Edmonton Notes for 3/21/2009

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Talking Twitter with CTV Edmonton

It’s no secret that the local media have jumped aboard the Twitter train in recent weeks. They seem completely smitten with it! Almost all the media outlets in Edmonton are now on Twitter in some capacity. The two big television stations, Global and CTV, have been really great about accepting feedback and assistance as they figure out how Twitter can best work for them. A couple weeks ago Karl Kovacs spoke to the Global Edmonton newsroom, and yesterday, I was fortunate enough to speak at CTV (there were also some folks from Access and 91.7 The Bounce in attendance).

I guess “speak” isn’t really the right term. I started with a bullet list of some key concepts (such as terminology and that Twitter Search rocks) but didn’t have any prepared slides or remarks. Instead, I had a browser open and encouraged everyone to fire away with questions. And fire away they did!

Questions ranged from “why do people follow other people” to “how can we best use Twitter during our newscast”. We also took some time to talk about the #teachctv discussion I had started on Twitter in the morning. I think it was a good eye-opener for most in the room to see how quick and easy it was for me to gather a bunch of feedback from the Twitter community. Thanks to everyone who posted a tweet in response.

I don’t know what CTV is going to do with the things we talked about, but the feedback I got was that everyone found the “primer” useful. I think I was able to start some interesting discussions, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with in the weeks ahead.

What I hope they took away from our chat was the following:

  • Links are important! I’d rather see a link than “coming up at 6” and I think most others on Twitter would also.
  • You’ve got to be willing to experiment. Some things will work, others won’t.
  • Twitter will not replace the TV or website, it is simply another tool. If used correctly, it can compliment CTV’s other channels.
  • Twitter is about people and relationships. You’ve got to show that there are humans behind the Twitter accounts! Be personable.

Those points are valid for any business on Twitter of course, not just for CTV.

Thanks to Carrie Doll and her team for the opportunity to discuss my favorite topic! I think it’s great that CTV Edmonton is so keen to utilize Twitter. Exciting times ahead!

To follow CTV on Twitter: @ctvedmonton, @carriedoll, @darylmcintyre, @joshclassen, @JoelGotlib, @robbywilliams, @ErinIsfeld, @davidjamesgreen, @crnkylttlmnky

Edmonton Notes for 3/16/2009

I didn’t touch a computer all weekend while I was in Calgary, so I missed posting these on Saturday. Here are some Edmonton-related things I found interesting for the week ending 3/14/2009:

Edmonton Notes for 3/7/2009

Here are some Edmonton-related things I found interesting this week:

Edmonton Media Organizations on Twitter

Given the recent interest in Twitter from the local media, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at which of the organizations are on Twitter and how they use it. Back in November I wrote about local news organizations and their use of social media. At that time, only the Edmonton Journal and iNews880 were on Twitter.

Things have definitely changed!

Here are the local news organizations (and their representatives) I know about on Twitter (numbers retrieved on 3/3/2009 at 12:30 AM):

Which media organizations are missing? Lots:

  • Edmonton Sun
  • CityTV Edmonton – though there are @axfergie, @meagankelly, and @KMPhotographer
  • Edmonton Examiner
  • Vue Weekly – I setup a placeholder account: @vueweekly
  • SEE Magazine
  • Avenue Edmonton
  • 24 Hours
  • 630 CHED – there is a placeholder account, @630CHED, but their efforts are focused on the iNews880 account
  • CKUA – though there is @kevinckua
  • Most other radio stations: Team 1260, 91.7 The Bounce, 96.3 Capital FM (added above), EZ Rock 104.9, CISN Country 103.9, 100.3 The Bear, Magic 99, etc.
  • Edmontonians Magazine
  • Venture Publishing magazines (maybe) – though there is @VentureMags, @RachelatVenture and @RuthatVenture

From this we can identify a few trends:

  • Most accounts were only recently created, and there are still lots of organizations not yet on Twitter.
  • Most of the active accounts are updated automatically using twitterfeed.
  • Most organizations have an “official” account that is treated like a bot, and employees have the more personal, interactive accounts.
  • Most accounts don’t follow back. The one notable exception is @iNews880.

I’m not sure how long I’ll wait before revisiting this list, but I’m pretty sure the number of local media organizations using Twitter will continue to increase. There’s definitely some concern in the community that by simply broadcasting, the local media aren’t using Twitter as effectively as they could be. I still think there’s value in having them on Twitter though.

