Edmonton Next Gen WiFi Focus Group

edmonton next gen Unfortunately I am not going to be able to make it to this event (I’m going to San Antonio on Sunday) but I thought I’d mention it in case someone else wants to go and can fill me in later! Edmonton’s Next Gen organization is hosting a focus group on WiFi, to discuss the next steps in their initiatives for public wireless access in our city:

Now, Next Gen and the City’s IT branch are preparing a new report to City Council, which will give an update on the success of the pilot projects over the past year, and recommend next steps to take towards Next Gen’s vision. If you would like to take part in deciding what those next steps will be, please contact Megan Pilby at megan.pilby@edmonton.ca to RSVP for our upcoming session.

The deadline to RSVP is tomorrow at noon. The event takes place on Sunday, April 13th, from 1pm to 4pm. Location details will be given once you RSVP.

For background information, you can read the NextGen report on WiFi (PDF). To learn more about Edmonton’s Next Gen, check out the website.

EdmontonTweetup anyone?

twitter A few weeks ago status_girl, myself, and a few other local people on Twitter started throwing around the idea of having a meetup (for some reason it seems weird to use a Twitter friend’s real name until I’ve met them…status_girl is actually Melanie Nathan). She created a Twitter account, etowntwits, and asked anyone who was interested to follow it. So far, twelve people have.

Nothing happened since then, and I started thinking about it again a couple days ago. I learned that there is actually a name for these events; a Twitter meetup is called a Tweetup. It seems to be less organized than a barcamp, but a quick Google search reveals Tweetups happening in Buffalo, Atlanta, Huntsville, Boston, and many other places. Why not Edmonton?

So being the geek that I am, I registered edmontontweetup.org, and created the requisite Twitter account. There’s nothing at the website yet, but I think a wiki or something would work well. Every day I find interesting new local people on Twitter, so I think a Tweetup would work quite well!

A few location ideas that have been thrown around so far are Three Bananas Cafe downtown in Churchill Square, Cargo & James Tea on Whyte, as well as the other coffee shops along Whyte Avenue. The first two have free Wi-Fi which makes them especially attractive.

If you’re on Twitter, would you come to an EdmontonTweetup to meet your fellow tweeters? If you’re not on Twitter, would you come to learn what it’s all about?

On a related note, I came across TwitterLocal today, which is a cool site that helps you find people on Twitter near you. Here’s a list of people near Edmonton.

In Edmonton, we like to drive

Statistics Canada has released some new data from the last census that shouldn’t shock anyone who lives in Alberta’s capital city. Nearly 80% of us get to work in a vehicle:

The new data from the 2006 census found that 12.7 per cent of workers in the city of Edmonton get to work using public transit, while 79 per cent either drive or travel in a vehicle as a passenger.

Statistics Canada said the reliance on cars seems to increase with the age of the commuter. While those under the age of 25 travelled by vehicle 70.7 per cent of the time, that rate increased to 81.6 per cent for those aged 25 to 34. The rate was even higher for those aged over 35, at 87.2 per cent.

Cheap Gas?

The average Alberta commuter takes a car 84% of the time, so we’re slightly better than the rest of the province.

I guess Bob Boutilier, our city’s Transportation Department GM, wasn’t kidding at the ETS conference a few weeks ago when he said a big challenge is the “pickup truck and two car” mentality of most Albertans. Thanks to the census data, I now have a number to attach to that statement.

Some people like to suggest that we’ll never improve our public transit system until everyone experiences just how bad it is right now. Maybe there’s some truth to that after all. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the majority of that 80% have never been on a bus or LRT car.

That needs to change.

The conversation will take place with or without you

conversation I don’t often make “reactive” posts, but I did on Friday when I posted about local radio station Big Earl 96.3 switching formats and becoming Capital FM. I had noticed a lot of incoming traffic to an old post of mine about Big Earl, and decided I’d figure out why. I learned that the radio station “flipped the switch” on the new format that afternoon, and as a result, hundreds of listeners took the web to find out what happened. I posted about it so that others would learn the answer as well.

Now both posts are getting lots of traffic, and the new one has received a bunch of comments too. There are two questions to be asked here: why are people coming to these posts, and once they arrive, why do they comment?

My old post is the #1 result for the “what happened to big earl” search query, and my new post is #2 when you search for “96.3 capital fm“. Until today, it was actually #1, ahead of the radio station’s own website. The top five search queries that people used to find the posts yesterday were “capital fm edmonton”, “96.3 capital fm”, “big earl 96.3”, “big earl fm”, and “big earl”. In the last 24 hours alone, those two posts have been viewed more than 300 times.

