Exploring Calgary’s East Village

Sharon and I spent most of the long weekend down in Calgary, enjoying the beautiful weather and trying a bunch of new restaurants. A trip to our southern neighbour to eat has nearly become an annual tradition for us. This time we visited Cluck n Cleaver, Charbar, Shiki Menya, Pigeonhole, and returned to our favorite, Blue Star Diner. It was a great weekend!

Our visit to Charbar also gave us an excuse to explore the East Village once again, an area we last spent some time in back in 2014.

East Village

The East Village ARP notes that redevelopment of the area has “been a long-standing objective of the City of Calgary” and that the General Municipal Plan of 1979 encouraged residential development. From the ARP, here is the vision statement for the East Village:

“East Village will become a vibrant, humanly scaled and sustainable high density downtown neighborhood that respects and enhances its historical, physical and social context and reinforces a high quality of life for its diverse residents.”

The East Village area is 49 acres between Fort Calgary and the downtown and is where Calgary was founded. As development intensified elsewhere, the area was neglected for many years. But not anymore:

“Fast forward to today. East Village is in the midst of an exciting transformation. Since 2007, CMLC’s commitment of $357 million into infrastructure and development programs has so far attracted $2.4 billion of planned development expected to deliver $725 million of Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) for the City of Calgary, our sole shareholder. As developers and retailers have come to see the value of the East Village transformation, our available inventory of land has been snapped up. Today, just three parcels remain.”

You can see the current East Village ARP in PDF here. The City of Calgary is currently in the process of updating the East Village ARP, first approved in 2001 and last updated in 2010. That process has been underway for a couple of years now and is expected to wrap up later this year, with the draft available for public review this spring.

East Village

We made the ten minute walk to the East Village from our downtown hotel. We entered via 7 Avenue SE which meant that Celebration Square, or CSquare, was one of the first things we saw. It is meant to “provide a mid-day sunshine break to folks in nearby offices or residents returning home from downtown” and features a curved wooden bench, a small stage, and a striking design. “The Veil’s architectural baffles animate the movement of passing trains,” the website says.

National Music Centre

This is the year of music in Calgary as they are hosting the Juno Awards this weekend. Later this year, the brand new National Music Centre will open in the East Village. Just a short walk up from CSquare, you can’t miss the NMC’s unique look. Construction on the project began in 2013:

“Designed by Allied Works Architects of Portland, Oregon, NMC is imagined as a living instrument, a destination and a new kind of cultural institution. The 160,000 square foot, $168 million project is being built around the historic King Edward Hotel – Calgary’s legendary home of the blues – and straddles 4th Avenue SE via an overhead passageway that leads to another vast building.”

A little further away we came across one of the community gardens that has been established in the East Village. Living in the East Village right now would be exciting with all of the changes taking place, but it will be a few more years before the urban village vision is realized.

East Village is Growing

For instance, a grocery store is yet to appear, but one is coming. “The dream team of RioCan Investment Trust and Embassy BOSA are partnering to develop two new residential towers at 6 Avenue and 3 Street SE which will be anchored by a full-sized Loblaws store, as well as other retail tenants.”

Simmons Building

We were perhaps most looking forward to checking out the redeveloped Simmons Building, which just opened last summer and now features Charbar, Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters, and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery. Restoration efforts began in 2008 on the historic building:

“Formerly a factory warehouse for a national bedding manufacturer, the Simmons Building snoozed beside the Bow River for decades before CMLC took up the restoration challenge. The occupancy of the Simmons Building by three local food and beverage champions puts in place an important piece of CMLC’s retail strategy for East Village, which calls for approximately 100,000 sq ft of Village Format retail – a ‘boutique’ style of retail that tends to be more intimate and service-oriented than Urban Format retail, which in East Village will add up to about 300,000 sq ft and include such categories as grocery, home improvement and general merchandise.”

On a Friday night, the building was busy, and it just so happened that Edmonton’s own Poppy Barley was hosting a pop-up in the building that weekend! The bike racks were well-used and there were lots of people out enjoying the plaza.

Sunny Snow

Inside the building, we had a great meal at Charbar! Our favorite dish was probably the picante dry-cured chorizo, served with pickled vegetables, but the entire meal was delicious.


The inside of the building reminded me a lot of the Mercer Warehouse, with the exposed brick, beautiful wooden beams, and hardwood floors. With a Phil & Sebastian’s I could definitely see myself hanging out in the building frequently.

Simmons Building

The Simmons Building is located right along the RiverWalk Plaza, part of a beautiful pathway that runs along the river and connects to Calgary’s larger pathway system. Before dinner, we walked along it and made our way to St. Patrick’s Bridge which has been nicknamed the “skipping stone” bridge. It was under construction the last time we had seen it.

East Village

The bridge connects to St. Patrick’s Island which is described as “a beautifully revitalized 31-acre backyard.” Among its many features is Bloom, a public art installation on the west side near the bridge.


Our short walk back into downtown after dinner offered a great view of the colorfully lit Calgary Tower. It was a great evening in the East Village! We’ll definitely be back to see more of the area’s evolution.

Calgary Tower

You can see more photos from our trip to Calgary here.

State of the Calgary Twittersphere – Hashtags & Links

This is the third part in my State of the Calgary Twittersphere for 2012 – you can read the overview post here. As we saw in that entry, local users posted more than 5 million tweets containing links. They also posted about 5 million tweets containing hashtags. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly they tweeted about in 2012.

It’s difficult to extract a lot value out of links because everything is trapped behind the t.co wrapper, but I did want to highlight the time of day that links seem to be posted. Recall that the hourly peak for tweet volume in general comes at around 9 PM, whereas for tweets containing links the peak is 11 AM.

Local users used about 1.1 million different hashtags in 2012. Hashtags ranged in length from 1 character to 139, excluding the hash, and they were used for just about every purpose you can think of. The average hashtag length was 14 characters.

