Incredible visuals of a stormy day in Edmonton

Early this afternoon, after a very soggy morning, Environment Canada issued a tornado warning for Edmonton and area! The storm was all people were talking about, and of course many posted photos and videos. Here are some of the best ones I saw:

https://twitter.com/TammyCrossland/status/344921509594275841

Have you got other photos or videos worth seeing? Leave a comment!

You can always see the latest weather warnings for Edmonton here.

Vibrant Streets X-posed

I was across the pond in London last week, so I was unable to attend the Downtown X-posed event that took place on Thursday at the Shaw Conference Centre. Though I wasn’t there in the flesh, I did participate by way of a video!

Here’s my video on vibrant streets downtown. It focuses on 104 Street, the “blueprint” for future streets in Edmonton’s downtown.

I saw some really positive feedback via Twitter, so I hope the video was well-received at the event.

The features I went through in the video are not the only things that make a street vibrant of course, but I do think they are important. The bottom line is that people make streets vibrant, so we need our streets to attract and support people. No other street downtown does that better at the moment than 104 Street.

Edmonton Election 2010: Video Resources & Statistics

With less than five days to go until the election, time is running out for candidates to spread their message and for Edmontonians to get informed. I suspect there will be lots of people “cramming” over the weekend! Currently, 90 out of the 112 candidates running in this election have a website. Most of those websites have information on issues, platforms, etc. That information is great, but it can be hard to get a sense of someone through text alone.

Video can help you learn about a candidate in a different way. Body language, intonation, and emotion are all important aspects of communication that are lost when all you’ve got is text. From a practical perspective however, video is difficult to use. It can take significant time and effort to both create and consume. And if recent research is to be believed, it can be hard to justify the cost when nearly 20% of viewers abandon a video after just 10 seconds!

That might help to explain why just 12 of the candidates have YouTube pages. In total, they have uploaded 76 videos this election season, which in total have been viewed over 10,000 times (about 134 times each, on average).

In total, I have aggregated 1046 videos related to the election at ShareEdmonton (so far). You can see all videos, videos by ward, or videos by candidate. For example:

Here are some statistics on the aggregated videos:

  • Every video has been viewed at least once. In total, those 1046 videos have been viewed more than 26,000 times.
  • The average number of views per video is 25.
  • Daniel Dromarsky’s video on the Downtown Arena is the most viewed.
  • There are 104 videos with comments (9.9%).
  • The average number of comments on those videos is just under 2.
  • Daniel Dromarsky’s video on the City Centre Airport has the most comments.
  • There are 142 videos with ratings (13.6%).
  • The average rating on those videos is 4.2. There are 108 videos with an average rating of 5.

The vast majority of those videos have been uploaded within the last month or so.

That lonely video off to the left is from Ward 1 candidate Andrew Knack, who definitely started early.

There have been two key producers of election-related video: CTVnewsEdmonton and edpublicschools. Of the 1046 videos, those two users have uploaded 916. As a result, most candidates have some kind of video online, and a number of them have simply embedded CTV’s or Edmonton Public Schools’ videos on their own websites.

There are lots of other places to find election video (and audio):

And hey, what’s a post about video without an actual video! Here is one from the edmontonian on the basics of the municipal election:

You can watch part two here.

The final mayoral forum takes place tonight at Eastglen School, and election day is Monday! On election night, only CTV is planning to have live coverage on television, but there will be lots of online coverage. ShareEdmonton will be updating live with results, I’m sure #yegvote will be busy on Twitter, and the edmontonian will be broadcasting live.

Make sure you vote!

In Search of the Northern Lights by way of Edmonton

As I mentioned back in January, I’ve been doing a little work for EEDC, hosting travel media when they come to visit Edmonton. Usually it’s just a casual lunch, which I really enjoy – I get to learn a little about where they’re from and they get to ask me anything about Edmonton! The only thing I don’t like about the experience is that I don’t always get to see the result of their trip (because the article or video or audio clip is generally created for audiences somewhere else in the world). Fortunately, that’s not always the case!

A couple of months ago I had lunch with a group of four travel journalists from the UK. Twitter came up as we were chatting, and I learned that one of them, Sarah Foden, was on Twitter! A couple of weeks ago she sent me a tweet to say that the video she created for her trip was online. Here it is (click the image below, I can’t seem to embed the video):

sarahfoden

Her video is called “In Search of the Northern Lights” and Edmonton was just one stop along the way. She wrote:

Fortunately, as I discovered, the great thing about visiting both northern Alberta and the city of Edmonton is that these places are about so much more than the Northern Lights.

It turns out that Sarah’s video is now one of the top videos on Sky.com (the company she works for). Congrats Sarah!

As someone who loves to promote Edmonton, it’s great for me to get another perspective on how our city is being portrayed abroad. Can’t wait to do it again!

