Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 16

democampTonight was our sixteenth DemoCamp here in Edmonton. Held at the Telus Centre on the University of Alberta campus, DemoCamp is still going strong in our city! Tonight’s event continued the new format adopted at the last DemoCamp in September: 7 minutes for demos, 3 minutes for questions, and announcements interspersed throughout the evening.

DemoCamp Edmonton 16
Reg has been the official DemoCamp Edmonton timekeeper since the beginning!

We had seven demos tonight, in order of appearance:

  • TinderizerDaniel demoed his bookmarklet app that lets you send articles from around the web to your Kindle with the click of a button. There are similar services available now (like Readability) but Daniel has continued improving his offering since first releasing it a year ago.
  • Transit Heat Map – Next up was an interesting web app that helps you visualize how many stops you can reach within a certain amount of time. After you pick a starting stop, you can quickly discover which parts of the city are accessible within 15 minutes, and which parts might take an hour. Reminded me a bit of Mapnificent.
  • Browser HordeKevin demoed a web-based platform for solving complex problems. Similarly to SETI@Home and other distributed computing systems, complicated problems are broken down and solved using computing resources from volunteers. The difference is that Browser Horde runs entirely in the browser.
  • Darkhorse Analytics – Daniel ran us through the web-based analytics app that Darkhorse has been building for the Emergency Services industry. The app consumes data that EMS agencies already collect, such as trip times, wait times, etc., and provides an easy-to-use dashboard to make sense of that information.
  • Solvers Market – Alex demoed his question and answer site, billed as “an intelligence exchange platform.” Similar to StackExchange and other sites you can post a question for others to answer, but the site also incorporates money, so you can earn money for solving questions.
  • Fluik EntertainmentVictor showed the very successful Office Jerk game and its successors, Office Zombie and a new Christmas-themed version of the game. Office Jerk reached #1 on the iOS app charts.
  • Willstream – Joel demoed the mobile payments solution that is currently focused on the market in Senegal. The idea is to build a service that supports the three-party interaction that is common in developing markets (funds owner, spender, and merchant).

DemoCamp Edmonton 16 DemoCamp Edmonton 16 DemoCamp Edmonton 16 DemoCamp Edmonton 16 DemoCamp Edmonton 16 DemoCamp Edmonton 16 DemoCamp Edmonton 16

I’m not sure there was a clear favorite this evening – all of the demos were great! I love seeing projects like Tinderizer and the Transit Heat Map, built to solve a specific problem without requiring big plans for commercialization. Browser Horde is perhaps a bit technical, but seems suited to some specific problem domains and if they can find enough volunteers, could be quite successful. Darkhorse Analytics certainly seems like it could be a big, big winner. The research and effort that Daniel and his team have put into the product really shows, and I think a lot of folks in the audience were really impressed with the demo. Solvers Market demoed a couple weeks ago at PanEx, and while interesting, still needs to find a clear differentiator in a crowded market. Willstream’s demo unfortunately didn’t go very well (they had some issues with data being deleted today) but I think the concept has promise. I hope they can make it work.

Fluik has become a great Edmonton success story, and seems poised to continue producing hits and to keep growing (they’re already at 20 people and are hiring). Office Jerk was released on April 28, 2011 and immediately found success. Growth has continued ever since, with the game being downloaded more than six million times in just its first month. Keep an eye on Fluik!

There were a number of event and other announcements this evening:

  • The YEG Founders Club is getting started. The group aims to provide a place for entrepreneurs to connect with one another. Follow @yegfounders on Twitter and watch for more information.
  • The next Founders & Funders event will take place on December 5. The invite-only event is an opportunity for founders of technology startups to connect with investors.
  • MediaCamp Edmonton is scheduled to take place on February 4, 2012.
  • Grant MacEwan University is launching a usability lab, and would like to open it up to community. You can contact Sharon Bratt for more information.
  • The next Startup Weekend is scheduled for January 27, 2012 and will coincide with Global Game Jam.

Stay tuned to Startup Edmonton for additional events and announcements!

Tonight’s after-party at Original Joe’s Varsity didn’t seem as packed as some in the past, but it was still a great opportunity to connect with the demoers and others in the community. Thanks to everyone who came out tonight. See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 17!

WordCamp Edmonton 2011

WordCamp is coming to Edmonton on November 18 and 19! WordCamp is a gathering of all things WordPress, and is intended for bloggers, content creators, developers, designers, and publishers. Here’s a little more information about the event:

WordCamps are casual, locally-organized, non- profit conferences covering everything related to WordPress, the free and open source personal publishing software that powers over 25 million sites on the web. WordCamps come in all different flavors, based on the local communities that produce them. In general, WordCamps include sessions on how to use WordPress more effectively, beginning plugin and theme development, advanced techniques, security, etc.

We’ve got an awesome little promo video for the event:

WordCamp Edmonton will take place at the Shaw Conference Centre in Salons 5 and 6. I’m pretty excited about the schedule we have been able to put together! We’ve got some excellent speakers, and a wide variety of topics. We’ve also built in some time for conversation, so it’ll be a good opportunity to connect with others in Edmonton who are using WordPress. Tickets for the event are just $40, and that includes both days of content plus lunch on Saturday.

I took the WordPress plunge back in February 2008, converting my entire blog to WordPress 2.3 from Community Server. It was a great decision, and I haven’t ever considered changing platforms since. WordPress is highly capable “out-of-the-box” and has one of the most vibrant plugin and theme communities of any software product. WordPress is now at version 3.2 and it just keeps getting better. Whenever I need to build a new site, I turn to WordPress.

A big thanks to all of our sponsors for helping us make WordCamp happen here in Edmonton, in particular our Gold Sponsors, Jetpack and EEDC. Also, a shout out to the organizing team of Kory, Jeff, and Sebastian, who have had help from myself, Ashley, and Dana. Everyone has worked hard to get this event put together!

We hope to see you there! Get your tickets here! You can follow @wordcampyeg on Twitter for updates.

Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 15

Edmonton’s fifteenth DemoCamp took place last night at the Telus Centre on the University of Alberta campus. With more than 200 people registered to attend, it was no surprise that the room was packed to see what some of Edmonton’s developers, creatives, and others have been up to. The event has evolved quite a bit since the first DemoCamp was held back in March of 2008 and that evolution continue last night. Demos were shortened slightly to 7 minutes, with 3 minutes left for questions. In an effort to streamline setup between demos, announcements about upcoming events and initiatives were made throughout the evening, rather than all at the beginning or end. And finally, Startup Edmonton branding was more prevalent.

We had six demos last night, in order of appearance:

  • Pepper – I demoed my little project that makes use of the Kinect to respond to voice commands and simple gestures.
  • Buzzerful – Jas showed us “the apartment buzzer of your dreams.”
  • Jobber – Sam demoed Jobber, easy-to-use administration software for businesses like painters, landscapers, snow removers, etc.
  • Inkdit – Greg showed us “the social network model applied to legal relationships.”
  • GeniePad – Rafal and Sjoerd very quickly ran through the many features of GeniePad, “the next generation condominium website.”
  • Rinksters – Ted gave a very entertaining demo of his company’s immersive virtual world.

I hope I achieved what I set out to accomplish with my demo – I wanted to bring an element of tinkering back to DemoCamp! My buggy app Pepper was built for my living room. Hooked up to my TV and a Kinect, I can give it voice commands like “Pepper, what is the current temperature” and it responds using text-to-speech. I have also been exploring gestures, so I can say “Pepper, show me the latest tweets about Edmonton” and then use my hand to swipe through them. The combination of speech and gestures really intrigues me.

Buzzerful was a neat little app. It gives you control over your apartment buzzer, by enabling the creation of one-time party or delivery codes as well as custom access codes for tenants or roommates. Also very cool is that you can set it up to call multiple numbers all at once, and the first person to answer gets to let the visitor in (or not). I’d totally use that, as long as there were solid notifications about the status of the service (if it goes down, I want to know). Might be cool if it could call me on Skype instead of the phone too.

Jobber is one of those apps that had me thinking “where were you ten years ago!” I was one of the unfortunate souls who undertook a summer with College Pro Painters, and an app like Jobber would certainly have made things better. It manages scheduling, customer relationships, invoices, estimates, jobs, tasks, and much more. It has some pretty nifty visualization tools as well to see where employees are deployed and where jobs are located. There’s even a mobile interface for use on-the-go. Check out Jobber’s blog about the event.

Inkdit deals with something pretty boring – legal agreements. Boring, but important! The service is a way to keep track of contracts you’re signing, either as yourself or on behalf of an organization. And it uses social networking to connect the different parties to the agreement. There’s a great demonstration site (it uses Comic Sans so you know it’s a demo site) that shows off the features.

GeniePad is an impressive application already in use by a number of condominium boards and property managers. The idea is to provide a simple communication portal for condos. It lets condos and owners share news and documents, contact the board or property manager, and track tasks and requests, among other things. My condo board uses it, and we’re really quite happy with it!

It was pretty much a given that the Rinksters demo would be fun – it is a game, after all. But I didn’t realize how entertaining Ted was! I’m not sure if he was intentionally funny at the start but he ran with it as he took us through some areas of the world, including a rare look at Yeti’s house! The game is targeted at kids in the 8-12 age range, though as Ted pointed out, no one will know if you’re older and you’re playing.

I usually ask a few people what their favorite demo of the night was, and the two cited most frequently last night were Jobber and GeniePad. Both apps solve real problems and seem to be well on their way to success!

Once again the big after-party was held at Original Joe’s Varsity. Thanks to Go Auto for sponsoring the drinks!

Some upcoming events you may be interested in:

Thanks to everyone who came out last night. See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 16!