Here are the top 25 hashtags used by local users in 2012:

  1. #yyc
  2. #calgary
  3. #abvote
  4. #jobs
  5. #flames
  6. #ableg
  7. #ff
  8. #cdnpoli
  9. #porn
  10. #xxx
  11. #yeg
  12. #job
  13. #stampede100
  14. #wrp
  15. #rent
  16. #yyccc
  17. #win
  18. #oilrigjobs
  19. #nhl
  20. #love
  21. #yycre
  22. #cfl
  23. #canada
  24. #sceneyyc
  25. #giveaway

Here’s a visualization of the top 100 hashtags excluding #yyc:

The most popular hashtag of all is still #yyc, followed by #calgary (#yyc is about 6 times more popular than #calgary). In total, #yyc was used about 600,000 times by local users which works out to 11.9% of all local tweets containing hashtags.

Though not as prevalent in the top 100, local users did use #yyc-related hashtags quite frequently. In total, about 2500 different hashtags were used that start with #yyc. A little more than half of those were used just once, and just 22 were used 1000 times or more.

Here are the top 25 #yyc-related hashtags:

  1. #yyccc
  2. #yycre
  3. #yycbike
  4. #yyccentre
  5. #yyctraffic
  6. #yycfood
  7. #yycarts
  8. #yyctransit
  9. #yycbe
  10. #yycplan
  11. #yycfoodtrucks
  12. #yycscan
  13. #yycjobs
  14. #yycmusic
  15. #yycse
  16. #yycweather
  17. #yycsocent
  18. #yycpkn
  19. #yyceats
  20. #yycfashion
  21. #yycsw
  22. #yycnw
  23. #yyccrime
  24. #yycfilm
  25. #yycklein

Here’s a visualization of the top 100 #yyc-related hashtags:

This entry brings my 2012 report to a close. I hope you found it useful – thanks for reading!

2012 in Review

  1. Overview
  2. Users & Clients
  3. Hashtags & Links

State of the Calgary Twittersphere 2012 – Users & Clients

This is the second part in my State of the Calgary Twittersphere for 2012 – you can read the overview post here. As we saw in that entry, more than 105,000 local users posted at least one tweet in 2012. Let’s take a closer look at users and the tools they used to post tweets.

While a large number of users posted at least one tweet throughout the year, there are fewer users who post something in any given month. Keeping in mind that November is underrepresented in this chart, we can see that October had the most active users at nearly 60,000, and the trend is very clearly going up.

There are a small number of really active users, and a much larger number of less active users. In 2012, the top 100 most active users accounted for about 1.7 million or 9.0% of all local tweets.

Here are the 25 most active users:

  1. izzynobre
  2. GeekyLyndsay
  3. twiggy_hot
  4. xoTalim
  5. GeneralTekno
  6. BradWardLive
  7. SarahMcGuireJB
  8. WestJet
  9. TK0N
  10. dead__last
  11. CameraguyRob
  12. longdoglover
  13. RebTheCatSitter
  14. MusicMunchkin
  15. misskatsuragi
  16. a_picazo
  17. YorchCalgarian
  18. annemaccat
  19. TonyCosens
  20. lisawest99
  21. Paradise5551
  22. Wavefronttech
  23. candacemountain
  24. monaSinging
  25. PrimeBane

Here are the 5 most active bots or automated feeds:

  1. Remodelit_RADIO
  2. CalgaryBizcaf
  3. econewsbits
  4. HeraldHeadlines
  5. righelp

Combined, the top 30 users accounted for about 5.1% of all local tweets.

Here are the 25 most active users using #yyc:

  1. annemaccat
  2. ciawesome
  3. CTVCalgary
  4. CalgaryCommute
  5. metrocalgary
  6. calgaryherald
  7. BikeBikeYYC
  8. redgypsee
  9. OpenFileCGY
  10. 660NewsTraffic
  11. CTVMorningYYC
  12. ireneerutema
  13. markusoff
  14. LisaOstrikoff
  15. CalgaryREMAX
  16. 660News
  17. cityofcalgary
  18. knoppolis
  19. GlobalCalgary
  20. daxjustin
  21. collenbe
  22. LoGoDNB
  23. zoeywrites
  24. kahanelaw
  25. VogueCalgary

Here are the 5 most active bots or automated feeds using #yyc:

  1. CgyCa
  2. DailyDealsCGY
  3. mk_it_solutions
  4. Calgary_News
  5. BestDealCalgary

The top 100 most active users using #yyc and related tags accounted for less than 1.0% of all local tweets, and 24.8% of all #yyc-tagged tweets.

Here are the 25 most replied to users (by other local users):

  1. nenshi
  2. calgarytransit
  3. X929
  4. Fan960Steinberg
  5. antipretty_yyc
  6. lonnietaylor
  7. NHLFlames
  8. Eves1
  9. danellew
  10. Diegirl
  11. lubeyisms
  12. annemaccat
  13. maniacalmom
  14. CassieNeil
  15. DarciBrianne
  16. MisterYYC
  17. myownbiggestfan
  18. dinnerwithjulie
  19. buzzbishop
  20. WestJet
  21. WeebDaCat
  22. lisawest99
  23. doglover100
  24. redgypsee
  25. fan960walker

Those 25 users accounted for 7.2% of all local replies. The top 100 most replied to local users accounted for 1.5% of all local tweets and 15.2% of all local replies.

I think the retweet is one of the most valuable metrics on Twitter. Anyone can post a lot, or gain a lot of followers, but to get retweeted by lots of other people you need to be useful/interesting/funny/inspiring/etc.

Here are the 25 most retweeted non-individual users:

  1. calgaryherald
  2. CBCCalgary
  3. CTVCalgary
  4. metrocalgary
  5. cityofcalgary
  6. NHLFlames
  7. 660News
  8. GlobalCalgary
  9. AvenueMagazine
  10. ciawesome
  11. calgarysun
  12. calstampeders
  13. calgarytransit
  14. CalgaryPoker
  15. X929
  16. WestJet
  17. VolunteerCal
  18. calgarypolice
  19. calgarystampede
  20. downtowncalgary
  21. OpenFileCGY
  22. CTVMorningYYC
  23. calgary
  24. Calgary_News
  25. BikeBikeYYC

Here are the 25 most retweeted individual users:

  1. nenshi
  2. markusoff
  3. buzzbishop
  4. mikesbloggity
  5. ericfrancis
  6. DonBraid
  7. MisterYYC
  8. lonnietaylor
  9. Crackmacs
  10. dansgoodside
  11. LisaOstrikoff
  12. dinnerwithjulie
  13. TheoFleury14
  14. codyincalgary
  15. espyexperience
  16. ctvtoddgallant
  17. Fan960Steinberg
  18. sunrickbell
  19. CoryBMorgan
  20. paul_dunphy
  21. daxjustin
  22. socialgrrrl
  23. jayemkayem
  24. theturner
  25. a_picazo

A total of 44 users were retweeted by other local users 1000 times or more. Just 5 users were retweeted more than 5000 times, and @nenshi was the only individual in that group. Just @calgaryherald was retweeted more than 10,000 times.

