent a bit of time talking to co-founder Manson about the idea. Basically MASV is a tool to connect oil & gas companies with equipment rentals over the phone. The unique thing is that the automated phone system uses cloud-based voice recognition and proprietary filtering algorithms to connect renters with the right company. The problem they solve is that out in the field, a phone is often the only tool an oil & gas company can rely on, and they need to source equipment quickly.

Edmonton Launch Party 5

They’re using Node.js and Twilio to power the system. The business model is to have the rental companies pay a fee to be included in the directory and thus available to be connected with renters. MASV is also an eHUB Startup. They anticipate launching early next year.

I thought TwoFold’s Alison McMahon had a great elevator pitch, so I talked to her to learn more about the tools TwoFold has built to create better managers. She said “people usually quit their managers, not their jobs”. Alison is an HR consultant who has been working with companies to implement best practices and develop their managers, so she has lots of experience in the industry. After seeing the same problems again and again, the idea for TwoFold was born.

Twofold

TwoFold provides managers with tools and processes they can follow without being HR experts. Employee surveys, coaching plans, orientation schedules, training history, and performance conversations are all examples. The interface looks pretty clean and is something I could have seen myself greatly benefiting from when I first became a manager. Pricing ranges from $25 per month for up to 15 employees, to $1,200 per month or more for more than 100 employees.

Edmonton Launch Party 5

I didn’t spend as much time at the other companies, but all were interesting. I remember talking to Jason Suriano about his product Trajectory about three years ago, so it was neat to see that it has come to fruition and has customers already. TeachMe is also tackling education through gaming, but instead of writing they focus on math. Otto is a “system-in-a-box” that enables home automation, targeted at builders and renovators rather than end consumers. Instacoins enables you to buy Bitcoin with your bank account using Interac Online, simple as that. OMx is in the health space, and they have a dashboard that aims to give you better information about your body. And MADSOFT Games is focused on browser-based gaming.

The event took place at EPCOR Tower, in the expansive main floor space. As my friend Jeff remarked, the location nicely reflected the Startup Edmonton mantra that was visible on stage: “whatever you’re thinking, think bigger.” It was a very different feel than last year’s launch party, which took place at Startup Edmonton itself. Bigger, bolder, and more polished.

Edmonton Launch Party 5

Launch Party took place on day four of Startup Week, which saw a number of entrepreneurship-oriented events take part all across the city. Kudos to Ken, Cam, and the entire Startup Edmonton crew on a great event and a successful week of celebrating startups in Edmonton!

You can see the rest of my photos from the event here. You can see my previous posts about Launch Party here: #1, #2, #3, #4.

Hitched & Honeymooning

Yesterday, in the city that we both love, I married my best friend. Sharon and I had a wonderful day, and we’re very grateful for all the kind messages that we have received – thank you!

There are a bunch of photos up on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #MackAndSharon, and we’ll of course have more as soon as we get them from Moments in Digital, who did a fantastic job capturing our day. Here’s one that Bruce posted yesterday:

mack & sharon

And here’s a selfie – very 2014 of us, don’t you think?

mack & sharon

We’re leaving early Monday morning for our honeymoon, in Vietnam & South Korea. We’ll be posting some photos of our adventures along the way on social media, but likely won’t be blogging. So it’ll be quiet around here.

See you in a few weeks!

Open Data in Edmonton is exciting again

After a few years of stagnation, I feel like open data in Edmonton is exciting again. This has been a great year for open data and open government in our city! Here’s an update on what’s been happening.

International Open Data Day really kicked things off back in February with a hackathon hosted by EPL at the new Makerspace. It was a great opportunity for developers to come together to take a fresh look at the municipal, provincial, and federal data catalogues, all of which have grown considerably in the last year or so.

International Open Data Day Hackathon

In May, a group of interested citizens organized a hackathon called HackYEG. Mayor Iveson spoke at the event which was a great success and led to a number of really interesting projects. The event also led to a new citizen meetup, called Open Edmonton. The group was started by Lydia Zvyagintseva and David Rauch and meets at Startup Edmonton on the third Wednesday of every month. Follow them on Twitter for the latest events and other “open” news.

