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.

Earth Hour: Lightcrime

lightcrime I thought I was done with Earth Hour-related posts, but then I came across this article at the National Post while reading Larry’s blog. You really need to give it a read, but here’s a bit of a teaser:

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four invoked the nightmare of “thoughtcrime,” by which dictators sought to erase even the possibility of challenge to their rule. His Thought Police were based very much on the techniques actually used by the Soviets. They sought by surveillance and other methods to root out any trace of “unorthodoxy.”

On Saturday night, the awful possibility of “lightcrime” appeared on the deliberately dimmed horizon. Who among those who knew about Earth Hour did not feel an internal compulsion to turn down the lights for fear of public disapprobation, even if they believed that the whole thing was either a pointless or subversive stunt?

Author Peter Foster explains the metaphor further, and finishes by sharing this incredibly sad comment from a 12-year-old in Toronto:

“Earth Hour is important to me because my kids and grandkids will be living on this Earth,” declared Morgan Baskin, aged 12, at an event at Holy Trinity Church in downtown Toronto. “I don’t want my kids to be around for the end of the Earth.”

Like Peter says, this is child abuse. Instead of being taught to learn about the environment, to read and to think, children are being taught that unless you turn your lights off for an hour along with everyone else, the world is going to end.

Read: Lightcrime

One hour is just 0.01% of a year

earth hour From Wikipedia:

Earth Hour is an international event that asks households and businesses to turn off their lights and non-essential electrical appliances for one hour on the evening of 29 March at 8 pm local time until 9 pm to promote electricity conservation and thus lower carbon emissions.

I’ve written about this already, and I don’t think there’s much else to be said. If you’re participating in Earth Hour, that’s great, I’m glad you have an interest in making the world a better place to live.

But next time you feel the need to be green, pick an activity that will actually make a difference. Replace your lights with energy efficient ones. Turn the thermostat down in the winter. Buy a fuel efficient car, or better yet, switch to transit. Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

You don’t lose weight by going on a diet for an hour, so don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll make the Earth more green by turning the lights out for an hour.

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

Northern Voice 2008: My Post-Mortem Post

nv08 A week ago I was in Vancouver with Megan, getting ready for MooseCamp2008 which is the “unconference” part of Northern Voice. I’ve attended the conference ever since it began back in 2005, and I have enjoyed myself each time. I usually learn something new too (this year I learned that I am a WikiGnome). Attendance keeps going up, and the organizing committee is continuing to organize the conference, so it must be going well. It’s bigger and better each year!

Despite this, I find myself wondering why I should be attending Northern Voice. It just doesn’t feel like the “must attend” event that it was in 2005 and 2006. Yes, even last year felt a little different.

I don’t know why this is exactly, but here are some thoughts:

  • It’s less exciting. When NV started, blogging was still relatively new to most people. It was exciting. Lots of people were experimenting. Maybe it’s a bit tired now? Too many people doing it?
  • A related point: blogging is no longer enough. Just look at the website – NV is now a “blogging and social media” conference. Yet NV is still a two day event, which inevitably means that you can’t get as in-depth as in the past. There’s simply too much to cover.
  • It’s not downtown. The UBC campus is great, but it has a completely different feel. It’s further away from hotels and restaurants and people and general buzz. I think NV was better downtown.
  • The schedule sucks. Seriously, it has gone downhill in the last two years. Take a look at the schedules from 2005 and 2006, and compare that to 2007 and 2008. I don’t know about you, but I’d take the early two any day of the week. At least you can sort of make out what the sessions are about by reading the titles. This year the NV schedule had some really whacky session titles.
  • NV has become too Vancouver-specific. I love Vancouver, and I fully appreciate that it has been home to Northern Voice for four years now. I don’t think that justifies “Inhospitable Climate: Dating in Vancouver’s Techno-Mediated Scene” from this year’s schedule, however. MooseCamp is also getting fairly Vancouver-specific, with a couple Vancouver TransitCamp sessions in the last two years.
  • The website is stale. Aside from the fact that there are two websites (the main one and the wiki), I think simply changing the color scheme each year is bad. For long-time attendees like myself, it gives the impression that the organizers didn’t care enough to make it better. I know they’re all busy people and they truly do care about NV (and I do like all of them!), but that’s the impression it gives. Gnomedex gets a visual refresh each year, and I think that makes a difference.
  • It lacks polish. Kind of related to the website and schedule points. When it was just getting started, I loved that NV was a little rough around the edges. Four years in? I expect more. For instance, I expect the nametag to fit inside the nametag holder.
  • The wireless was spotty. Okay, this one is strictly related to this year, but lots of people were having connectivity problems all weekend. Too many live streams going maybe?

You should also have a look at the Post-Mortem page on the wiki for more comments.

All of that aside, there are still some awesome reasons to attend NV. There are some incredibly creative and smart people who do, like Duane Storey who created this amazing poster:

Northern Voice 2008

Some other positives:

  • Lunch is now included! This makes a huge difference, as I said last week.
  • Somehow, the organizers have managed to maintain a very diverse group of attendees. There are lots of women (somewhat unusual for a tech event), and people with varying levels of technical knowledge.
  • You will learn something new.
  • You will make new friends.
  • I like that I get to see some familiar faces in meatspace.
  • I also like meeting new people who I may have only communicated with online. There aren’t many opportunities for this.
  • It’s a personal conference. Unlike some other events, you’re not inundated with logos and slogans and pitches and buttons and stickers and such.

One other thing I wanted to mention is that James Sherrett should get the “top moose” award for 2008! Yeah I just made that award up, but seriously, he was everywhere. I have a feeling he put in more than his fair share of hours to make NV08 a success. His session entitled “Is advertising killing blogging?” was pretty good too.

So there you have it – my Northern Voice 2008 post-mortem post. Hopefully it doesn’t sound too negative! I look forward to seeing what NV09 is like.

Another Northern Voice in the books

nv08over

I don’t think this was my favorite edition of Northern Voice, but it wasn’t bad either. I’ll elaborate on that when I do a wrap-up post in a few days, but a few things have already been captured on the Post-Mortem wiki page.

I think Northern Voice is still a great event for people interesting in blogging and social media, and I admit I enjoyed it. If you’ve never experienced the conference, consider attending next year (yes it sounds like the organizers are definitely planning to hold NV again in 2009).

See you in twelve months!

Northern Voice 2008 – Free lunch!

Make your own wrapLast year Megan and Sharon went out in the rain to get us McDonald’s. I don’t remember what I did for lunch at Northern Voice in the years before that – I may have skipped lunch. This year, for the first time ever, lunch was provided!

And not just today, but yesterday at MooseCamp too. I think providing lunch was a really good idea. Food makes people happy. And the fact that no one has to leave means the conversations can continue. It’s hard to remember what Northern Voice was like in previous years without lunch, because this is what it should be like!

Here’s what was on the menu:

Friday: The DIY Sandwich Bar (Salads, assorted rolls, veggie fixins, deli meats, three cheeses, Nanaimo bars, brownies & dessert squares.)

Saturday: Mexican Buffet (bean dip with tortilla chips, corn & black bean salad, flour tortillas, chicken, veggies, monterey jack and cheddar cheeses, sour cream, salsa and guacamole, chocolate brownies.)

My wrap was soooo messy, but it was also really yummy.

Good call on the food, Northern Voice organizers.