I did not keep track of the most followed users this year, primarily because the information is readily available elsewhere. If you want to know who the most followed users in Calgary are, check out Twopcharts.


More than 4200 different applications and services were used to post tweets in 2012. For the first time since I have been tracking stats, the web is no longer the top dog! Here are the top ten:

  1. Twitter for iPhone
  2. web
  3. Twitter for BlackBerry®
  4. Twitter for Android
  5. TweetDeck
  6. HootSuite
  7. Instagram
  8. Facebook
  9. Tweet Button
  10. Echofon

The top ten clients accounted for 81.1% of all local tweets posted in 2012.

Coming Up

  1. Overview
  2. Users & Clients
  3. Hashtags & Links

State of the Calgary Twittersphere 2012 – Overview

Welcome to the State of the Calgary Twittersphere for 2012, my look at the intersection of Twitter and Calgary in 2012. While I have kept up with the stats for Edmonton, I haven’t posted anything about Calgary since my last monthly post way back in September of 2010. That post looked at the statistics for July 2010, when just 10,500 local users posted a tweet. Twitter has grown significantly since then, and so has the community in Calgary.

I’ve done my best to ensure all of the data in this report is accurate, but I make no guarantees – use it at your own risk. The data comes from the Twitter API, and was collected over the course of 2012. If a user has his or her location set to Calgary, Airdrie, Okotoks, Cochrane, Strathmore, or matching lat/long coordinates, they are considered a Calgarian, and thus a “local” user.

Please treat the numbers in this report as a minimum. There are instances where I wasn’t able to capture all of the data, and there are certainly users here in Calgary who do not match the above definition of a “local user”. More important than the raw numbers themselves are the trends, and that’s why in many cases I have presented rounded rather than exact figures. You can click on any graph to see a larger version.

Here are the highlights for 2012:

  • More than 105,000 local users posted at least one tweet.
  • More than 19 million tweets were posted by local users, which works out to 36.6 tweets per minute.
  • Here’s a breakdown of those tweets:
    • Nearly 700,000 tweets were tagged #yyc (3.6%)
    • Just over 900,000 tweets were retweets (4.7%)
    • Almost 7 million tweets were replies (35.5%)
    • Almost 2 million tweets were replies to other local users (9.9%)
    • More than 5 million tweets contained links (26.2%)
    • More than 5.1 million tweets contained hashtags (26.6%)
    • More than 400,000 tweets were twooshes (a twoosh is exactly 140 characters) (2.3%)

When the year started, Calgarians were posting about 1.5 million tweets per month. That number remained relatively constant throughout the year, though there was a big jump in October to more than 1.8 million (and November appears lower than it should in this report due to issues with the data collection).

Roughly 47.8% of all local tweets in 2012 were posted between the hours of 9 AM and 6 PM. The fewest tweets were posted at about 4 AM, and there’s a visible spike in volume at around 9 PM.

Looking at days of the week, it turns out that Tuesday and Wednesday saw the most tweets posted, with Monday having the fewest (though there isn’t much of a difference compared to the rest of the week).

Though I have been recording stats for Calgary since 2009, I haven’t looked at the data in quite some time, so this was an interesting exercise. Comparing the data to last year’s report for Edmonton (and this year’s, which will be posted soon) gives you a sense of how much Twitter usage in Calgary has grown.

Coming Up

I have decided to break this report into sections to make it easier to produce and consume. This entry provided an overview, and upcoming entries will focus on different aspects of Twitter usage in Calgary:

  1. Overview
  2. Users & Clients
  3. Hashtags & Links

Thanks for reading!

2012 Alberta Election: Social Media Highlights

I don’t think there’s any doubt that social media played a significant role in this year’s provincial election. From witty tweets to conversation-shifting blog posts and everything in between, there’s no shortage of social media highlights to look back on. In an effort to capture how social media impacted the election, I have been tracking some of the most popular and memorable blog posts, photos, tweets, videos, and links.

Very early on, Danielle Smith’s campaign bus was the talk of Twitter for its unfortunate wheel placement. It attracted so much attention that even Jay Leno joked about it! The Wildrose quickly fixed the bus, sharing a new photo on Facebook that was liked nearly 800 times with more than 220 comments.


Social media proved to be an effective tool for the mainstream media to share their stuff throughout the election. For example, CBC’s Vote Compass was shared more than 5300 times on Facebook and more than 870 times on Twitter. Over 115,000 responses were completed.

On March 30, PC staffer Amanda Wilkie (@wikwikkie) posted a tweet questioning Danielle Smith’s lack of children. There was an immediate backlash which forced Wilkie to apologize and delete the tweet. Smith released a statement explaining that she and her husband had tried to have kids with the aid of fertility treatments, and Alison Redford released a statement announcing that Wilkie had resigned. The two leaders spoke on the phone and vowed to move on.

Smith’s tweet was retweeted more than 100 times.

On April Fools Day, the Wildrose issued a news release saying that if elected, the party would pursue a merger with Saskatchewan to form a new province known as Saskberta. It was shared on Facebook more than 2100 times and on Twitter more than 360 times. The Wildrose tweet itself was retweeted more than 140 times:

Candidates first felt the power of blogs on April 2, when Kathleen Smith (@KikkiPlanet) posted her widely-read piece entitled Pruned Bush: Confessions of a Wilted Rose. An impassioned and well-written post, it racked up more than 1400 likes on Facebook, more than 330 tweets, and 136 comments. More than that, it brought “Conscience Rights” into the spotlight.

Kathleen’s post even attracted an angry response from a Wildrose supporter. Paula Simons has a good recap of the whole story, so check it out.

Just two days later, Dave Cournoyer (@davecournoyer) posted an even more popular blog post. His entry titled thorny candidates could be the wildrose party’s biggest liability attracted more than 4700 likes on Facebook, more than 600 tweets, and 150 comments. Though we didn’t know it at the time, Dave’s post would be cited countless times over the next few weeks as Wildrose candidates made gaffe after gaffe. Even his follow-up post on April 16 attracted more than 600 likes, more than 70 tweets, and 75 comments.