UPDATE (3/5/2009): Very quickly others are joining! Here’s 91.7 The Bounce: @917thebounce, @onair1980, @carlykincaid

Edmonton Notes for 2/28/2009

Here are some Edmonton-related things I found interesting this week:

Edmonton Notes for 2/21/2009

Here are some Edmonton-related things I found interesting this week:

Edmonton Notes for 2/14/2009

Happy Valentine’s Day! Here are some Edmonton-related things I found interesting this week:

UPDATE: Forgot to mention the Agile Edmonton social, taking place on Tuesday evening at Hudson’s downtown. More information here.

Talking Tech with Edmonton Transit (ETS)

I was fortunate enough today to chat with Bruce Beecher and Dennis Nowicki from Edmonton Transit (ETS). Bruce is the IT Strategic Advisor for the Transportation department, and Dennis is the Director of Community Relations for ETS. Though we talked about a variety of things, the focus was technology.

I think there was some educating happening on both sides. I learned more about their situation and perspectives, and I hope they soaked up some technical stuff from me. I think it went really well!

What I’d like to share in this post is an overview of what we discussed. There’s nothing confidential here, but some of this information may still be new to you. They’re aware they need to improve on the communication side of things!

ETS has been evaluating potential technologies to deploy to the fleet for quite a while now (I wrote about some at last year’s Community Conference). These technologies include:

  • Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) – This is essentially a GPS module that would be installed on each bus.
  • Automated Traveler Information Systems (ATIS) – This is essentially giving riders access to that GPS information. That is, where is my bus right now?
  • Mobile Data Terminals (MDT)
  • Automated Stop Announcement (ASA) – No more peering out into the darkness to see if you’re at the right stop. Also important for accessibility.
  • Automatic Passenger Counter (APC)
  • Automated Fare Booth (Smart Cards)
  • Automatic Vehicle Monitor (AVM) – This would gather information about the engine, fuel consumption, etc. It’s like a black box for the bus.

Those are listed roughly in order of priority, though nothing is set in stone. In fact, the AVM might get bumped to the front of the list simply because it offers the best ROI for ETS. The ability to know what’s wrong with a bus on the fly would have a huge impact on the bottom line. Same goes for being able to determine if a bus is getting poor fuel consumption for some reason. Makes sense to me.

There are a few problems with all of this technology, mostly related to cost:

  • Edmonton has bumpy roads and extremely cold temperatures in the winter. On-board equipment needs to be hardened and reliable. We often can’t use the same stuff that San Francisco uses, for example.
  • Rough estimates place the cost per bus at $15,000. There are currently 903 buses in service.
  • By 2012, the number of buses will be closer to 1300, so it won’t get any cheaper to deploy.

Another issue is maintainability. Ideally, each bus would have one computer with a LAN of some kind that everything else just connects to, so that it’s all integrated. Otherwise you end up with many potentially disparate systems.

What I took away from all of this is essentially that ETS is keen to deploy GPS technologies and to make that information available to riders. The challenge is finding a way to make it happen.

Next we shifted gears and talked about the ETS website, Google Transit and my API idea (though I’m definitely not the only one with the idea…dub5 is another interested group). There are improvements to the ETS Trip Planner in the works, so watch for something during the summer. They’re also looking to improve the main ETS website, now that everyone has had time to digest the edmonton.ca redesign.

Unfortunately I can’t talk as much about Google Transit as I’d like to just yet, but I can tell you that a major announcement is coming in the next week or so. I plan to cover it here, and you’ll no doubt see it in the mainstream media. Bottom line: ETS is fully behind Google Transit, and that’s a good thing for Edmontonians.

As for the API idea? They like it and would like to learn more about it. At this point however, getting access to a dump of the same data that Google gets is probably more likely. It would work like this: you sign some sort of agreement with ETS outlining the terms of use (basically something like “I agree not to misrepresent this information…”, and they send you the GTFS data. From there, you could do whatever you like with it. You could build and release your own API, for instance.

Is that going to happen – are they going to make the data available? No guarantees, but they will definitely consider it. Obviously an API would be better for accessing real-time data, but even a recent snapshot would be a step in the right direction. I think this is very encouraging!

If they do go down the data sharing route, I think we should organize an API building weekend!

The final thing I want to mention is that we talked briefly about RSS. My goal is to get every City of Edmonton department publishing as many RSS feeds as possible! It’s horribly underutilized at the moment. I think Bruce and Dennis definitely understand the benefit of RSS, and I hope to see some ETS feeds published soon!

Thanks to both Bruce and Dennis for a great conversation – I learned a lot, and I look forward to keeping the dialogue going.

Edmonton Notes for 2/7/2009

Here are some Edmonton-related things I found interesting this week: