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:


Lovely fall colors downtown, photo by Grant C

Upcoming Events

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.

Edmonton Notes for 9/14/2014

Once again I have been curating articles, blog posts, and news releases on my ShareEdmonton page. You can sign up for the weekly newsletter with a free account here. Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:


Sage Advice
I haven’t seen this bumper sticker yet, though it has been around for years. Photo by Grempz.

Upcoming Events

Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival
Boats in the water at City Hall for the Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival

Edmonton in a New Light

Tonight local business leaders gathered in the EPCOR Tower to celebrate a changing city. Construction is happening all over downtown Edmonton, our population is rapidly increasing, and our economic growth is the envy of most other jurisdictions around North America. It’s time to shed our humble past and proudly talk about the new Edmonton, we were told. It’s time to “think positive, talk proud, and speak loud.” It’s time to see Edmonton in a new light.

Edmonton in a New Light

Mayor Don Iveson, EPCOR CEO David Stevens, EEDC CEO Brad Ferguson, and Westin General Manager Joumana Ghandour all took turns at the podium to share their story and their thoughts on why this is such an exciting time for Edmonton. “There’s a transformation happening here,” Mayor Don Iveson told us in a speech that sounded a lot like the ones he gave on the campaign trail during last year’s election. “Edmonton is humble, sometimes to a fault,” he said, “but that’s changing.”

Edmonton in a New Light

The invitation for the event called it the “EPCOR Edmonton Business Leaders Reception”. I expected it to be similar to the 120th anniversary event that EPCOR hosted back in 2011, with brief remarks and a tour of the 28th floor balcony. But this event was much more bold and confident. Guests were invited to “celebrate Edmonton with EPCOR”:

“The opportunity for Edmonton to shine has never been better. Join our city’s business leaders as we begin the task of putting Edmonton in a new, dynamic light for the world to see. EPCOR President & CEO David Stevens and Brad Ferguson of EEDC invite you to a reception and viewing of the major construction projects in our downtown core from the 28th floor balcony of EPCOR Tower.”

In addition to the speeches, guests were treated to a sneak peek at some of the digital assets that EEDC and Make Something Edmonton have been working to create. “Edmonton is a billion dollar brand,” Brad Ferguson told us. “We just haven’t put much effort into it until now.” EEDC is working on the whitelabel video project and other assets so that Edmonton businesses can incorporate consistent messaging into their own brands and communications. The new storytelling tools are expected to be available early next year, some for a modest fee.

Edmonton in a New Light

EEDC is also planning to run targeted ad campaigns in select cities with a goal of attracting students, young couples, and offices to Edmonton’s growing downtown. “We’ve got to fill up all these new buildings,” Brad joked.

After the speeches were done, guests were invited to head up to the 28th floor balcony for a tour of the many construction projects happening around the EPCOR Tower. Here are some photos from above:

Edmonton in a New Light
The Edmonton Arena District

New Royal Alberta Museum Construction
New Royal Alberta Museum

Edmonton in a New Light
Fox & Ultima residential towers

New City Office Tower Construction
EAD Office Tower, which will be home to the City of Edmonton offices

Edmonton in a New Light
The new arena takes shape

Blatchford in the distance

Tonight’s event was undoubtedly a cheerleading session. So might consider it a call-to-arms for the local business community, an opportunity to say ‘get on the train now before its too late’. But unfortunately this sales pitch lacked the all important ask. There was no mention of next steps, beyond the “speak proudly about Edmonton” message and the promise of digital assets to help tell our city’s story. It felt a little incomplete.

That said, this is absolutely an exciting time for Edmonton, and it’s great that our city’s leaders are willing to stand up and say so. Not with the empty, meaningless, and outlandish claims of the past – “Edmonton is the best city, in the best province, in the best country in the world!” – but with a much more Edmontonian approach. “Something big is happening here, we can feel it, and we’re going to start talking a bit more about it.” We’re becoming a little less humble, and that’s a good thing.

Edmonton in a New Light

“The opportunity before us is to let the rest of the world in on the secret of why we’re all here,” Mayor Iveson said. It’s a message that those in the room should already know, but a little reinforcement doesn’t hurt. Hopefully tonight was the first in a series of nudges to get them to do something about it.

You can see more photos here.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #125

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

Premier Hancock and Premier-Designate Jim Prentice at Government House 41150
Lots of cell phones in the scrums these days!

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 9/7/2014

This week I have been collecting links to articles, news releases, and blog posts using the new curation functionality at ShareEdmonton. You can see my links here. Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:


Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership event, 2014
Jim Prentice wins the leadership of Alberta’s PC Party, photo by Dave

Upcoming Events

Tour of Alberta 2014
Tour of Alberta 2014, photo by IQRemix

Media Monday Edmonton: After 40 years, what’s next for Global Edmonton?

