Getting wise about waste in Edmonton

We currently divert more than 52% of our waste from landfill here in Edmonton and the goal is to increase that to over 90%. That’s going to take multiple approaches and a lot of hard work. Recycling is key, so it’s great that more than 90% of Edmontonians currently use the blue bag recycling program, according to the City. But sometimes we put the wrong things in the bag! That’s where the City’s new app called WasteWise comes in.

WasteWise

A launch event with a friendly waste sorting competition was held on October 26 at City Hall and I was excited to participate along with Councillor Andrew Knack, former Oiler Andrew Ference, and the kids from City Hall School. We each received a few bean bags with items on them and we had to determine whether that item should be recycled, taken to an eco station, or put in the garbage. We could guess, use the poster, use the app, or ask the audience for help. We got one point for getting that right, plus another point for tossing the bean bag through the right hole. It was more challenging than it sounds!

Edmonton WasteWise

You can see some video highlights from the event at the Journal. Somehow I managed to win the competition, even though I made a big mistake!

Edmonton WasteWise

My mistake was apparently a common one among Edmontonians. One of the items I got was shredded paper, and I thought “aha! paper! surely that’s recycle!” Needless to say I got no points for that incorrect guess. Unlike sheets of paper or newspapers, shredded paper should be put into the garbage because “it clogs machinery at the recycling sorting plant, causing damage and plant shutdowns.” Because it is already shredded, it composts well. So, it was an educational event!

Some other commonly mistaken items include pizza boxes (they go in the recycle, even if a bit greasy), compact discs (CDs go in the garbage, or to the Reuse Centre), and plastic shopping bags (they get recycled too). If it has a cord, it should generally be taken to the Eco Station. You can challenge yourself by playing the WasteWise game What Goes Where?

WasteWise App

The new WasteWise app is powered by a service called ReCollect. Other municipalities in Canada have gone with the same system, including Vancouver, Victoria, and Ottawa. The City was happy to point out that using an off-the-shelf tool was cheaper than building a brand new app, not to mention they get to take advantage of having the kinks largely worked out by others. In addition to being able to quickly look up whether an item should go in the garbage, recycle, or to the Eco Station, you can also get reminders about your waste collection day.

As of this week, the app has been downloaded more than 6,000 times and users have searched more than 67,000 times! The most commonly searched items are pizza boxes, styrofoam containers, and plastic containers. A little over half of app users have signed up to receive reminders.

You can download the Edmonton WasteWise app for iOS or Android, or you can access it via the web widget.

WasteWise Open Data

In addition to making the new app available, the City has released all of the data that powers it via the open data catalogue! In particular you can access:

These datasets are all fairly new so we’ll have to see how developers take advantage of all that data. I think an augmented reality app would be cool – imagine just pointing your mobile phone’s camera at an item to have it recognize the item and tell you where it should go. Would make all those de-cluttering challenges that seem so popular lately a little more interesting!

You can learn more about the City’s waste management programs & services here.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #240

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

trump panel on CTV

And here is some slightly less 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.

This week’s update was brought to you by Taproot Edmonton, a source of curiosity-driven stories about our city, cultivated by the community. Become a member today to help us publish great stories about Edmonton.

Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 34

Edmonton’s 34th DemoCamp took place at the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences (CCIS) on the University of Alberta campus on January 24. It’s always a great opportunity to see what others in the local tech scene are up to. Here is my recap of DemoCamp Edmonton 33 from back in November.

DemoCamp Edmonton 34

If you’re new to DemoCamp, here’s what it’s all about:

“DemoCamp brings together developers, creatives, entrepreneurs and investors to share what they’ve been working on and to find others in the community interested in similar topics. For presenters, it’s a great way to get feedback on what you’re building from peers and the community, all in an informal setting. Started back in 2008, DemoCamp Edmonton has steadily grown into one of the largest in the country, with over 200 people attending each event. The rules for DemoCamp are simple: 7 minutes to demo real, working products, followed by a few minutes for questions, and no slides allowed.”