Tracking my activity & sleep with the Fitbit

From the first moment I came across the Fitbit, I wanted one. A gadget to track how active I am and how much I sleep? Sign me up! The FAQ does a good job of describing what the Fitbit Tracker is:

The Fitbit Tracker contains a motion sensor like the ones found in the Nintendo Wii. The Tracker senses your motion in three dimensions and converts this into useful information about your daily activities. The Tracker measures the intensity and duration of your physical activities, calories burned, steps taken, distance traveled, how long it took you to fall asleep, the number of times you woke up throughout the night and how long you were actually asleep vs just lying in bed. You can wear the Tracker loosely in your pocket or clipped to your clothing, even bras.

Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, Fitbit doesn’t allow orders if you live in Canada, so that’s why I had never purchased one. But recently I came across a tweet from a fellow Canadian who said that he had successfully ordered a Fitbit by emailing the company. I gave it a shot, and was very pleased with the service! They took my credit card information over the phone, and a week or so later, my Fitbit arrived.

Fitbit

The Fitbit tracker is pretty small. If I’m wearing shorts or sweat pants around the house, I wear it on the waistband. When I’m wearing jeans, I attach the Fitbit to the small coin pocket. It’s very much a clip-it-and-forget-it kind of gadget. At night I use the provided wristband (which feels like it is really cheaply made but it gets the job done).

By default the Fitbit tracks the number of steps you take, the distance travelled, your “activity score”, and the number of calories you burn. At night you put it into activity mode before you go to sleep (by holding down the one button until the device says “Start”) and then it tracks the amount of time you’re asleep and the number of times you wake up. You can also use the website to track the number of calories you consume, your weight, heart rate, blood pressure, glucose levels, and more. The Fitbit comes with a small USB base station that I leave plugged into my computer. Anytime I come within a few feet of the base station, the Fitbit wirelessly syncs the data up to the website. My only nitpick here is that you need to check the website to see the battery level of the device – it would be better if it could appear on the device itself. On the plus side, it easily lasts over a week without charging.

One of the first things I did was check the number of steps it was recording. I’d count 100 steps and check to see if the Fitbit got it right. The most it was ever off on these tests was two or three steps, so it’s pretty accurate. You can enter stride length and other settings in your profile, but I haven’t bothered.

I started out tracking my food on the website too, but that didn’t last long. I found it too cumbersome to find foods or create new ones to match what I’m eating. I don’t feel any need or desire to count calories, so I guess it’s one area where you get out what you put in! I am tracking weight, body fat %, and body water %, however. I picked up a scale that calculates all of those things for $30, so it’s trivial to step on it in the morning and record the results.

The website is pretty great at visualizing the data it records, and it even lets you compare with other Fitbit users. But they also offer an API. I used the awesome script from here to get all the data via the API into a spreadsheet to create the charts below.

Here are the number of steps recorded for each day since I got the Fitbit:

On average I have been doing 9359 steps per day, just under my goal of 10,000 per day. Of course there are good days and bad days, as you can see!

Here are the number of hours I have slept each night:

My average during this time period is 6 hours, 45 minutes, again with some days better than others. The Fitbit also tracks how long it took you to fall asleep. That has just verified what I already knew: I can usually fall asleep in minutes!

Here are the number of awakenings per night:

I’m not entirely certain what an “awakening” is. Did I just toss and turn enough for it to register? Generally I don’t wake up very often, though it looks like I had a few restless nights.

Another thing the Fitbit tracks is your activity score, which is based on how active you are. It also records this by category. Here’s the average breakdown for me during the last few weeks:

What this means is that 71% of the time I am awake, I’m not moving very much. I guess this isn’t surprising – I know I could be more active! I walk quite a bit, but that’s about it. A lot of my time is spent on the computer. In fact, I know exactly how much time:

I use RescueTime to track my computer usage, so I was able to compare the data. Of the time that the Fitbit recorded I was sedentary, 47% of it was spent on the computer. The rest of the time would be eating, reading, watching TV, driving, coffee meetings, etc.

It’s probably too early to say that the Fitbit has had an impact on my activity or sleep, though there have been days where Sharon and I decided to go for a walk just so I could get closer to 10,000 steps. And I did buy the scale because of the Fitbit. So at least now I know where I stand!

I imagine one day all of this and more will be tracked automatically without needing to wear a little device (who knows what they’ll come up with). Until then, there’s the Fitbit. I’m really happy with it so far, and I would definitely recommend it!

Review: WIND Mobile Data Stick

Back in May I was contacted by a company representing WIND Mobile to see if I would be interested in test driving a data stick for free. I don’t often get contacted for things like this let alone accept them, but I liked the idea of the mobile data stick given my interest in wireless technology so I accepted. This was the pitch:

We’d like to offer you a free WIND Mobile Data Stick with two months of unlimited service to help you stay connected wherever you go. Your readers look to you to stay informed on the latest tech trends and Edmonton happenings – so whether you’re writing from this year’s Fringeopolis, or you want to share a new social media trend with Edmonton’s blogosphere while you’re on the go, if you’re in a WIND Zone, you’ll have access to the internet – and to your readers. All we ask in return is that if you like it, tell people about it.

