My love-hate relationship with Connect2Edmonton: Twitter & FriendFeed to the rescue?

connect2edmonton Connect2Edmonton (C2E for short) is a community website serving Edmontonians that launched on March 30th, 2006. On March 4th of this year it surpassed 3000 registrations, and announced that it receives 45,000 unique visitors per month. Those are pretty good numbers for a website all about Alberta’s capital city!

You can find all sorts of great stuff on the forums at C2E. Users post about construction projects, sports, new restaurants, you name it. Sometimes they simply post links to articles from the Journal or the Sun, other times users are breaking news at C2E. The wealth of frequently updated information on Edmonton is the main reason I love C2E.

Here’s what I hate about it: C2E looks and feels and smells like it was built in 1996. There are quite a few “Web 1.0” aspects to the site, such as the old school message boards, the lack of permalinks, and the horribly ugly URLs for the pages that do have permalinks. Instead of blogs, they have “columns”. Thank goodness the site has RSS, or I’d probably never use it.

For the moment, C2E seems to have an edge in that it has the community. I wonder how long that will last though? There are so many other up-and-coming services that could easily make C2E nothing more than a fond memory. Here’s a couple of examples that I’m involved with:

Edmonton’s Twitter Community
I still think that Twitter is changing the world, one tweet at a time. It’s transforming the way news breaks, and is making real-time conversations extremely public. Here in Edmonton we have a really strong Twitter community. We’ve had a Tweetupfollow us here – and we’ve loosely organized ourselves with things like the #yeg hashtag. Imagine if C2E users posted to Twitter with the #yeg hashtag instead of to the C2E forums! Others could reply without needing an account, they could get notifications to their mobile devices, through the API to other applications, etc.

The Edmonton Room at FriendFeed
Another thing I’ve created recently is the Edmonton room at FriendFeed. Anyone can join and start sharing messages, links, and of course comments and likes. And thanks to a recently added feature, I can add RSS feeds to the room so that entries automatically appear. So far I’ve added the Edmonton Journal and a couple of filtered blog feeds (such as the Edmonton tag on my blog). Again, this goes beyond C2E – instead of finding the Journal article and posting it to the forums, they automatically appear in the Edmonton room, ready for commenting and sharing. (I suppose I could add the C2E feed, but that’s beside the point.)

What both of these examples highlight, more than the “Web 1.0” look of C2E, is that it’s still a relatively closed system. Twitter and even FriendFeed are both much more open systems. They encourage data to be shared freely, and as a result, they are the platforms on which the news engines of the future are being built. Want an example? Check out NewsJunk.

I’m not saying that we need to abandon Connect2Edmonton. Instead, C2E should embrace Twitter, FriendFeed, and other services to make itself more open. C2E is a great service for the Edmonton community, but I know it could be so much better.

UPDATE (6/27/2008): I just tried to add the C2E RSS feed for Columns to the Edmonton FriendFeed room, only to find that the feed lacks datestamps, lacks authors, includes entries in a random order, and is otherwise useless. EPIC FAIL.

11 thoughts on “My love-hate relationship with Connect2Edmonton: Twitter & FriendFeed to the rescue?

  1. I don’t like playing devils advocate… BUT…

    “Here’s what I hate about it: C2E looks and feels and smells like it was built in 1996. There are quite a few “Web 1.0″ aspects to the site, such as the old school message boards, the lack of permalinks, and the horribly ugly URLs for the pages that do have permalinks. Instead of blogs, they have “columns”. Thank goodness the site has RSS, or I’d probably never use it.”

    So, we have
    – looks and feels like 1996
    – old school (read: simple) message boards
    – lack of permalinks
    – ugly URLS
    – Blogs being called Columns and not Blogs

    1996
    Looks somewhat ‘web 2.0’ to me. We have gradient backgrounds, rounded corners, search boxes, etc, etc. Ticked quite a few of the web 2.0 boxes. Sure, no fancy AJAX or anything, but that adds a lot of development costs and quite often little to the actual site.