In order of appearance, the demos included:

The demo gremlins were alive and well that night! Many of the demos had technical issues or were otherwise unable to fully show off everything they wanted to. Still, we were treated to everything from a new platform for lawyers to an improvising robot. Very cool to see such variety!

First up was Scope AR, no stranger to DemoCamp – they started at Startup Edmonton about five years ago! WorkLink is one of their products and it can be used for interactive user manuals, among other things. Need to fix your sink? In the future you might have a Scope AR-powered guide to help you through the process, with digital overlays on exactly the parts you need to touch. They also showed off Remote AR, which they described as “kind of like FaceTime with annotations on the world.”

Next up was Get Rich Interactive, an intriguing new approach to digital storytelling. It focuses on the world of Wolfgang and Hayes, and you’re invited to explore their house, look at their stuff, and have some fun along the way. It’s part web comic, part interactive world, and part animated series. Gaian has been working on it for a couple years now and plans to continue growing the world with new storytelling elements.

Our third demo was UUORKBOOK, a platform for jobs, candidates, and the hiring process. Miguel has combined some elements of LinkedIn with some additional tools for recruiters to make scheduling easier and to conduct remote video interviews. Built using Angular JS, Laravel, and NodeJS, the product has been in development for about a year.

DemoCamp Edmonton 34

Next up was Reveal a makeover, an open source CSS and JavaScript library for reveal.js. Arjun started using reveal.js, which is a framework for building interactive slide decks, and quickly found he wanted themes. So, he came up with a solution! Makeover is a tool for developers and designers to make and take themes for reveal.js.

Amir is also no stranger to Startup Edmonton as deacloser was one of the participating companies at Launch Party 7. “dealcloser is an online platform designed to modernize the art of the deal, bringing to the future the archaic, paper-based process used ubiquitously by law firms around the world.” The goal is to streamline 40-50% of the deal process, and they’re getting ready for a real-world pilot this month.

Our final demo was A.I. Improv, Kory’s attempt to build an improvising robot. He’s a PhD student in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Alberta, so I’m not going to do the science behind the robot justice, but know that it’s legit. Kory combined neural networks trained on the Open Subtitles dataset with a general purpose Blueberry robot to come up with his solution. He joked that his goal is to one day have two robotic improvisors performing for a room full of robots.

DemoCamp Edmonton 34
Kory Mathewson demos his improv robot

Some upcoming events to note:

  • Preflight Beta is coming up on February 14. Preflight helps “founders and product builders experiment and validate a scalable product idea.” Applications are now being accepted.
  • Founders & Funders is coming up on February 23 at Startup Edmonton. Tickets are $20.
  • The next Monthly Hack Day is taking place on Saturday, March 4 at Startup Edmonton. It’s a great way to get in the habit of building.
  • There are meetups almost every night at Startup Edmonton, check the calendar here.

If you’re interested in demoing at a future DemoCamp, you can apply here. The next event is scheduled for Tuesday, March 7.

See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 35!