I said I’d write about it either way, hence this post!

The data stick arrived right at the end of May, and I used it a few times throughout June and July. Setup was really simple – I was up and running in a matter of minutes (I didn’t have to do any activation steps, that was already taken care of). The main task was to install the software. The USB stick itself is manufactured by Huawei and the software they provide is pretty generic, it just gets branded for each carrier. I really dislike installing any extra wireless software on my computer – I prefer to let Windows handle everything. Aside from the dated Windows XP look however, the software thankfully didn’t cause any problems.

Clicking ‘connect’ was all that was required, though I did find it useful to look at the statistics from time to time. As you can see it has the ability to send text messages as well (after all, the data stick runs on the same network as your cell phone). I didn’t use that functionality – it seems kind of unnecessary when my phone is never far away!

I purposefully avoided doing any detailed speed tests with the data stick. If I were to buy one, I wouldn’t be downloading torrents or anything like that, so I figured I’d just test my “normal usage”. That means things like email, Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc. In general, I was happy with the performance!

The first time I used the data stick was at the Questionmark office, actually. We were in the process of moving from the 8th floor to the 5th floor, and we had all kinds of issues getting our Internet connection moved. And once it did get moved, it would drop all the time! We got it all resolved eventually, but I used the data stick quite a bit while waiting for a technician to show up, so that worked out well.

Not long after that, Sharon and I were guest speakers at a Travel Media Association of Canada retreat focused on social media. I think I could have connected to the wireless they had arranged, but it was easier to just use the data stick. With lots of browsing and demos, the connection worked really well! I never had to wait longer than normal for something to load. The only odd thing I noticed was with geo-location – Twitter would identify my location as Vancouver rather than Edmonton!

The first time I used the data stick for tweeting/blogging was June 11 at TEDxEdmonton 2011. If you were there, you probably saw me down front in the middle, live-tweeting the presentations. There wasn’t any wi-fi available so having the data stick really came in handy. I could have tweeted from my phone I guess, but looking up links, videos, and the other stuff I was including is just so much easier on a laptop. All of that went really well, but I ran into issues when I tried uploading photos to Flickr. The upload speeds were abysmal, and I eventually gave up and plugged in to a wired connection during the breaks.

I also found the data stick useful in a couple of volunteer situations. I am the secretary on my condo board, and we have meetings in our shared room on the main floor. It doesn’t have wi-fi so it was handy to have the data stick to get access to download files and look things up! Another situation was during a meeting for the new Slow Food Edmonton site that I am developing (no it’s not up yet). We were at Credo which usually has excellent wireless, but for whatever reason on that day it wasn’t working. I was able to connect with the data stick though and continue with the meeting as planned.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned above, I was really pleased with how easy it was to setup and use the data stick. For my “typical usage” testing, the performance was great. I just wouldn’t upload photos!

The thing is, on most days I’m never far from a wi-fi connection. My home office, the Questionmark office, Credo, Transcend, etc. – they all have good wi-fi connections. While it was certainly useful to have the data stick available for those times that I didn’t have wi-fi, I don’t think I’m on the go often enough to justify it.

Edmonton SeniorNet

seniorsBack in April, the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton (Sage) invited me to join the Seniors Social Media Advisory Committee. The committee exists to help plan and develop what we now call Edmonton SeniorNet. Here’s some background that explains how this came about:

The Edmonton Seniors Coordinating Council (ESCC) was formed in 2004 as a mechanism of shared planning, coordination, and collaboration among Edmonton service providers for seniors. One of the ESCC’s objectives has been to develop and maintain a current strategic plan that addresses the needs of seniors and senior serving organizations in Edmonton. The Strategic Plan for Services to Edmonton’s Seniors: Towards 2015 is an initiative that aims to identify a shared strategic direction to meet the needs of seniors in Edmonton. One of the key areas that have been identified in this document is the need for meaningful and affordable social and recreational participation for seniors. A goal of this area, which Sage has taken the process lead on, is to develop and/or facilitate the use of current and emerging technologies to connect seniors.

This is interesting to me for a number of reasons. Obviously we know that the seniors population in Edmonton (and elsewhere) is growing rapidly. And we know that a large number of them are adopting tools like Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family. But there are lots of seniors who are not, for a variety of reasons. For me personally, my grandparents are split when it comes to web usage. My Dad’s mum is an avid email user, she’s on Facebook, and she uses instant messaging and SMS to keep in touch. She’s pretty savvy, and she’ll probably read this right away! On the flip side, my Mom’s parents use the Internet for banking and some very limited email and that’s about it. I often wonder why there’s such a difference in usage between them, and while I have some guesses, I don’t know the answer.