The next day on April 5, Dave Cournoyer noticed that a Twitter account named @PremierDanielle had been created and was being followed by @ElectDanielle, Smith’s official account. While it only came to light during the election, it was actually created back on October 12, 2010.

I didn’t think there’d be many audio clips to note during the election, but on April 7 the Alberta Party launched its official campaign song, composed by JUNO winners Cindy Church and Sylvia Tyson. The page was shared on Facebook more than 100 times and on Twitter more than 40 times. The song itself, hosted on SoundCloud, has been played more than 3500 times.

It didn’t take long after Danielle Smith announced a $300 dividend for all Albertans for Sean Healy to launch Dani Dollars, a website that let users pledge their cash “to Wildrose Relief”. It was shared more than 280 times on Facebook, more than 130 times on Twitter, and attracted more than 170 pledges for a grand total of $51,600.

The leaders debate took place on April 12, and while it ended up being fairly boring (aside from Raj Sherman’s unintentionally comedic outbursts) there were a couple of highlights. One was Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor’s live blog, which was followed by more than 1700 people. It was shared more than 480 times on Facebook and more than 300 times on Twitter.

The debate also resulted in one of the most memorable tweets of the election, retweeted more than 340 times:


Edmonton Journal videographer Ryan Jackson posted a really unique video on April 13. By stitching together four different videos, Jackson made it appear as if you were sitting in a coffee shop with four of the party leaders. The video was shared more than 140 times on Facebook and more than 50 times on Twitter.

On April 14, a new Twitter account known as @Adamwyork posted a tweet about Wildrose candidate Allan Hunsperger. It linked to an old blog post that Hunsperger had written that contained the shocking statement that gays and lesbians would “suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire, hell.” You can see a screen capture of the post here. It wasn’t until April 26 that the person behind the tweet was identified. Turns out it was Blake Robert, better known online as @BRinYEG. Paula Simons’ post about the outing has already been shared more than 275 times on Facebook and more than 144 times on Twitter.

Though the original tweet was only retweeted 13 times, the impact it had on the election cannot be overstated.

On April 16, the domain name INeverThoughtIdVotePC.com was registered. A couple of days later, the website launched featuring a short video that asked Albertans to vote strategically against the Wildrose. The website has been shared on Facebook more than 3700 times and the video itself has been seen more than 88,000 times.

On April 17, Vicky Frederick posted a Wildrose-edition of the “Downfall / Hitler Reacts” video meme. The video, titled Inside the Wildrose War Room, has been seen nearly 12,000 times.

It was a busy day on April 17. That was also the day that Wildrose candidate Ron Leech made controversial statements about having an advantage as a Caucasian. The Journal captured a copy of the radio interview here. The tweet from CTV Edmonton breaking the news was retweeted more than 250 times:

That same day, the Wildrose posted its “Momentum” ad on YouTube. With more than 112,000 views, it’s the most popular election-related video.

On April 20, Paula Simons wrote a blog post titled The Price of Free Speech. She discussed Danielle Smith’s stubborn refusal to reprimand candidates like Hunsperger and Leech. The post was shared on Facebook more than 1500 times and on Twitter more than 180 times.

In the final weekend of the campaign, photos of this graffiti wall here in Edmonton started circulating on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere online:

I don’t know how many times it was shared, but I saw it all over the place.

After all of the negativity of the election, I was quite happy to see Ryan Jackson’s next election video on April 23. A “whimsical parody video”, it featured the “strange new species” popping up on lawns across Alberta known was the election sign.

He posted a behind-the-scenes on the video just yesterday.

As the polls opened on April 23, many people tweeted that they had voted while others encouraged Albertans to get out and vote. With more than 200 retweets, Kathleen Smith’s call-to-action was probably the most visible of the day:

On election night itself there were many memorable tweets, but Todd Babiak’s post about how the public opinion polls were so wrong was one of the most retweeted with 195 retweets:

As far as I can tell, the most retweeted tweet of the entire election came at 9:27pm on election night, after it became clear that the Wildrose would form the official opposition. Calgary’s Nick Heer posted this tweet:

It has been retweeted more than 650 times!

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to imagine what the election would have looked like without social media! Through tweets, photos, videos, blog posts, and more, Albertans had no shortage of ways to share their thoughts on the candidates and the campaigns. And because of the nature of social media, those thoughts often spread extremely quickly and were frequently picked up by the mainstream media. Whether you’re a Twitter or Facebook user yourself or not, there’s no question that social media helped make the 2012 provincial election one of the most exciting in Alberta’s history.

Did you have a social media highlight that I missed? Let me know in the comments! For more on the role that Twitter played during the election, be sure to check out AlbertaTweets. Looking for election results and statistics? Check out my #abvote Results Dashboard!

Recap: TEC VenturePrize 2012

tec ventureprizeLast night was the tenth annual TEC VenturePrize awards celebration and to mark the milestone, an evening dinner format was selected instead of the usual luncheon. Hundreds of people packed Hall D at the Shaw Conference Centre to see some of Alberta’s most inspiring entrepreneurs battle it out in three different categories: student, fast growth, and for the first time ever, nano. Over $300,000 in prizes was handed out this year! For those of you who are new to the competition here’s a brief description:

A program of TEC Edmonton, TEC VenturePrize is an Alberta-wide program providing training, professional support and financial incentives to help people build or enhance a viable business. Now celebrating its 10th year, TEC VenturePrize is open to individuals such as aspiring entrepreneurs and faculty and students of post-secondary institutions, or new companies entering the marketplace.

Mayor Mandel kicked things off by welcoming everyone to the event and bringing greetings on behalf of the City. He was followed by the University of Alberta’s Lorne Babiuk and EEDC’s Ron Gilbertson who shared introductory remarks as presenting partners. As he has done for the last few years, Ryan Jespersen emceed the event. Ryan encouraged everyone to participate using the #VenturePrize hashtag on Twitter, and participate they did! It was great to see all of the positive comments about the companies competing. Throughout the evening there were videos featuring participants from the last ten years talking about their experiences with VenturePrize and the impact it had on them as entrepreneurs and on their companies.