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #239

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

  • Stuart Thomson wrote about how an increasing number of press secretaries at the Legislature used to be journalists. “The path from journalism to politics is a well-worn one,” he notes. His colleague Graham Thomson argues that the real issue isn’t that they are switching sides, it’s “that the number of journalists is shrinking” and that is a problem for “the health of democracy.”
  • “After three years and 167 missions, Gastropost is saying goodbye.” The Journal’s experiment in creating a food community shared it’s final mission today, appropriately called The Last Bite.
  • Meanwhile, Capital Ideas announced a couple weeks ago that Karen Unland is back as host and “she is looking forward to shining a light on insights from Edmonton’s entrepreneurs again.”
  • A FOIP request by Postmedia has led to a change at city hall: “Starting this spring, city officials said they will start publicly posting all email memorandums sent between city administration and council members.” The first release is expected March 3.
  • Mark Iype, Paula Simons, Marion Warnica, Jason Markusoff, and Josh Greschner are speaking next week at Words Matter: Journalism’s Role in the 21st Century, put on by the Peter Lougheed Leadership College at the University of Alberta.
  • The next CPRS event features Sharon MacLean talking about “ideas to Navigate the Media Aftershock.” The event takes place on February 24 at The Westin.
  • Jason Gregor wrote a birthday profile of John Short, a “long-time Edmonton radio personality and all-around sports guru.”
  • Cam Tait wishes long-time Corus account executive Brian Wilkes a happy retirement. “Brian’s start in radio began in the late 1980s when he joined the sales staff of 930 CJCA and K-97.”
  • Episode 59 of the Seen and Heard in Edmonton podcast features Tyler Butler, “the always-learning digital marketing strategist and musician who explores social media on the new podcast Don’t Call Me A Guru.”
  • If you can believe it, Postmedia is looking for a Reporter to join the Edmonton newsroom. The deadline to apply is February 17.
  • From Honey & Betts, here are the top local bloggers, social media influencers, and photographers you need to follow on Instagram.

Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo, photo by Adam Bowie

And here is some slightly less 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 February 5, 2017

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Edmonton Winter
Edmonton Winter, photo by IQRemix

Upcoming Events

0W9A9947
Ice Castles, photo by Bo Lu

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #238

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

Women's March on Washington - Edmonton Solidary Event
Women’s March on Washington – Edmonton Solidary Event, photo by Paula Kirman

And here is some slightly less 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.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #237

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

Downtown Fog
How about that fog on the weekend!

And here is some slightly less 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 January 22, 2017

Hoar frost and fog made for a very beautiful winter weekend here in Edmonton (minus the collisions I guess). I hope you had some time to enjoy it. Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Frozen Raspberries
Frozen Raspberries, photo by Dave Sutherland

Upcoming Events

Ice Castles Edmonton
Ice Castles Edmonton

DemoCamp Edmonton 34 – January 24, 2017

Edmonton’s 34th DemoCamp is coming up on Tuesday, January 24, 2017. DemoCamp is a great way to see what local entrepreneurs have been working on and to network with developers, creatives, and investors in Edmonton’s local tech scene. The rules for DemoCamp are simple: 7 minutes to demo real, working products, followed by a few minutes for questions, and no slides allowed.

DemoCamp Edmonton 14

DemoCamp Edmonton 34
WHEN: Tuesday, January 24 at 6:30pm
WHERE: CCIS 1-140, University of Albertamap
RSVP

Here’s a sneak peek at the line-up for Tuesday’s event (subject to change):

Augmented reality, an improvisation bot, and a platform for closing deals are just a few of the things you can expect to see in action. Should be a fun night! Experienced DemoCampers will know the event takes place in two parts – demos and networking. After the demos are finished at CCIS, join the crowd over at RATT (Room At The Top) on the 7th floor of the Students Union Building, to keep the conversation going.

To get a sense of what to expect, check out my recaps of previous DemoCamps here. If you can’t make it in person, you can follow along on Twitter with the #democampyeg hashtag or on Snapchat by following StartupEdmonton.

DemoCamp is just one of the many events organized by Startup Edmonton, an entrepreneurial campus and community hub. You can learn more in this video:

See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 34!

Taproot Edmonton: An update to kickoff 2017

Happy New Year! Time for an update on where we’re at with Taproot Edmonton and our quest to build a sustainable future for local journalism in Edmonton and beyond.

Taproot Edmonton at Launch Party 7
Photo by Ampersand Grey

We’re closing in on eight months since we announced Taproot. We started with just an idea. We shared it and received valuable feedback. We refined the idea and made predictions about how to make it real. We started prototyping and learned what worked and what needed work. Then we launched and began iterating. Now we’re looking to grow. And on that note, we’re thrilled to start the year as an official entity: Taproot Publishing Inc.!

Getting to this point has been both challenging and rewarding! We’re grateful to everyone who has supported us along the way.