The City of Edmonton unveiled its Open City Initiative in June, which highlighted a number of principles, goals, and objectives that will help to make Edmonton an Open City. It’s heavy on talk and light on action, but it signals a renewed effort on the part of the City to support open data and related initiatives. Importantly, it also opened the door to a policy on open data and open government, which would change the dynamic inside the City from “we could support this” to “we must support this.”

open city framework

The federal government began a series of consultations in February this year to gather input on Canada’s Action Plan on Open Government 2.0. Edmonton was included in those consultations, with a roundtable event that took place on August 27. Treasury Board President Tony Clement hosted the session that was attended by representatives from the City of Edmonton, Province of Alberta, industry, and the community at large.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement
Treasury Board President Tony Clement

MP Clement was also in Edmonton talking about open data last year, gathering input for the 1.0 verson of the plan. The draft 2.0 plan will be available for review and comment starting October 6.

At the end of August, I think open data scored a small but important victory when the results of the 2014 Municipal Census were made available. For the first time, the data was in the open data catalogue at the same time as it was released to the public in PDF and via the media. A sign that the Open City Initiative is being taken seriously, perhaps?

Earlier this month Edmonton hosted a stop on the cross-Canada motorcycle tour on open government undertaken by Richard Pietro. The whole idea behind the tour was to “ignite conversation about open government and open data” and to “encourage citizens to become more civically engaged.” A number of local advocates spoke at the event, which highlighted some of the success Edmonton has had with regards to open data. Here’s a recap from Richard himself.

Open Government Tour
Photo by Richard Pietro

Last week I was one of five speakers at the Lunchalytics event focused on open data. Chris Moore, Eugene Chen, Mark Diner, and Michael Parkatti also spoke about open data and analytics. The room was packed and some really great projects and initiatives were highlighted, such as the Alberta Economic Dashboard. There’s clearly a growing interest in such visualizations and tools.

Later this week I’m speaking at the Right to Know Forum, hosted by Alberta’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton. The event will feature presentations on right to access, information management, open data initiatives, and the benefits of open data. It’s a sign of just how far open data has come that OIPC is hosting a forum on the topic!

Throughout the year, the various data catalogues have been growing. And it’s not just Canada, Alberta, and Edmonton that are making datasets available. Other communities in the Edmonton Region are getting behind open data too, like the County of Strathcona which now has more than 100 datasets available to citizens. Even St. Albert has started experimenting with open data, through its Property Search tool (which allows you to export the data).

I know that some Edmontonians, like Matthew Dance, Chris Moore, and Mark Diner, have always been local open data advocates, even and especially during the years I’m calling stagnant. But lately it’s refreshing to see an entirely new group of Edmontonians getting involved. Just this evening I was at a meeting in which the City’s open data catalogue was referenced (and not by me!). There’s a growing awareness and interest that is encouraging.

If you’ve been on the fence about open data or have been thinking about learning more, now’s the time. Check out Open Edmonton and get involved!

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #127

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

You can follow Edmonton media news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegmedia. For a great overview of the global media landscape, check out Mediagazer.

So, what have I missed? What’s new and interesting in the world of Edmonton media? Let me know!

You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here.

Edmonton Notes for 9/21/2014

Just a week to go until Sharon and I are married and on a plane to Asia! Can’t wait. Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

EAG
Lovely fall colors downtown, photo by Grant C

Upcoming Events

Sept19_CristyEllen_DonnaLynnPhotography_1
Western Canada Fashion Week

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #126

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

Swearing-in ceremony
You can expect to see new Minister of Health Stephen Mandel back in the news more frequently

You can follow Edmonton media news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegmedia. For a great overview of the global media landscape, check out Mediagazer.

So, what have I missed? What’s new and interesting in the world of Edmonton media? Let me know!

You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here.