Sage recently received funding from the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program for this project, which was originally known as the “Emerging Social Media” project. Over the last few months we have been discussing how to take the program forward. The idea is to connect interested seniors with mentors to get an introduction to the world of social media, to see if it helps them stay connected.

We’re nearly into August now, and the Edmonton SeniorNet program is very close to launching!

Edmonton SeniorNet is a program that aims to introduce seniors to Internet websites that will help them easily connect and share ideas and stories with friends, family and the community. Edmonton SeniorNet seminars will take place at the Sage computer labs, and will run twice weekly from August to late October. Our hands-on seminars will teach seniors to use email and social-networking websites such as Facebook, Skype and Twitter.

Classes are currently scheduled to take place at Sage downtown (northwest corner of Churchill Square). One option is Monday & Wednesday afternoons from 1pm to 2:30pm (starts August 3), and the other is Tuesday & Thursday mornings from 10am to 11:30am (starts August 4).

We’re still looking for additional participants and mentors. Participants should have some basic computer skills and experience surfing the web is a desirable asset, though not required. Mentors should be enthusiastic but patient, should already use Facebook, Skype, and other tools regularly, and should be eager to share their knowledge with others! If you’re interested in participating either as a participant or a mentor, contact Karolina at Sage (contact info is on the right side).

Check out the Edmonton SeniorNet blog for updates as the project progresses. You can also like the project on Facebook!

Five Years with Twitter

It was five years ago today that Twitter officially launched to the public (the very first ever tweet was sent on March 21, 2006). It was also five years ago today that I signed up for the service. It has become my claim to Twitter fame (such as it is) – I was the 985th person in the world to join! More than 600,000 people joined Twitter yesterday, which is pretty amazing when you consider that it took more than 16 months for the first 600,000 people to join!

When it launched, Twitter was actually Twttr (no vowels). At the time I was busy working on Podcast Spot. We were always paying attention to what our competitors were doing, and one of the biggest names in podcasting at the time was Odeo. I remember reading that they had launched a side-project named Twttr, and I remember thinking “this is dumb” after I checked it out. I mean the idea was neat, without a doubt, but I couldn’t fathom why they would be putting resources into Twttr rather than into Odeo. Anyway, as you know Odeo died and Twitter took off, so obviously they made the right decision!

I’ve written over a hundred Twitter-related blog posts over the last five years. My early entries seemed to be all about Twitter’s infamous fail whale and how the service struggled to stay operational, though I did immediately pick up on the ability to track topics. It was well into 2008 that they were still experiencing issues with reliability. That was also the year that I organized our first ever tweetup here in Edmonton (with help from Melanie and others). In June of 2008, I was down in Calgary for BarCamp and did a presentation on Twitter. After chatting with Wil at the bar afterward, I decided we should borrow the city hashtag idea from Calgary (they were using #yyc). The first #yeg tweet went out on June 20, 2008 (I wrote a bit more about that here). Exactly two years after Twitter launched, it purchased Summize, the search engine that now powers Twitter Search. That was a big deal, as it made the service much more useful. It also made it possible for me to start tracking the Edmonton Twittersphere, and I posted my first look at those statistics in February 2009. That seemed to give the local scene some momentum, and a month later I was at CTV talking to their newsroom about Twitter. That was the turning point in Edmonton, in my opinion. A lot of people joined after they ran the Twitter story, and I think the fact that CTV embraced the service gave it some legitimacy. The local Twittersphere has been growing in size and influence ever since.

I have always been a web user of Twitter. Over the years I have used apps on my mobile phones, text messaging, and I’ve dabbled with apps like TweetDeck and HootSuite, but my primary interface remains the Twitter website. I was particularly happy about #newtwitter, though I know a lot of you didn’t like the redesign (at least initially). It’s kind of incredible to think back to the time when Twitter didn’t have retweets, mentions were just replies, and hashtags were rare. The addition of lists was another thing that changed the way I use Twitter. I’m often asked how I can possibly follow nearly 6000 people and the answer is always “I don’t.” I use a combination of lists and search to pay attention to certain people and/or topics! I rarely, if ever, look at the timeline. It look me a long time to get over that – early on I definitely felt like I didn’t want to miss anything! Twitter is still largely the same as it was in 2006 (at least conceptually), but the changes that have been made have really had an impact.

I don’t know what Twitter will look like five years from now, but it certainly shows no signs of going away. I look forward to its continued evolution, and I hope Twitter continues to have a positive impact here in Edmonton!

Special thanks to Jeff and Sally for the Twitter birthday post today! And yes, I need to get on with updating stats!