Growing our membership

Taproot members are our primary source of funding and curiosity, both of which are critical for great local stories to get published. We are approaching 100 members – big thanks to all of you! We’re committed to delivering an increasing amount of value to you in the year ahead, and we’re thrilled to have you along for the ride.

If you’d like to support us and share your own curiosity, becoming a member is quick and costs just $100/year or $10/month.

Publishing new stories

Thanks to the curiosity of our members and the hard work of our storytellers (who are also members), we have now published four stories and are preparing to publish our next before the end of the month.

Our November story was a rumination on what Edmontonians can do to make streets safer for those on foot. How to stop discounting pedestrian deaths was a collaborative effort between Karen, Jeff, Stephanie, and myself. We learned a lot through the production of that story and were happy with the response it received.

Our December story was a follow-up piece, taking into account some of the feedback and discussion that happened in the comments and on social media. Stephanie wrote about how a family longs for Vision Zero to live up to its promise. We were really happy to be able to share that important perspective.

We’ve got a bunch of stories in the hopper and we’re applying the lessons learned through publishing our first four to ensure we can ramp up our publication frequency. There’s certainly no shortage of great questions from our members that we’d like to explore!

Sharing our own story

Just after I posted my last update in October we participated in Startup Edmonton’s Launch Party 7. That was a great opportunity for us to refine our message and to tell our story to a whole new group of people. We spent the entire evening talking to curious people about Taproot and what we’re up to. It was great to hear encouragement, feedback, and constructive criticism.

Taproot Edmonton at Launch Party 7
Photo by Ampersand Grey

In November I travelled to Chicago for a holiday and while there attended the People-Powered Publishing Conference. The event took place just two days after the U.S. Presidential Election, which made for some interesting discussions about journalism. It was a great opportunity to share some of the journalistic innovation that is happening up here in Canada.

We have received quite a bit of media attention so far, which we’re happy about! To highlight just two, we were featured on journalism.co.uk which gave us great exposure abroad, and Karen spent some time talking about Taproot on Edmonton AM. We have started collecting all of the links on our website at Taproot in the News.

Ongoing curiosity

We have been thinking a lot about how we can better serve our members and play a bigger role in the future of local journalism. Our current approach works well for exploring some of the questions our members have asked, but as we found through working on the pedestrian deaths story, some questions are perhaps best explored over time. This requires a different, additional approach.

Here’s what Karen said in an interview with Story Board:

“How do you make it possible for somebody to follow an issue so closely that they can see stories that other people wouldn’t, that they have sources that other people don’t, that they can go deeper than someone just parachuting into an issue can?” she says. “I think that is probably, journalistically, one of the biggest things that we’ve got to figure out a way to fund.”

We think there’s a real opportunity to tackle this challenge together with our members and we’ve started sharing some ideas with them. Stay tuned!

Sustainable local journalism

Exactly a year ago I was writing about the merger of the Journal & Sun newsrooms, a change that resulted in more than 30 people losing their jobs. We’ve seen more people either leave or be let go since then and I don’t think the end is in sight yet, to say nothing of the downsizing that has taken place at other local media organizations.

The business model that used to support local journalism is broken. The newspaper you used to know isn’t coming back. We are working to replace what is being lost with something that is sustainable and responsive to the community we serve.

How you can help

Want to help us grow Taproot Edmonton? Become a member. You’ll get access to the Story Garden where you can share your curiosity with us, you’ll get our weekly members-only newsletter, and you’ll be first in line to receive new benefits and take advantage of new products as we build them out. Your support will help us ensure that quality local journalism has a future in Edmonton.

If you’re not quite ready to become a member, then we’d love the opportunity to earn your support. Join our free mailing list to keep up-to-date on new stories and products. Invite us to speak at your meeting or event – we’d be happy to talk about media, journalism, and our vision. Or join us for coffee if that’s more your style. If you’d prefer to stay online, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Medium. Of course, you can always send us an email too.