TEC VenturePrize 2012

Being the tenth year, time was reserved in the program to honor the organizations and individuals that have been a part of the competition since the beginning. The Edmonton Journal, Field Law, FMC Law, novaNAIT, PWC, and the TSX Venture Exchange have all been sponsors since 2002. Volunteers who have contributed their time and expertise since the start include Colin Christensen, Brian Goheen, Ted Heidrick, Van Konrad, Gord Meeberg, Dennis Pommen, Lloyd Steier, Sam Soliman, and Ted Yoo.

Just like last year, representatives from each of the finalists in the student category participated in a sit-down interview on stage with Ryan. It was a neat way to learn a bit more about each of the companies! The three finalists were:

Founded by 27-year-old Calgary surgical resident Dr. Breanne Everett, Orpyx is behind two highly innovative planar sensory replacement systems, the SurroSense Rx and the SurroGait Rx, that use pressure sensor-embedded shoe insoles to determine force exerted over the bottom of the feet, and wirelessly transmit collected information to a back pad, mobile device or wristwatch worn by the user. Employing the phenomenon of neuroplasticity – the potential of the human brain to rewire itself – the patient is able to interpret the sensory stimulus felt on the back as that from the feet, and positively adjust their gait, balance, mobility and overall health as a result.

Enercal is building CALTrack – intelligent data software for the oil & gas industry. CALTrack provides easy-to-use, intelligent tools to manage critical calibration processes, allowing companies to meet increasing regulation and measurement quality requirements. Enercal was a finalist in Calgary’s STIC competition.

CitizenBridge is a not-for-profit civic engagement organization creating an online platform that will directly connect Canadians and government by facilitating conversations between citizens and their representatives. Capitalizing on the movement of Gov 2.0 in Canada, CitizenBridge’s purpose is to create a much more accessible, transparent and engaging government by using technology to connect constituents with their elected representatives in an effort to strength the overall well-being of our communities.

TEC VenturePrize 2012

There were two finalists in the nanoVenturePrize category, and we got to hear a short pitch from each of them in addition to a video. I think the addition of a nano category is great and will help to cement Edmonton’s role as a key research and development centre for nanotechnology. The products the finalists have created sound really impressive (and way over my head):

Aquila Diagnostics uses the Domino nanotechnology platform developed at the University of Alberta to provide on-site, easy-to-use genetic testing that can quickly test for infectious diseases and pathogens in livestock. The mobile diagnostic platform is portable, low-cost, fast and easy to use.

Parvus Therapeutics’ breakthrough nanomedicines may hold the cure for difficult-to-treat autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease. Parvus’ new Navacim medicines are nanoparticles coated with immune system proteins that can target specific autoimmune conditions.

There have been a lot of really unique and successful competitors in the fast growth category over the last ten years, so I’m sure the two finalists were feeling the pressure. Neither showed it up on stage though, delivering great elevator pitches before we got to see their videos.

As a combat trauma surgeon, ITC founder and CEO Dr. Dennis Filips was a firsthand witness to bleeding as a leading cause of battlefield deaths. Now a civilian surgeon and entrepreneur, he is committed to inventing point of injury solutions. ITC’s first product, the ITClamp, is a hand-held device that stops bleeding and saves live by instantly sealing a wound until surgical repair.

Pedpad solves a pervasive challenge faced by consumers in the footwear industry: finding shoes that fit. The process of trying on different sizes across different brands and returning online purchases that don’t fit is frustrating for customers and retailers alike. Pedpad solves this problem with a multi-axis, digital shoe-sizing platform. By stepping on the Pedpad device in-store, consumers can immediately determine their shoe size for a given brand. Through a personal Pedpad account, consumers can access their measurements online, obtain precise sizing recommendations across brands, and shop online with confidence.

The keynote speaker for the event was the Honourable A. Anne McLellan, who spoke about the spirit of innovation in Alberta. After attending a bunch of big events in the last week or two where speakers have not been shy about celebrating the positive economic outlook for Edmonton and the province, it was refreshing to hear Anne McLellan take a more measured approach. She said that we can and must do better in this province, that while energy is our traditional industry, it won’t always be enough. “Complacency is the biggest threat facing Alberta,” she told us. Her remarks covered a lot of ground, including the role that government should play in economic development. “Government should pick the races we’re in, not the winning horses,” she said. I wasn’t sure at first if McLellan was the right fit for a VenturePrize keynote, but I’m glad the organizers picked her!

TEC VenturePrize 2012

While I enjoyed the longer dinner format for the special 10th anniversary, I do think the program was a bit too long. It was well after 9pm by the time we got to the winners! The first award was the Screeners’ Award of Merit, presented by the Alberta Business Family Institute’s Shauna Feth. The award, which recognizes a business plan submission that shows excellent promise, went to Raw-Bitz.

Stephen Lougheed from Alberta Innovates Technology Futures presented the award to the winner of the student category, Orpyx Medical Technologies.

Dan Djukich from Alberta Innovates Technology Futures presented the inaugural nanoVenturePrize award, which went to Parvus Therapeutics.

TEC VenturePrize 2012

The two finalists in the fast growth category could not have been more different. I think Pedpad is on to something interesting, though as Sharon remarked to me when I told her about the company, you really have to try shoes on to see how they fit, because materials and other factors all play a role. Still, companies and products that mix the physical and online worlds are intriguing to me. As for ITC, I still can’t quite believe that their product doesn’t already exist. It looks and operates just like a hair clamp, and doesn’t look very complicated to my untrained eye (though I’m sure there’s more to it). But it obviously works and works well, so I hope it catches on!

TEC Edmonton CEO Chris Lumb had the honor of presenting the award to the winner of the fast growth category: Innovative Trauma Care.

Congratulations to all of the participants, finalists, and winners! Thanks also to TEC Edmonton for saving me a spot at the media table – much appreciated! You can see more photos from the evening here.

Building a Results Dashboard for the 2012 Alberta Election

Like many Albertans, I have spent a significant amount of time over the last month paying attention to the election! Reading about the candidates, following all the drama, and spending lots of time with the #abvote hashtag on Twitter. As the candidates were making one final push over the weekend before the election, I decided to build a results dashboard. I like a good challenge and enjoyed building it, but it was especially rewarding to see that it proved to be quite popular too! In this post I’ll tell you a little about how and why I built the website, and what I learned from it.

abvote results

If you haven’t checked out the dashboard, you can see it here. I’ve added a bunch of stuff since election night, which I’ll explain below.

The Idea

By late Friday afternoon, my thoughts had drifted to election day itself. I started to think about how exciting it would be to see the results come in – I love election nights! I knew there would be television coverage and that the media would have some web coverage as well, but I also felt that I could build something unique and valuable. If only I had the data! So I looked around, and found the Elections Alberta results site. At that time, the results page was full of test data. I immediately saved a copy to my computer, and saved a few of the electoral division pages too. That proved to be a wise decision, because a few hours later the site went offline!

elections alberta

Before I took a crack at scraping the website, I wanted to know if there was a data feed of some kind available. I blindly emailed the general Elections Alberta address, and to my surprise, received a response shortly thereafter! Unfortunately there was no data feed available, so I set about writing a scraper. Within a couple of hours, I was correctly scraping the main results page as well as all of the electoral division pages. Now that I had the data, I felt pretty confident that I could build a dashboard over the weekend. I didn’t get back to the project until Sunday morning, so that meant I had to prioritize what I was going to build. It took about six hours, but my I finished my initial version late that evening.

The Design

This was not my first election results dashboard. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll recall that I built a dashboard for the municipal election here in Edmonton back in 2010. I learned a lot from that experience, and I remember it being a lot more rushed and difficult than this dashboard! Among other lessons, it was clear that design and colors matter, and that mobile devices are important (even then lots of people were asking for mobile support). I also knew that forcing users to refresh the page is less than ideal – it’s not a very delightful experience, and it puts unnecessary strain on the server. I also disliked the limited real estate that I had to work with (the current ShareEdmonton page width is fixed…but I’m working on a new version that is fluid).

So, I wanted a mobile-friendly, fluid-width, Ajax-enabled, attractive looking design. I immediately decided to use Twitter Bootstrap. I have used it a few times now, and I absolutely love it. I can’t thank the folks at Twitter enough for making such an excellent framework available for free! It gave me everything I needed to get going from a UI perspective. In particular it features responsive design, which makes it possible for the pages to scale from the desktop down to mobile devices without much work. For the backend, I used ASP.NET MVC 3. I use it for everything, so I know it well.

For performance reasons, it definitely made sense to cache the data. I decided on a fairly straightforward approach: I’d scrape the data from Elections Alberta and would store it using Memcached for two minutes. That meant that every two minutes, a request would take slightly longer because it had to download the data again, but this seemed reasonable (and as it turned out, the Elections Alberta site was incredibly quick). I also designed the pages to poll for new data every 30 seconds, which prevented users from having to reload the page manually.

The Cloud

When I built the ShareEdmonton dashboard a couple years ago, it was hosted on one of my servers. That worked fine, but it did slow down under load and I didn’t have much ability to scale up or out without a lot of additional cost, time, and effort. I really wanted to avoid that situation this time, so I decided to host the dashboard using Windows Azure. I’m in the process of migrating ShareEdmonton to Azure, so I already had an account and was pretty familiar with how it worked. Deploying to Azure is so easy – I simply had to add a deployment project in Visual Studio, and then I could deploy new versions in just a couple of clicks.

Windows Azure supports a range of instance types – basically you get to choose how big and powerful you want your server to be. I started with “Extra Small”, the least powerful and therefore least expensive type. As the polls were about to close at 8pm, I scaled up to “Small”, which meant redeploying the app (which took about 8 minutes, but happened completely behind-the-scenes). About half an hour later, I had to add capacity because the site was starting to get quite sluggish. This time I scaled out, by adding a second instance. All I had to do was change a configuration setting in the Azure management console, and the service took care of everything. Within a few minutes, I had two load-balanced “Small” instances. The performance boost was immediately noticeable. About an hour later, I added a third instance, and kept the system running that way until about 1am. I scaled it back down in stages, and now have it running as a single “Extra Small” instance again.

Two Key Decisions

I think the two most important decisions I made were:

  1. Using Twitter Bootstrap
  2. Using Windows Azure

The decision first meant that the website looked good and worked across browsers, screen resolutions, and devices. I got all of that engineering effort and testing for free, which meant I could focus on building an election results dashboard rather than building a website. I didn’t have to figure out how to lay things out on the screen, or how to style tables. The second decision was perhaps even more important. By using Windows Azure, I could deploy new versions of the dashboard in minutes, plus I could scale up and out simply by changing a few settings. That meant I could quickly respond when the site came under load. The other big advantage of using Azure was the cost – running the site on election night cost me just $1.54. Incredible!

Some Statistics

The dashboard served around 60,000 page views on election night alone, which is pretty good for a website launched just hours before the main event. Keep in mind that because the data on the site automatically updated, users didn’t have to refresh the page which kept that statistic lower than it would otherwise have been. The visit duration metric is another way to see that – 20% of all visitors spent at least 10 minutes on the site. I actually would have guessed a higher percentage than that, but perhaps the high mobile usage was the reason.

The top screen resolution for visitors was 320×480, not a desktop resolution! Roughly 36% of all visits that night were made on mobile devices (which includes tablets). The iPhone was the most popular device, followed by the iPad. Clearly using a framework like Twitter Bootstrap with responsive design was a good decision.

The other statistic worth sharing is that the vast majority of visitors (about 73%) found the site by way of social networks, and two in particular. Facebook accounted for 78% of all those visits, while Twitter accounted for 20%.

Recent Improvements

Since Monday I have made numerous improvements to the dashboard. Here’s a brief overview of the new features:

  • All the data is now stored locally, which means I’m no longer reliant on Elections Alberta. They have made numerous updates over the last two days, and I have updated the site’s local data store accordingly.
  • I updated the voter turnout chart and added regional voter turnout to the front page. I also added a table of the five closest races.
  • District pages now show voter turnout and the list of polls is now sortable.
  • There’s a new Districts Grid, which lets you see lots of information about all the districts in a single, sortable view. For example, you can quickly see which district had the best voter turnout, which were the closest races, and which had the most candidates.
  • There’s also a Candidates page, which lets you see information about all of the candidates in a single, sortable view.
  • Last night I also added a Maps page, which has interactive maps for the province, as well as zoomed-in maps for Calgary and Edmonton. Click on any region for details and a link to the district page.