Edmonton Transit (ETS) Text Messaging: Statistics & Advertising

About six months ago, Edmonton Transit launched its text messaging service which enables riders to get schedule information via a simple SMS text message to 31100. The service was really well received, even though it was described by ETS as a pilot. I use the service almost every time I need to hop on a bus, and it works great! I’m definitely not the only one using the service either, as the latest statistics show.

usage stats

You can see that the initial growth was quite impressive, with usage doubling from January to March. Nathan Walters, Strategic Marketing Supervisor at ETS, told me that the adoption curve was “slightly steeper than expected” but that it is following projected usage quite closely. Since then usage has plateaued a little, probably due in part to the school year ending. Nathan said that usage of the service is probably going to be somewhat seasonal, just like BusLink.

As of Monday afternoon, just over 1.2 million messages had been sent, which works out to about 7050 messages per day. For comparison, Winnipeg Transit was delivering about 6000 messages per day back in May. Not a bad start at all!

text ads

When the service launched back in January, ETS said it would open up the ability to advertise on the text messages some time in the spring (the last 40 characters of each message are reserved for advertising). That service officially launched on June 17.

Advertising on the ETS Text Messaging Service provides a direct way to reach thousands of commuters riding the transit system every day. As an ETS text messaging advertiser, you have the opportunity to customize your campaign by location, time, bus route and even budget. This opportunity is affordable, tailored and easy to manage.

You can register for an account here and start advertising right away. The price can be as low as a penny per ad, but it is market-driven. Basically you buy credits and then place bids. You can customize your ads by specific bus stops, routes, time, and mobile phone provider. There’s a user guide in PDF here with more information.

demographic stats
(click for a larger version)

I’d encourage you to check out the Text Messaging Ad Media Kit in PDF too, as it contains a ton of useful information about the service. Some of the demographic information is a bit old, but it is still instructive.

You can learn more about the ETS text messaging service here.

1.2 zettabytes of data created in 2010

For the last five years or so, IDC has released an EMC-sponsored study on “The Digital Universe” that looks at how much data is created and replicated around the world. When I last blogged about it back in 2008, the number stood at 281 exabytes per year. Now the latest report is out, and for the first time the amount of data created has surpassed 1 zettabyte! About 1.2 zettabytes were created and replicated in 2010 (that’s 1.2 trillion gigabytes), and IDC predicts that number will grow to 1.8 zettabytes this year. The amount of data is more than doubling every two years!

Here’s what the growth looks like:

How much data is that? Wikipedia has some good answers: exabyte, zettabyte. EMC has also provided some examples to help make sense of the number. 1.8 zettabytes is equivalent in sheer volume to:

  • Every person in Canada tweeting three tweets per minute for 242,976 years nonstop
  • Every person in the world having over 215 million high-resolution MRI scans per day
  • Over 200 billion HD movies (each two hours in length) – would take one person 47 million years to watch every movie 24/7
  • The amount of information needed to fill 57.5 billion 32GB Apple iPads. With that many iPads we could:
    • Create a wall of iPads, 4,005 miles long and 61 feet high extending from Anchorage, Alaska to Miami, Florida
    • Build the Great iPad Wall of China – at twice the average height of the original
    • Build a 20-foot high wall around South America
    • Cover 86 per cent of Mexico City
    • Build a mountain 25 times higher than Mt. Fuji

That’s a lot of data!

EMC/IDC has produced a great infographic that explains more about the explosion of data – see it here in PDF. One of the things that has always been fuzzy for me is the difference between data we’ve created intentionally (like a document) and data we’ve created unintentionally (sharing that document with others). According to IDC, one gigabyte of stored data can generate one petabyte (1 million gigabytes) of transient data!

Cost is one of the biggest factors behind this growth, of course. The cost of creating, capturing, managing, and storing information is now just 1/6th of what it was in 2005. Another big factor is the fact that most of us now carry the tools of creation at all times, everywhere we go. Digital cameras, mobile phones, etc.

You can learn more about all of this and see a live information growth ticker at EMC’s website.

This seems as good a time as any to remind you to backup your important data! It may be easy to create photos and documents, but it’s even easier to lose them. I use a variety of tools to backup data, including Amazon S3, Dropbox, and Windows Live Mesh. The easiest by far though is Backblaze – unlimited storage for $5 per month per computer, and it all happens automagically in the background.

Recap: TEDxEdmonton 2011

More than 200 people attended the second TEDxEdmonton which took place on Saturday in the intimate Rice Theatre at The Citadel in downtown Edmonton. TEDxEdmonton is an “independently organized TED event” (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design) created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading.” It’s pretty likely that you’ve seen a TED talk at some point – more than 900 have been made freely available on the TED site. The idea behind TEDx is simple: stimulate dialogue at the local level by adopting the 18-minutes-or-less format and creating a TED-like experience.

The theme for this year’s event was “seeds of innovation”:

We’re in the midst of an exciting era. We’re living in an interconnected knowledge economy shaped by the creative industries, information technology, and globalization. And we’re seeing a new generation of connected artists, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs emerging who can transform seeds of new ideas into bold new works, companies and products. At TEDxEdmonton 2011, we’ll meet some of these remarkable people, some from abroad, others from right here in our hometown. We promise you another dizzying day of inspiration, wonder and curious delight, as we experience the stories, visions, and passions of these bold individuals through the art of live presentation.

