Introducing ShareEdmonton

Today I’m excited to launch ShareEdmonton, a local aggregation platform for Edmonton and area. With it, I want to redefine local media and improve Edmonton by embracing the fact that communication is increasingly taking place online.

You can think of ShareEdmonton as an events calendar, at least right now. It certainly has that functionality, and I want it to become the de facto events calendar for Edmonton. I’ve taken the opposite approach of most online calendaring sites, such as Upcoming or Eventful. Instead of starting at the global level and working down, I’ve started at the local level. This is a simple, but important distinction.

I believe that place is more important than ever. That’s why place is at the heart of ShareEdmonton. Unlike other sites, each place exists once and only once in ShareEdmonton. If you want to find out what’s going on at the Shaw Conference Centre, you can be confident there’s only one in the system. In addition to individual places, ShareEdmonton currently supports neighbourhoods, such as Downtown. This is a powerful way to roll up data about a collection of places.

What kind of data? Events, obviously, but also tweets. For any event, place, or neighbourhood you can see recent related tweets written by people in the Edmonton area, in real-time. Or you can see all tweets written by local users. Over time, I’ll be adding other kinds of data alongside tweets, including blog posts, photos, and more.

ShareEdmonton is all about aggregating the immense amounts of data available online and helping you find the bits that are important, relevant or interesting to you, through place, topic, or some other filter. Here’s an example – George W. Bush is in town tonight, at the Shaw Conference Centre. Here’s the event page on ShareEdmonton (and here’s the page for the rally against him). On it, you find information about the event, the location, and recent related tweets – people talking about the event. Two more examples, using topic as a filter: weather and traffic. That’s pretty powerful, I think, and has the potential to become even more powerful over time.

What’s available today is just a small part of what I hope the site will become. Today is step one, and there’s a long way to go until the vision is realized. I have grand ambitions for ShareEdmonton!

Here are a few other quick points:

  • Though I’m not calling this a beta, it is a work-in-progress.
  • The entire site features clean, hackable URLs.
  • The site also features Microformats. If you’re running Firefox, install Operator and you’ll see your browser “light up” with events, locations, tagspaces, and more.
  • All tweets pages have RSS feeds, and most event listing pages have both RSS and iCal feeds.
  • ShareEdmonton is not, and will not be, open source. I am and will be embracing the concepts of open data, however, so stay tuned for more on that.
  • The engine is generic, so you could in theory turn on ShareCalgary or an aggregator for another city.
  • As I was quoted on Saturday – I’m really not concerned with the business model at the moment. I want to build something that is valuable first.

I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has provided feedback, done testing, and otherwise helped me out with this, especially Chris, Cam, Reg, Eric, Rob, Dickson, Jas, and Adam. Also, though she probably would rather me not say it, Sharon played a big behind-the-scenes role in this – thanks!

Please check out ShareEdmonton, and let me know what you think. Tweet it, blog it, leave a comment below, email me, or post something on the Uservoice forum I’ve setup. You can also follow ShareEdmonton on Twitter, which is where I’ll announce new features. Thanks!

  • FINALLY! 😉

    Just kidding. Sort of.

    This is really exciting stuff, Mack. We should get together soon to discuss your 1.0 – 2.0 vision and how things fit together. Might be some ways we can work together more on this.

  • Definitely Adam, looking forward to it!

  • I wonder if there’s a way to get the Edmonton Meetup RSS feeds into the aggregator. You’d pretty much have to sign up to all the meetup groups in Edmonton as they came up.

  • I’ve been looking into that Adam…hopefully I’ll be able to make it work!

  • tricotmiss

    This is really exciting Mack! Congrats!

  • Just added an event. Nice form. Simple. Good looking site.

    I think that being able to aggregate RSS feeds from other websites would be an excellent feature. If it could do that, I wouldn’t mind trying out the system for a city or two and split some Google ad revenue. It has some synergies with an established website of mine.

    I’ll be interested in seeing how the site progresses!

  • Thanks Marilyn!

    Tait – thanks for testing it out. Definitely I’ll be aggregating RSS feeds, that’s going to be a major feature.

  • Congrats Mack! Looks really nice, simple, and quite useful. Will be checking out the site for the week-to-week comings and goings of the city 🙂

  • Looks promising, I definitely agree with you that locally focussed sites have advantages over the huge ones. A little disappointing that you’re explicitly opposed to open-sourcing it, though.

    Do you have a plan for attracting other types of events and other audiences to the site?

  • Thanks Eugene and Brendan!

    I do have a plan to attract more events and other audiences, yes, and that’s something I’ll be writing about more over time. The first step is a technical one, to make it easier for others to add events (and for ShareEdmonton to subscribe to more existing calendars).

  • When it comes to aggregating RSS feeds, will each item in a feed be converted to a “node” (content item) on Share Edmonton? Sorry if that’s confusing… I think in the language of Drupal. What I mean is this:
    User clicks on the event link and goes to other website = OK.
    User clicks on the event and sees info on your site (plus link to other site) = Excellent.

    I also noticed that the “Add Event” link is not present on some pages. I think it will improve the number of postings if you make it present on all pages that start with .com/events.

  • I’m not sure if I entirely follow, but I think the source for anything is very important. So I would probably go with “user clicks on the event and sees info on my site” and that page would also contain a prominent link to the other site. Similar to what you see now.

    Add Event is purposefully not front-and-centre at the moment, as the idea is to aggregate as much as possible. Still working to improve that 🙂

  • That’s cool. So, it’s currently harvesting some content from RSS feeds?

  • Ah, no, I meant what you see currently with events. It is harvesting some iCal feeds at the moment.

  • I see this being pretty big in short order.

    -Jerry

  • Thanks Jerry!

  • Awesome, awesome, awesome job, Mack! I can’t wait to see this become to go-to aggregation service in Edmonton. I also can’t wait to integrate it with other stuff that myself and others are working on 🙂

  • Me too Eric! Thanks 🙂

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  • Dash

    Hi Mack,

    The ShareEdmonton site is a great idea.

    What I can’t seem to find is how to submit information for this site?
    Or that’s not what you have in mind – for community events to be submitted?

    Please advise. Thanks ~
    dash

  • Hi Dash, thanks for checking it out! You can add events at http://www.shareedmonton.ca/events/add – there’s a link on the Events page to “Add your event”.

    The idea is to bring in events from other places so that most are already in the calendar. That’s why the Add page isn’t given more prominence. Of course, that won’t always be possible, so you should be able to add events, and I’ll be making it easier to do so. Thanks!

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