What’s Next?

I plan to keep the dashboard up as it is now, though at some point I’ll probably transition it from being a dynamic website to a static one (far cheaper to host over the long-run). If you have any suggestions on things to add or improve, let me know! I hope the site will serve as a valuable reference tool going forward.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to everyone who sent positive comments about the dashboard my way. It’s great to hear that so many people found it useful on election night!

A new take on steak in Calgary

A little over a month ago, Sharon and I were invited to join a group of bloggers in Calgary for the YYC Steak Tour. Tourism Calgary wanted to showcase local restaurants that have “a new take on steak” – something more than traditional meat and potatoes! We ate at five restaurants: Ox & Angela, Anju, Raw Bar, CHARCUT, and Rouge. Sharon has already done a very thorough job of reviewing the meal at each, so be sure to check out her posts.

On the way into Calgary, we stopped off at CrossIron Mills to have lunch at South St. Burger Co. While I liked the burger assembly line (similar to Subway) the patty itself was underwhelming. The texture and taste reminded me too much of a frozen burger. Sharon did enjoy the onion rings, however.

South St. Burger

We usually stay at Hotel Le Germain when we visit Calgary, but as our accommodations this trip were being covered by Tourism Calgary, we were more than happy to stay at the Kensington Riverside Inn. It was very comfortable, and you really can’t beat the location! We took advantage of it, walking around Kensington and along the river.

Kensington Riverside Inn

We made sure to stop at Higher Ground, a popular coffee shop in Kensington. It turned out that Dan Clapson, the manager of Higher Ground and also a food blogger, was on our tour! It was great to chat with Dan about the popular meeting spot. He really knows his customer base, and doesn’t pretend to compete against Phil & Sebastian, instead recognizing that people visit Higher Ground for more than artisan coffee.

Higher Ground

We took advantage of the proximity of our hotel to the river, and walked along Memorial Drive. We spent some time checking out the Peace Bridge, the controversial new bridge that connects downtown and the community of Sunnyside. I think it’s very interesting to look at, but I can see how it wasn’t welcomed by all Calgarians. With a total cost of about $24 million, it wasn’t cheap either! The bridge officially opened on March 24.

Peace Bridge
Peace Bridge

Our first stop on the YYC Steak Tour was Ox & Angela. We had a tapas style meal, with many small plates which turned out to be a great way to meet all of the other folks on the tour. The Spring Creek Ranch flat iron steak was quite tasty, but the “fierce potatoes” definitely stole the show. They were delicious! I also ate more than my share of the churros for dessert.

Ox & Angela
Patatas bravas at Ox & Angela

Our next stop was Anju. We were quite excited to meet Chef Roy Oh, a former Edmontonian who moved to Calgary nearly a decade ago. To start, we got to try soju – the Korean equivalent of vodka, distilled from rice instead of wheat. Though there was Sprite on hand to mix it with, I actually preferred it straight. Very tasty. My favorite dish was the malpec oysters, served with kimchi for a bit of heat. Also memorable were the chicken wings, something the Calgarians were raving about. They were, in a word, hot. I swear I couldn’t feel my lips for hours after we ate them!

Malpec oysters with a kimchi mignonette at Anju

The last scheduled stop was Raw Bar, but as we had to leave Calgary early enough to get back to Edmonton on Sunday night, we visited the restaurant for lunch without the rest of the group. We sampled the cocktails and even though we were on the steak tour, I simply could not resist trying the mushroom and bacon poutine. It probably could have used a bit more gravy and cheese, but it was delicious nonetheless.

Raw Bar
Mushroom and bacon poutine at Raw Bar

Next up on the tour was CHARCUT, the only restaurant we had eaten at previously. We’re big Top Chef nerds, so Sharon and I couldn’t believe that we were actually with Connie DeSousa! We started by visiting the prep kitchen upstairs where Connie and John showed us how they make blood sausage (which they later cooked and served to us). It was pretty awesome to get a peek behind the curtain!

The kitchen at CHARCUT

Of course, no trip to CHARCUT is complete without eating the signature poutine. Potatoes fried in duck fat, cheese curds, and chicken fat gravy. How can you go wrong? I could have eaten it all night long.

Duck fat poutine at CHARCUT

Probably my least favorite stop on the tour was Rouge. Compared to the rest of the dishes we ate, Rouge definitely featured the most formal and refined menu. My favorite dish was the lab two ways – a cut of sirloin and braised lamb mixed with lentils. The bee pollen macaron with lemon cream to end was also pretty tasty!

Lamb two ways at Rouge

It seems that whenever we visit Calgary we do so primarily to eat! It was great to have the opportunity to try something new at some of Calgary’s hottest restaurants. Thanks again to Tourism Calgary for hosting us – it was a great trip!

Again, be sure to check out Sharon’s much more thorough reviews of the restaurants we visited.

Alberta’s Community Revitalization Levy: Rivers District, Belvedere, The Quarters

This is the second part in a three-part series on Alberta’s CRL.

Armed with a better understanding of Alberta’s CRL legislation, I turned my attention to the three active CRL projects in the province. What are the projects for? Why is a CRL appropriate for them? What can we learn from the projects that will help us when exploring the idea of using a CRL in the future? That’s some of what we’re going to look at in this post.

To quickly recap the process: there is some back-and-forth between the city and the province in establishing a CRL. First, the Lieutenant Governor must approve the regulation, which includes the CRL boundary. Second, City Council must approve the plan & bylaw for the CRL (and these can be done separately). And finally, that plan & bylaw must also be approved by the province. The three projects we’re going to look at are at different stages of that process.

Calgary’s Rivers District

The first specific CRL regulation to be passed in Alberta was for the City of Calgary Rivers District, back in 2006. The Rivers District project was the catalyst for the MGA amendment that made CRLs possible in Alberta.

 City of Calgary Rivers District Community Revitalization Levy Regulation (AR 232/2006)

The Rivers District is the furthest along of all the CRLs in Alberta – everything has been approved and the City is well into implementation. It was 2007 when everything was finally approved, so the baseline for tax assessments would have been frozen to the values on December 31, 2007.

It’s worth pointing out that the CRL is just a small part of a much larger project known as The Rivers:

The vision for a revitalized Rivers district is more than a place to live, it is a lively urban destination.