After last year’s edition, I’d say the bar for TEDxEdmonton was set extremely high. The production quality, the excellent speakers, and the time built-in for discussions were just a few of the reasons that so many people thought last year’s event was superb. Matching or exceeding that success was a tall order for the organizing committee this year, but I think it’s safe to say they nailed it.

First impressions are everything, and TEDxEdmonton did not disappoint. Upon registering, attendees were given a lanyard with a nice big nametag that had space on it for a photo. The next step was to have a mini-Polaroid photo taken that could be taped onto the nametag. It’s kind of strange to have a photo of yourself on your nametag (I mean, you can see my face, can’t you?) but the nametags were indeed a great keepsake from the event. More importantly, it was an opportunity for people to have some fun and to get creative. And they did!

TEDxEdmonton 2011

Last year’s stage was created by the University of Alberta’s Student Design Association and it was, in a word, remarkable. It was colorful and visually interesting, and was going to be difficult to top this year. Once again the SDA was tasked with creating the stage for TEDxEdmonton, and the design they came up with was just as impressive as last year’s. Less colorful but more vertical, the stage provided the perfect backdrop for the day’s presentations. It sounded complex too – they took inspiration from Edmonton itself and used light to plot points of interest from around the city on the design. You can see some work-in-progress photos of both stages at the SDA’s Flickr page. You can also follow them on Twitter!

TEDxEdmonton 2011

The day’s presentations were broken up into three sessions: Transformation, Unstoppable, and Provocative. There were ten presentations in all, plus three TEDTalks, one for each session. Local power-couple Ryan Jespersen and Kari Skelton were our hosts for the day, and they did a wonderful job of keeping things moving.

Ryan Jespersen & Kari Skelton

TEDxEdmonton 2011Vik Maraj, co-creator of Unstoppable Conversations, kicked things off with the first presentation. His talk centered around the idea that we need to be game-changing. He used the metaphor of a child learning to walk to make his point, saying that we need to “start trying to walk, and stop trying not to fall” if we want to be successful. His talk was full of great one-liners, like this one: “The future derives from creation, not from surviving it.” He was a great speaker, and was the right choice to lead off the day.

TEDxEdmonton 2011Our second speaker was Jessie Radies, founder of Live Local Alberta and owner of The Blue Pear restaurant. She talked about the importance of the local economy, through of mix of statistics and personal anecdotes. Her talk touched on the challenges of being a farmer in Alberta, noting that the average farm has experienced a net loss for the last 20 years. She also talked about her belief that a rising tide would lift all boats and her dedication to sourcing things locally. She issued a sort of challenge to the audience, saying that “by shifting a portion of our spending we can significantly change what our community looks like.”

TEDxEdmonton 2011Todd Babiak of the Edmonton Journal was up next to talk about the importance of story. Without question his talk was my favorite of the day, a sentiment echoed by many in the audience. His talk was the right mix of serious, funny, and thought-provoking. He talked about his kids, noting that children instinctively understand what a story is. We unlearn that knowledge as we get older, without even realizing it. Todd stressed the importance of having a story: “If you haven’t built your story, the most you can hope to achieve is mediocrity.” He also poked fun at cliches and jargon as he touched on authenticity, a section of his presentation that made everyone laugh. “You have to find the higher spiritual truth of your story in order for it to be effective,” he said. Finally, he got everyone thinking about writing their story by reminding us that “the longer you wait to tell your story, the more difficult it becomes.”

Our first TEDTalk of the day came next. We watched Steven Johnson’s talk titled Where good ideas come from. It was filmed in July 2010, and introduced the intriguing concept of the “liquid networks” found in London’s coffee houses. The key idea was that connecting ideas is more important than protecting them, because “chance favors the connected mind.”

Colleen Brown closed out the first session with an awesome musical performance. She’s a fantastic singer/songwriter and more than a few people in the audience proudly proclaimed that they were new fans as a result! It was a great way to end the morning.

TEDxEdmonton 2011

Lunch was next on the schedule and as with the rest of TEDxEdmonton it was anything but ordinary. Instead of individual lunches, groups of five or six people were given a wooden box filled with sandwiches, salads, drinks, and treats and were encouraged to eat together. Most groups ended up outside where the sun was shining and the streets were packed for the Edmonton Pride Parade. It was great to see discussions happening all over the place. Kudos to Elm Café and Duchess Bake Shop for the delicious food and the creative presentation!

TEDxEdmonton 2011 TEDxEdmonton 2011

The second session of the day began with another TEDTalk, Adora Svitak’s presentation rom February 2010 titled What adults can learn from kids. Her message is a powerful one, and I think everyone really enjoyed the talk. It’s definitely worth watching!