So the reason that my two posts are getting lots of traffic is that they are ranked very highly in Google, and the reason people are searching is that they were given no notice about the switch. I guess that’s the way the radio industry works, you can’t really prepare people for a complete 180. As a result, lots of people were curious.

Once they arrived, why did they comment? I think the answer is very simple – Newcap Broadcasting simply isn’t participating in the conversation. Some listeners are happy about the switch, and they want to let the station know. Others are very unhappy, and they too want to voice their opinions. Aside from a very cumbersome “Members Club” section of their website, Capital FM doesn’t make it easy for their listeners to communicate. I think it’s a shame, really.

Like newspapers, radio stations are on the decline. Listeners are abandoning the airwaves for the web and iPods. And companies like Newcap aren’t doing much to reverse the trend. Which would you prefer – a radio station that suddenly starts playing completely different music than what you’re used to and basically says “tough luck”, or a radio station that changes its tune and also tells you to “have your say on our Facebook page?” It’s a no-brainer (even if your opinion won’t change anything, you’ll feel better about being able to share it).

CKRA has changed formats so many times now that you’d think they’d be better at it than they are.

It’s a different world than it used to be. Fifteen years ago, if a radio station switched formats, an article in the local paper would probably be about the only coverage it would get. Today, the web makes it easy for anyone to chime in.

As the comments on my post illustrate, the conversation will happen anyway. Newcap would be wise to join in.

UPDATE (4/1/2008): They’ve created a Facebook group! You can check it out here.

Big Earl 96.3 is now Capital FM

I never listen to the radio anymore, so the only reason I know about this news is because I’ve seen an influx of traffic to one of my old posts about Big Earl 96.3. Back in December of 2005, the radio station switched formats from “96X” which was hit music, to “Big Earl” which was country music. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

If you’re scanning the radio dial here in Edmonton, you’ll notice we have a new station. Or, more accurately, an existing station that has for the thousandth time changed formats.

They’ve done it again. Big Earl is out, Capital FM is in. Here’s what they say on their website:

Finally Edmonton has a radio station that plays all your favorite songs from the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s.   Welcome to the NEW 96.3 Capital FM, Edmonton’s Greatest Hits!

Yeah, because we don’t have that already? Whatever.

I have to agree with the verdict at the Edmonton Radio Ratings site:

It needs to be said. Someone has to take this lame horse of a station to a corner of the pasture and shoot it. Two’s company but three’s a crowd with the greenhorn seemingly regulated to always be on the outside looking in over the fence of the country radio market.

It remains to be seen how much longer Newcap general manager Randy Lemay can sustain the misery before accusations of radio cruelty can be levelled. Exactly five years ago the 96.3 frequency enjoyed a fifth-place 9.6 share … what was somebody thinking?

If you check out the ratings archive, you’ll see the clear decline. I guess they think that yet another format change will save them. Once again however, they’re going up against a Corus radio station that has been very successful for a long time (Joe FM at 92.5).

Currently, the Wikipedia entry for CKRA-FM still identifies the station as Big Earl. The latest switch is the station’s fifth since 1995.

Capital FM? Even the name is completely uninspired. It’s like a terrible car accident happening in slow motion that you just can’t look away from.

UPDATE: This Edmonton Journal article has more information.

UPDATE (4/1/2008): They now have a Facebook group – check it out here.

Edmonton Oilers Arena Feasibility Report – Link Roundup

edmonton oilers Earlier this week, the nine-member committee studying the feasibility of building a new hockey arena in Edmonton released their report. It contains no surprises, and recommends that if a new facility is to be built, it should be built downtown. I’m sure you’ve heard all about it on the news, but there are lots of excellent blog posts on the story that should not be missed. Here they are, with quotes.

From Covered in Oil:

The other question, whether a new arena would be better off in another part of the City will have to go unanswered, as the Feasibility Committee didn’t seem to even bother to look anywhere else.

From Grandinite:

If I get the underlying logic of this development, bringing people downtown will bring in cash. but that cash will flow out of the area if the owners do not live downtown. Sure, money will be spent at restaurants and casinos, but where do the profits go?

From Colby Cosh:

I’m not too clear after reading the summary just what is wrong with the existing Rexall Place. I was looking forward to some clear public explanation of this, but all we’ve been given is a lot of wind about “downtown revitalization.”

From The Battle of Alberta:

Dear Mr. Lowe,

We already have a hockey shrine in Edmonton. It’s called the Northlands Coliseum. You might remember it. You won five Stanley Cups there.