This map shows the area the project covers, and as you can see, it is quite expansive. The idea is to reclaim the waterfront, and to make the area more desirable for development. In addition to infrastructure upgrades, a new riverwalk is in the works (phase 1 is now open actually).

The CRL boundary is large, but it is a small part of the overall project. Here’s what it looks like (KML):

The boundary covers an area of roughly 1.9 square kilometers (478 acres).

One of the big advantages to using a CRL for the Rivers District is that the City of Calgary owned much of the land within the boundary. That’s important because it means the baseline assessment for those assets would be zero, and there’s lots of potential for getting some of that all-important lift.

I spent some time talking with Kathleen Young, Development Manager for The Quarters Downtown at the City of Edmonton, and found out that she actually worked on the Rivers District CRL! Her knowledge and experience on that project was one of the reasons that she came to Edmonton. You know what they say, it’s a small world.

Kathleen pointed out that the CRL boundary for the Rivers District includes some key developments, notably The Bow (here’s a photo of the building I took back in July). When finished, The Bow will become the headquarters for EnCana, and will be the tallest office building in Canada outside Toronto. Groundbreaking for the project took place in June 2007, around the same time that the Rivers District CRL was approved, which means almost all of the incremental value realized through the development of the building will be captured by the CRL.

To work on The Rivers, the City of Calgary created a wholly owned corporation called the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC). They have some great information on the various aspects of the project if you’d like to learn more. CMLC was actually awarded a Canadian Urban Institute Brownie Award in 2008 for the CRL:

The Canadian Urban Institute’s annual Brownie Award recognizes leadership, innovation and environmental sustainability in brownfields redevelopment across Canada. CMLC won in the category of "Financing, Risk Management and Partnership" for our work in the creation of the Rivers District Community Revitalization Levy Regulation. A "made in Alberta" version of the U.S. Tax Increment Financing (TIF)— which is a widely used financing mechanism for redevelopment of brownfield sites in the United States—provides a sustainable source of funding to finance the significant infrastructure development required in the Rivers District for a 20-year period.

It sure looks like the Rivers District CRL will be a success!

Belvedere (Fort Road)

The first CRL regulation to be passed for Edmonton was for the Belvedere redevelopment project, commonly known as the Fort Road Redevelopment project. The project has been in the works since at least 2000, and has evolved quite a bit over the last decade. It was very much in the works before CRL legislation came into effect.

 City of Edmonton Belvedere Community Revitalization Levy Regulation (AR 57/2010)

The Belvedere CRL isn’t quite as far along as the Rivers District, but it is nearly there. Kathleen clarified that the borrowing bylaw (14883) has been approved, but the plan bylaw is still in the works. Armed with the $34,250,000 specified in the borrowing bylaw, the City has undertaken much of the infrastructure upgrades planned for the area.

Here’s the CRL boundary for the project (KML):

The boundary covers an area of roughly 1.3 square kilometers (324 acres).

A unique element of the Belvedere CRL is that the City owns almost all of the land within the boundary. As a result, when they sell the land all of the incremental value will be captured by the CRL, making it much less likely that the City would have to fall back on general revenue to cover the debt.

The Belvedere project is an interesting one. It is unlikely that development would have taken place in the area without the City of Edmonton stepping in to try to make the area more attractive and desirable. Through that lens, the use of a CRL makes a lot of sense. If you think back to the two basic assumptions highlighted in part one, the Belvedere CRL certainly passes the first – it’s worth the risk.

As for the second assumption – there’s a sound expectation that development will occur – that one is less certain. Especially given the challenging economy, it could be a while before anything substantial happens. Having said that, the first sale of the Station Pointe lands last year for $5.2 million is hopefully a sign of things to come (that project received $481,000 in federal funding in August). The redevelopment project is still in the early stages, and Rick Daviss at the City of Edmonton confirmed that at least a couple new conditional deals are in place, so there’s movement.

There’s more information on the Station Pointe project here – it won a Brownie Award in 2008.

You can find lots of background and other information on the Fort Road redevelopment project here.

The Quarters

The newest CRL regulation to be passed was for The Quarters Downtown, a redevelopment project here in Edmonton previously known as the Downtown East redevelopment. I wrote about The Quarters a couple weeks ago, and I’d encourage you to look at that post to get an overview of the project.

 City of Edmonton The Quarters Community Revitalization Levy Regulation (AR 173/2010)

As the newest CRL project, The Quarters has the furthest to go before it is ready for implementation. The province has approved the regulation and boundary, and Administration is now working on the plan and bylaw to present to Council. That will happen sometime in 2011, according to Kathleen. Her team wants to make sure they get it right.

Here is the CRL boundary for the project (KML):

The boundary covers an area of roughly  0.93 square kilometers (229 acres).

The Quarters is a large plan that will proceed in phases. Once completed, it is anticipated that the area will accommodate a population of nearly 20,000 people, up from less than 2500 today. The project is made up of five distinct districts, the jewel of which is known as The Armature.

An important part of any CRL plan is the way in which the City will cover the cost of the project if enough development does not occur. The default fallback is always general revenue, but Kathleen said they are looking at additional funding sources as well, such as government grants.

Kathleen told me that among other things, some of the CRL money will be used for streetscape improvements, some will be used for land acquisition to consolidate parcels for resale, and lots would be used to develop The Armature. The goal is to make that part of Edmonton a much more livable area, and the redevelopment focus is on residential assets.

As I have said before, it is an exciting project for our city! You can learn more about The Quarters Downtown here.

The project will be an interesting one to pay attention to if you’re interested in CRLs, because there are still a number of steps in the process to go.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve made it this far, you should now have a better understanding of the three active CRL projects in Alberta. You can draw your own conclusions, but a few things I wanted to highlight include:

  • All three boundaries are similarly sized
  • Infrastructure upgrades and improvements are a major part of all three projects
  • In the Rivers District and Belvedere, and to a lesser extent in The Quarters, an important consideration is the amount of City-owned land

I think it is important to look at what we already have when trying to understand how a CRL could be applied to future projects. In the next part of the series we’ll do just that, using the proposed downtown arena as our future project.

Alberta’s Community Revitalization Levy:

  1. Introduction
  2. Rivers District, Belvedere, The Quarters
  3. Proposed Downtown Edmonton Arena District