Thoughts on Edmonton 2030

A video entitled “Edmonton 2030 – It’s Our Time” is being broadcast on Global and Citytv today. It was first shown to students at Edmonton Public and Catholic schools on May 20th, and was broadcast on Access on May 23rd. Here’s what it is about:

The video links the ideas of the leaders of our major organizations and institutions with the hopes, dreams, and imagination of Edmonton’s youth. Edmonton 2030 is a provocative teaser that challenges us to consider the many positive attributes of our city and how we might imagine them in the future. It reminds us that the decisions and plans of today are creating the Edmonton our young people will inherit tomorrow.

You can watch the video online at Access.

It’s related in some way to Edmonton Stories, though how isn’t quite clear. The video was developed independently by Doug Goss and was produced by Don Metz of Aquila Productions. Funding and other contributions came from the City of Edmonton, the University of Alberta, NAIT, MacEwan, the Province of Alberta, and Alberta Health Services. Craig Simpson narrates and hosts the 24 minute video.

Doug Goss is more than just an Edmonton-based lawyer (with Bryan and Company). He’s a passionate and extremely involved Edmontonian. Doug is Chairman of the NAIT Board of Governors, Chairman of the Edmonton Eskimos Board of Directors, Chairman of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation Board of Directors, Co-Chair of the 2010 Grey Cup, and was Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the Heritage Hockey Classic, among other things. He clearly loves this city.

I give Doug lots of credit for getting everyone on board and for creating the video. Anything that causes Edmontonians to think about the future of the city is a good thing as far as I am concerned. I think the core message of the video – the time for us to start building the Edmonton of 2030 is now – is powerful, if somewhat obvious.

The video is far from perfect, however. Here are some of my thoughts on it:

  • There are dozens of Edmontonians who speak in the video, but none of them are members of the so-called next generation (aged 18-40). It’s the people in that demographic who will be building the Edmonton of 2030, so it’s a glaring omission.
  • On the whole, the video seems scattered. There are a few “sections” including education and health, but I think they could be more clearly defined.
  • The use of young children throughout certainly makes the video more approachable, but it also makes the video less about Edmonton specifically. Hovercraft? Holographs? Cure for cancer?
  • At the other end of the spectrum are the more senior vanguard of Edmonton’s post-secondary institutions. All of them receive some great marketing throughout the video but contribute little in the way of vision.
  • The truly provocative and futuristic ideas of the video, including a downtown entertainment complex and a boardwalk in the river valley, receive just a few seconds of screen time and should have played a more prominent role.
  • I find it extremely annoying that the video looks at 2030, while all of the Transforming Edmonton plans look at 2040 (though I recognize that ten years probably doesn’t matter much that far into the future).

I do think the video could be useful for marketing, as Doug points out, and it will get people talking and thinking. As a visionary piece however, I think it misses the mark. Watch the video for yourself – what do you think?

Movies on flash memory cards

movies A couple days ago I came across this article at CNET News.com about a company called PortoMedia and their plan to make movies available on flash memory cards. I’ve touched on the subject before, but for a different reason that PortoMedia seems to be interested (I was interested in the small form factor). They see flash memory cards as an alternative to Internet delivery:

PortoMedia is setting up kiosks that will let consumers download movies to a flash memory key or portable hard drive.

The kiosks will be packed with hard drives that can hold 350 to 5,000 titles. Users then plug in a memory device from the company, enter a PIN code, and buy or rent a movie. When consumers get home, they simply slide the memory device into a dock connected to a TV.

Evidently they have come up with a proprietary USB interface that can load a high-definition movie onto the memory card in less than 45 seconds. There are some big advantages to this model:

  • Reduced cost as packaging and shipping associated with DVDs is no longer required
  • More selection – you aren’t limited by shelf space with a kiosk like Blockbuster is
  • It can happen sooner than Internet delivery (because most of us still have fairly crappy connections)

Sadly, but not unexpectedly, the company plans to use DRM from Microsoft to protect the movies.

PortoMedia did a trial run last year, and plans to go live with the service in four U.S. cities sometime in Q2 2008.

Read: CNET News.com

Yahoo! Podcasts is dead

Post ImageI’ve seen a few blog posts on this now, and I wanted to add my own thoughts. Some time in the last couple days Yahoo added a message to the top of their forever-in-beta podcast directory site that reads “Yahoo! apologizes deeply, but we will be closing down the Podcasts site on Oct. 31, 2007.” Not really a surprise as far as I’m concerned. Most people in the podcasting community would be able to tell you that Yahoo has ignored the site for months.

Here is what I said about the site when it launched almost two years ago:

Yahoo’s Podcasts directory is put together very nicely, I think. The layout and organization make intuitive sense, and the search functionality seems to work quite well also.

I’m not sure how many podcast directories we need, but I’d have to say that Yahoo’s is a welcome addition to the bunch.

Unfortunately, that didn’t stay true for very long.

Both Read/WriteWeb and TechCrunch invoke the magic word – video – when suggesting reasons for the site’s demise. I’m not so sure the rise of YouTube and the clones had any impact whatsoever on Yahoo Podcasts. As a matter of fact, the site lists both audio and video podcasts.