A arena without a history of accomplishment is not a shrine. It’s a mall with seats.

From Fighting for Taxpayers:

Dr. Brad Humphreys, the foremost expert on the economic benefits of professional sport teams and arenas has proven that there is not an economic growth, but merely a shift of where the money is spent.

From daveberta.ca:

Of course I want Edmonton’s downtown to become vibrant, but building a giant hockey rink won’t automatically put Edmonton in a position to rival downtown Montreal or New York (like some of the article’s have alluded). I’m still not convinced that spending upwards of $450 million (plus land costs) on an arena that will draw the suburbs downtown for a couple hours 2-3 nights a week is what will revitalize downtown.

From Alberta: Get Rich or Die Trying:

There will be a new arena and it will be downtown, any alternatives have pretty much been steamrolled over by the municipal government and the Edmonton media. There will be public funding, not direct tax increases, but by other means, and the province will give nothing.

From A Blog Of Pucks:

It would be an 18,000 seat 450 Million dollar arena. That’s great but once again I’ll ask the difficult question: Is this really going to make the wives like living in Edmonton any better? The committee better ask Pronger’s better half first.

And finally, this one isn’t a blog but an article at CBC today:

A new downtown Edmonton arena to replace Rexall Place could threaten one of the biggest annual events in the city, say officials with the Canadian Finals Rodeo.

The owners of Rexall Place, Edmonton Northlands, are ruling out the possibility of keeping it open as is, if a new arena is built.

“We can’t have two competing large-scale facilities,” Jerry Bouma, chair of the board, said Wednesday.

Also, be sure to check out this interview with Brad Humphreys.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Stay tuned.

Recap: DemoCampEdmonton1

Last night was Edmonton’s first DemoCamp, and I think it was a major success! I counted about sixty people at one point, with some standing along the back walls. I liveblogged the whole event on Twitter. You can see my tweets at #hashtags and Twemes. I’ll summarize the key info in this post.

We had six demos, though I think we need to aim for more demo and less talk next time. Here’s what we saw:

  1. Greg Campbell of Spieker Point Inc. showed us http://www.spiekerpoint.com
  2. Daniel Boulet of Loa Corp. showed us http://www.loapowertools.com
  3. Dave Bodnarchuck of Event IQ Inc. showed us http://www.inviteright.com
  4. Bob Hesketh of Chinook Multimedia Inc. showed us http://www.chinookmultimedia.com
  5. Peter Urban of Smibs Inc. showed us http://www.smibs.com
  6. David Cree of FunderFish showed us http://www.funderfish.com

I think the demo of the evening was definitely Peter Urban’s. The applications they are building are really slick looking, and could be quite useful (its a CRM type app). He was also a really engaging speaker.

BarCamp coming soon!

The audience was a fairly diverse crowd. We had five women, three or four students, lots of developers, a few investors including Randy Thompson, and Don Iveson who is the city councillor for Ward 5. The two companies with the most representation were Zigtag and Nexopia. There was a serious lack of Microsoft dudes, so we’ll have to make sure EDMUG comes out to the next one!

There were a few announcements about upcoming events:

Mark your calendars! You may also want to join the BarCampEdmonton group on Facebook.

After the demos were done, most people headed over to Windsor pub for a few beers. I know lots of introductions were made, and people seemed to be having a good time. It’s great to see the community growing like this in Edmonton, and I have no doubt that the next DemoCamp will be even better!

Some things we can improve on:

  • Larger room, preferably with lots of power outlets!
  • Open Wi-Fi access (only those with U of A accounts could connect)
  • Reach out to more groups in Edmonton and area
  • Food? Everyone loves free food! Maybe we can find a sponsor

Thanks to Cam, Mark, Kevin, and all the other organizers for a great event.

DemoCampEdmonton1

democampedmonton I meant to blog about this earlier and simply forgot. Tomorrow evening I’ll be attending the first ever DemoCamp here in Edmonton. Wondering what a DemoCamp is? It’s a kind of BarCamp:

DemoCamp is a variation of the un-conference style of event, started by the TorCamp group as an excuse to have more regular meetings.

Essentially a bunch of people get together and a few of them demo something they are working on. The only rules are that you can’t use PowerPoint or slideshows (you need to have something to demo) and that you’re limited to 10 minutes.

You can read more about DemoCamp here, and about BarCamp at Wikipedia.

If you’d like to come to tomorrow night’s event, here are the details:

Date: Wednesday March 26, 2008
Time: 6:30pm to 8:30pm
Location: University of Alberta School of Business B-9
All are welcome! & It is free to attend.