It was forty years ago today that Global Edmonton first went on the air. Then known as “Independent Television” or ITV, the channel was founded by Dr. Charles Allard. Through a series of acquisitions, the channel joined the Global family on September 4, 2000, and is today owned by Shaw Media. Over the years, Global Edmonton has been a big part of the lives of many Edmontonians, and indeed Canadians around the country. As Global Edmonton looks back on 40 years, I thought it would be a great opportunity to ask about what’s next.

Tim & Michael
Global Edmonton GM Tim Spelliscy & News Director Michael Fulmes, photo courtesy of Global Edmonton

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Michael Fulmes, News Director for Global Edmonton, to do just that. Michael is an industry veteran, starting his career in 1978 with CKCK Television in Regina. He joined Global Edmonton in the 2000s, first as Managing Editor before settling into his current role. In 2011, Michael was honored with a Distinguished Service Award from RTNDA Canada.

I wanted to know what Michael thought of the ever-changing media landscape. Without skipping a beat, he told me “this is the most dynamic, exciting time since the industry began!” And what about Global Edmonton’s place in that dynamic landscape? “We’re no longer broadcasters, we’re distributors of news and information,” he said, noting that the organization is now multi-platform, with a big emphasis on online content.

The future of the six o’clock news

That said, Michael made it clear that he doesn’t see conventional TV going away anytime soon. But surely the six o’clock news is dying, I suggested. Michael countered that with high ratings and great advertising demand, the flagship newscast is doing just fine. “Based on our metrics, Global Edmonton is number one in all newscasts in all demos,” he said. As for the six o’clock news, he said he doesn’t foresee the audience diminishing greatly, but did admit “there is some drifting.”

ITV red logo
This is the logo I grew up with

Global Edmonton is committed to ensuring the six o’clock news remains number one, Michael said, but added “we have to be adaptable.” He cited the 24/7 demand for news as one factor, and an increasing array of platform and technology choices as another. “Gone are the days that the viewer tunes into a regular schedule,” he declared. “We have to recognize our viewers are moving very fast.”

The future of news production

Given the emphasis that Global Edmonton is placing on online content production today, I asked Michael why it took so long for television channels to embrace online video. “We were slow in bringing video to the web,” he agreed. But they’ve turned the ship around completely, in Michael’s view. “I’m blown away,” he said. “For example, we have the largest number of Facebook followers now, it’s a testament to our online efforts.”

Is there room for Instagram, Snapchat, and other future services to play a role in Global Edmonton’s news distribution? “Absolutely,” Michael said. “We have to find new ways to follow [our audience], but respect the fact that our future is with local.”

Like other television channels, Global Edmonton has increasingly made use of new technologies like video from mobile phones, Google Earth, Skype, and others. “It’s because put in the right context, it’s the right thing to do,” Michael said. “That and the quality of those things has become so much better.” He added that techniques like the jump cut have also become more accepted over time.

The future of local news

Throughout our conversation, Michael mentioned the importance of local coverage. He turned to ITV’s founding to help explain. “It wasn’t just about launching an independent TV channel,” he said. “It was about connecting with the community and servicing that community.” Michael believes that connecting with the community for forty years gives Global Edmonton an edge against potential upstarts. “The more experience, the more you’ve done, the better able you are to move forward,” he said.

ITV original logo
The original ITV logo

That’s not to say it’ll be easy. “What’s difficult is staying connected with the community because they’re moving so fast!” He also mentioned the shift in attitudes toward brands. “The younger people of today don’t devote that brand loyalty the same way their parents did,” Michael said.

The irony of their name notwithstanding, Michael was clear about what it’ll take for Global Edmonton to compete in the future. “What’s going to distinguish us from everybody else is our ability to stay local and to cover our community.”

The future of Global Edmonton

I asked him to prognosticate about Global Edmonton over the next forty years. In the near-term, he said 4K video “is coming” but suggested it doesn’t make sense to rush out and buy a compatible TV today. “No one is producing content for it yet,” he said. But he knows technology will march forward. “It’s going so fast, it doesn’t surprise anybody anymore.”

Looking further ahead, Michael was thoughtful. “I have no doubt that Global Edmonton will be around for years to come,” he said. “But it’ll be a different monster.” It’s hard to predict the future, but when pressed, Michael suggested communication will be omnipresent, giving us the opportunity to “exchange communication at a moment’s notice.”

Even though the technology will change, Michael is confident that Global Edmonton will have a place in Edmonton’s future. “We are journalists because we have an insatiable curiosity, and our viewers have an insatiable appetite for news and information,” he said. “Whether you’re a reader, listener, watcher – we’re content providers and will continue to be.”