I think Yahoo chose to kill the site in part because it contains the word “podcast” in its name. I’ve written about this before, as have many others. It’s not the process or idea that’s bad, just the name.

I suspect the main reason Yahoo shut down the site is a renewed focus for the company, as speculated in the comments on TechCrunch. Just as well I guess.

Read: TechCrunch

Flash, Silverlight and H.264

Post ImageAdobe launched a new version of Flash on Monday. The update is codenamed “Moviestar” because it adds support for H.264, a video compression codec. The release is significant because it allows Flash to play really high quality video. Adobe expects the final version to be ready this fall.

I think it’s clear that Adobe added H.264 support to Flash as a way to compete with Microsoft’s Silverlight and VC-1. SmugMug’s Don MacAskill thinks the announcement gives Adobe the edge:

Silverlight 1.0 is focused almost entirely on video, including HD, and clearly gunning for Flash. So why wouldn’t they go right for Flash’s big Achilles heel – no H.264 support?

Oh well – that opportunity is now lost, and I believe this basically nails Silverlight 1.0’s coffin shut.

Don goes on to say that he had high hopes for strong competition among Rich Internet Application frameworks. I really value Don’s opinion, and I think he’s a really smart guy, but I think his comment is somewhat misleading and I have to disagree with him here. Why? Because it’s only August 22nd, 2007, that’s why.

I realize that Don specifically mentioned “Silverlight 1.0” but I wouldn’t fault you for skimming over the version number, and that’s what needs to be addressed. First of all, Silverlight 1.0 hasn’t even been released yet. Secondly, the first real release is going to be Silverlight 1.1, which is currently in alpha. There’s a lot of time left before the final version of 1.1 is released. Who knows, maybe Microsoft will even add support for H.264 before that time (though Don says he has been told by MS employees that no more codecs will be added).

The point is that it’s still early. Don’t count Silverlight out just yet. Lots can happen between now and the final releases of both Flash “Moviestar” and Silverlight. I think it’s safe to say there won’t be a lack of competition in the RIA framework space.

I completely agree with Don’s last statement though:

You’re going to see a massive boom in the online video space shortly. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Exactly. Lots to come still. It’s an exciting time!

Read: SmugBlog

Ustream.tv and Lifecasting

Post ImageA couple weeks ago I was asked if I would be interested in guest posting at the 2007 Vancouver International Digital Festival (Vidfest) blog. Of course I said yes! The topic was left up to me, so I decided to write about Justin Kan and the emerging trend of lifecasting:

Have you heard of Justin Kan? He’s the adventurous geek behind justin.tv, a website that shows a continuous live video and audio stream of his life. Everything he sees and hears, you see and hear.

I am slightly in awe of Justin and his fellow lifecasters – being on camera 24/7 without any editing must be very strange, not to mention tiring! At the same time, I can see how it could be an extremely rewarding experience.

I am not planning to become the next Justin or anything, but I have been playing around with Ustream.tv lately. They make it easy to broadcast your webcam to the world, just like Justin does. From their FAQ:

Ustream.tv is LIVE INTERACTIVE VIDEO FOR EVERYONE. Ustream.tv quickly and easily allows anyone with a camera to broadcast to the world.

All you need to stream is a computer, internet connection, a microphone and a webcam or video camera! Our system will auto detect your camera type.

I am not sure why they are screaming at me in the first sentence, but they are right, you don’t need much to get going. It’s really quick too! Once you create an account, you’re basically two or three clicks away from streaming live. The interface is really user-friendly and clean looking. Much better than blogtv.ca, which Tod Maffin showed me last week.

I have tested it a few times with my Dad and Aimee, and they both report that the audio and video quality is excellent. And because everything is done using Flash, all you need is a browser (assuming your browser has Flash installed, which is 98% likely). My very boring show is here if you want to check it out. I’ll keep it going for a little while tonight.

Unless you’re Chris Pirillo, I think scheduling a broadcast is the way to go. There is a certain “cool” factor to streaming live, but it soon wears off when you realize the content sucks! It really depends on what your intentions are though. If you’re lifecasting, I guess your stream is only as interesting as your life.

What do you think? Will lifecasting catch on? I think it has incredible potential!

Read: Ustream.tv

SSDD – Podcasting is just a word!

Post ImageI don’t know how many times this is going to come up, but I’ll keep posting about it until I don’t have to anymore. Podcasting is just a word. It means different things to different people. All that matters is the idea or technology or process that we use the word podcasting to refer to.

PodZinger recently renamed themselves to EveryZing, prompting Ivan at Vecosys to proclaim that podcasting is dead (via Podonomics):

You know that Podcasting is over as a bankable concept when companies start rebranding themselves to escape the word.

Absolutely incorrect. The concept is alive and well. The word podcasting – well maybe it is starting to fall out of favor. The two should not be confused, however! We can use any word we like to refer to the concept, and it remains as valid today as it was three years ago.

(By the way, if you’re unsure of what SSDD means, here’s the definition.)

Read: Vecosys