    Simple Message Boards
    Think about the target audience: normal Edmontontians. They use vBulletin to power their forums; quite possibly the most widely implemented forum software on the web, for a reason. It does well on the fine line between ease of use and powerful features. Things are where people expect them to be. Considering the target audience, I’d say vB is a sound choice.

    Permalinks
    Not sure which lack of them you’re talking about – I see permalinks for their Column posts and Forum posts.
    The URLs are ugly, sure, but to the average person, does it matter? Does it even make a difference to you using the site?
    The only reason I put much effort into my URLs is SEO purposes.

    Blogs/Columns
    Same as the forum software. It’s trying to use terms that ordinary people are used to. Is it a good idea in todays day and age where a lot more people know what a Blog is? Probably is for a site like this. More people can relate with the word Column than Blog.

    C2E was never designed to be a ‘platform’. It has a fairly simple mandate and until things like Twitter and FriendFeed become as popular with ORDINARY people, there’s no real need for them to integrate with a site like C2E. About the only exception to this would be a site like Facebook. Facebook is starting to reach the kind of market penetration with ordinary people that makes it worth looking into. A lot of my clients are starting to use Facebook on a daily basis (and they’re normal people). I’m willing to put money on none of them having even heard of Twitter.

    “Add web 2.0 / AJAX / APIs / Twitter” is not the answer for most sites/situations, as much as the ‘web 2.0’ community would like it to be.

  2. Rob, I think you *do* like playing Devil’s Advocate! heh

    Okay so you caught me wishing for something that I think is better – Web 2.0 / AJAX / APIs / Twitter – is that so bad?

    I realize that C2E was never designed to be a platform, and I’m not suggesting it should become one. I’m simply suggesting that it make the experience for its users a better one, by leveraging some other platforms.

  3. Great post Mack.. and totally with you on this one. The Edmonton room in Friendfeed is also coming together quite nicely and is an example of what I’d like to do with my rooms, including the Vancouver room. Good stuff!

  4. Hey Mack,

    I really like that you seem to be pretty pro-active in this community and genuinely like your city. In realizing this, we are all on the same side and we all just want to make Edmonton a great place.

    Yes C2E is not a platform and does not have a lot of new tools available to it, but the focus has always been to foster community and to build a place where the average Edmontonian can speak and be heard by decision makers (ie. city hall or a journalist who writes for a major paper). C2E is a volunteer run organization and has the constraints of time/budget of one. Keep this in mind before giving up on the concept.

    The comparison to Nexopia (of all places… why there!? ugh) is pretty off base. Eric, I imagine that you haven’t read enough of one or the other to realize how different they are. That’s about as much as I can say about that.

    Mack, your suggestions have been noted by the way.

  5. Thanks for the comment Ceres. I noticed the thread about this post on C2E and saw that RichardS commented, and I see your comment there now too. Heh…sorry about the EPIC FAIL thing…that’s my favorite meme du jour I guess (check out http://failblog.org for some good laughs).

    Looking forward to a better RSS feed, and like you say, continuing to help make Edmonton a great place!

  6. No worries… I wasn’t really insulted, just trying to give as good as I got 😛

    Feel free to give suggestions when they come up in the suggestion forum. The web technology moves so fast that sometimes we just need to be made aware of bleeding edge stuff to add them to future plans.

  7. Ceres,

    I feel that the comparison to Nexopia was fair. Both sites are pretty dated in terms of design and usability. The difference between the two is that Nexopia has some more polished features while C2E has more quality content.

    I also wouldn’t bash Nexopia too much, it is extremely successful in it’s own right. Heck, I know several users who have over 111,000 posts themselves, which is the total posts ever for C2E.

  8. Well, the comparison is valid if you only look at the technology. The fact that Nexopia is ran by a for profit company that is dedicated to provide a service for what seems to be immature teens, in an almost non-moderated environment makes the comparison a stretch (in my opinion of course).

    I’m also sure you know that post counts aren’t everything.

    Needless to say not my cup of tea, but I guess we can just agree to disagree.

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