The event is also listed at Upcoming and on Facebook.

If you can’t make it, check out this page for future camps, and the BarCampEdmonton blog.

2008 ETS Community Conference

On Saturday I attended the annual Edmonton Transit System Community Conference. I went last year too. The free half-day conference, which started in 1999, is a way for ETS to share information with and gather feedback from the public. The event started with a keynote by Bob Boutilier, GM of the Transportation Department for Edmonton (not just transit, but all transportation). His remarks were really interesting, and his love for public transit was definitely on display (he came to us from Toronto, where he had a major impact on that city’s public transit systems). Here are my notes from the keynote:

  • This is the 10th anniversary for the Community Conference, and 2008 is the 100th anniversary for ETS.
  • There were 61.9 million trips in 2007, an increase of 7.8% over 2006. ETS is anticipating 63 million trips in 2008.
  • “Transit will never make you money.”
  • Due to poor planning in the past, ETS is having a hard time acquiring land for LRT expansion.
  • Another challenge is the “pickup truck and two car” mentality of many Albertans.
  • The current city council is viewed as very pro-transit, so there are two years to make serious in-roads before new members are elected.

Bob spent quite a bit of time talking about the “5 legged monster” that is the current LRT expansion plan. The idea is to try and capture riders outside the city, so they don’t need to drive in. This regional plan means working with 23 adjacent municipalities, something ETS is quite far along with.

100 Years of ETS

After the keynote, there were two breakout sessions. I attended the Manager’s Update with ETS Manager Charles Stolte, and a session Exploring New Technologies. Here are some notes:

  • ETS will be hiring 240 additional operators this year.
  • Clean diesel bus acquisitions: 231 in 2007/2008, 57 in 2009, 42 in 2010.
  • The cost of hybrid buses has fallen to about $600,000.
  • LRT car acquisitions: 37 in 2008/2009.
  • The first new LRT car will arrive in mid-May, and ETS will hold a public showcase.
  • ETS is working on a “bus of the future” with features like padded seats, color signs, Wi-Fi, GPS, and TVs.
  • The U-Pass created 700,000 new trips in 2007/2008. There was a 30% increase in ridership at both the U of A and MacEwan.
  • ETS is losing over $3 million per year due to the U-Pass.
  • Centennial week will take place September 12th to 20th, 2008.
  • ETS is testing a new information kiosk called “Info on the Go” at Churchill Station. It helps you with directions, routes, weather, and more.

I found the session on new technologies really disappointing, since they only covered “Info on the Go” and nothing else. Apparently they are exploring the use of text messaging, wireless Internet, and email in addition to having a physical kiosk.

Attendees received a notepad, pen, and ride-guide, and a really cool 2008 ETS calendar. It’s really high quality, and is full of historical transit photos!

Anyone else sick of this global-warming-event bullshit?

lights Have you heard of Earth Hour? Sharon sent me a link for it today, pointing out that the City of Edmonton is participating in the “global movement” that aims to “take a stand against the greatest threat our planet has ever faced”. Cities around the world are pledging to turn off the lights for one hour on March 29th. From the about page:

On 31 March 2007, 2.2 million people and 2100 Sydney businesses turned off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour. This massive collective effort reduced Sydney’s energy consumption by 10.2% for one hour, which is the equivalent effect of taking 48,000 cars off the road for a year.

With Sydney icons like the Harbour Bridge and Opera House turning their lights off, and unique events such as weddings by candlelight, the world took notice. Inspired by the collective effort of millions of Sydneysiders, many major global cities are joining Earth Hour in 2008, turning a symbolic event into a global movement.

Reminds me a little of Live Earth. Remember that event? The worldwide concerts that did so much for the “climate in crisis”? Yeah, I remember that.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve about had it with this event bullshit.

  • Can we really say the current warming trend is “the greatest threat” the Earth has ever faced? What about the ice ages of the past? Or periods of space bombardment? Or World War II and nuclear weapons? I mean, come on.
  • At best, these events come out neutral in terms of net energy consumption/reduction. More than likely, they probably have the opposite of their intended effect. Think of all the TVs and computers tuned to the Live Earth concerts last year. The same thing will happen with Earth Hour.
  • Do these events really inspire change? I would argue that they actually make people complacent – “I don’t need to walk today, I participated in Earth Hour!”

Instead of turning the lights out for an hour, I’d rather see the City of Edmonton do something that would actually make a difference, such as replacing all our old street and traffic lights with new, energy efficient ones.

Read: Earth Hour