TEDxEdmonton 2011Our fifth speaker was Laura McIlveen, a chemical engineer at Alberta Innovates Technology Futures. She started out with a provocative statement – “You probably think that engineers aren’t sexy” – then proceeded to explain why engineers are in fact, sexy. Laura encouraged everyone to “think about the possibilities that don’t seem possible, because that’s what engineers do.” She outlined four key steps: ask questions, dream big, build a team, and make it happen. To help illustrate her point, Laura talked about natural fibers like straw and said “we can spin straw into almost anything!” She then showed of a longboard, made of hemp!

TEDxEdmonton 2011Veer Gidwaney, a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of DailyFeats.com, was our next speaker. He said “we need to change how we live” and talked about some of the major challenges we face, such as “Mr. Couch and Mrs. Potato Chip”. Veer’s key message was that small acts make a movement, and he encouraged the audience to “go do good”. He also shared a big idea: “What if we as a nation were to commit ourselves in ten years to match our national debt in positive actions done?” Veer was a really strong speaker, clear and powerful.

After another “conversation and refreshment” break, we were back for session three. Anthony Atala’s TEDTalk titled Printing a human kidney kicked things off. It was filmed just a few months ago, and documents some of the incredible advancements that have been made in bio-engineering. Truly fascinating.

TEDxEdmonton 2011Our next speaker was Sheetal Mehta Walsh, a champion of microfinance and founder of Kuuja.com. She talked about entrepreneurship through the lens of her experiences in the slums of India. For her, entrepreneurship has become a way of life, and she had some very intriguing ideas. One of them was that she wants to be known simply as an “entrepreneur” rather than a “social entrepreneur”. She explained, “we should all be socially conscious.” Sheetal also talked about the importance of networking, saying “I often call my network my intellectual property.” She also had one of the unintentionally funny moments of the day, when she asked if everyone in the audience starts their day with Tim Horton’s coffee and no hands went up. I guess we were a Credo/Transcend/Starbucks crowd!

TEDxEdmonton 2011Meagan Kelly, a journalist and filmmaker, was our eighth speaker of the day. She gave an abbreviated talk on her debut film, a documentary that examines a young girl’s struggle to escape poverty on a garbage dump in the Philippines. The sights and sounds she shared were striking. One memorable moment was when Grace, the young girl featured in the film, started singing Justin Bieber’s hit “Baby”.

TEDxEdmonton 2011Our next speaker was Aaryn Flynn, the Studio General Manager of local game developer BioWare. He used the opportunity to discuss BioWare’s approach to innovation. “Innovation relies on diversity,” he said as he talked about the cultural diversity at the company. Another key tactic utilized by BioWare is to “decide at the last responsible moment.” The most memorable mantra from Aaryn’s talk was definitely “no play, no say”. Basically if you don’t play the game, you don’t get a say in its development. It’s easy to see how this might be applied to elsewhere too. Aaryn finished with a brief demo of Kinect support in the upcoming game Mass Effect 3, noting that it opens the door to a wide range gameplay and accessibility possibilities.

TEDxEdmonton 2011Last but not least, Minister Faust (Malcolm Azania) was the final speaker of the day. His talk was titled “The Cure for Death by Small-Talk”, the same name as his upcoming book. He was a great speaker to end on, as he got the crowd laughing, thinking, and probably doing some serious self-reflection all at the same time. Instead of asking “what do you do for a living” at a party, Minister Faust suggests asking “what do you do for fun?” He touched on the etymology of “conversation”, explaining that is all about “living together” and the way you treat people. He told the audience to “ask people questions that will connect you for life.” Minister Faust’s talk ran slightly over time, and after he left the stage our hosts had to skip through another thirty slides or so that he didn’t get to – he could have talked all afternoon!

TEDxEdmonton

While some of the day’s presentations were definitely better than others, all succeeded at inspiring and sparking a dialogue. The entire day was streamed online for free, and while some technical glitches made it difficult to watch during session one, many people tuned in for the rest of the day. Twitter was active all day long using the hashtag #TEDxEdmonton and the discussions are still ongoing!

TEDxEdmonton 2011

Before the day was finished, Ken Bautista took the stage to make some announcements:

  • TEDxEdmonton 2012 will take place next spring. The larger Maclab Theatre, which seats 500-600 people, has already been booked as the venue. Tickets will go on sale for 2011 attendees in the next few weeks.
  • The TEDxEdmonton Salon Series will be launching in 2012, a series of smaller scale TED-like events.
  • A new event is being planned for fall 2012 – TEDxEdmonton Education, focused on building and inspiring a learning revolution.

Stay tuned to the TEDxEdmonton website and Twitter for updates.

I think it’s safe to say that TEDxEdmonton 2011 was a big success. The organizing committee deserves a ton of credit for making such a world-class event happen here in Edmonton. Well done everyone!

TEDxEdmonton 2011 TEDxEdmonton 2011 Organizing Committee

You can see the rest of my photos from TEDxEdmonton here. Watch for video and other updates to be posted on the TEDxEdmonton website over the next few weeks.