#yeg turns ten

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the #yeg hashtag on Twitter. Here is the first #yeg tweet:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

That’s probably the only time I have used #Edmonton! Ever since then, it has been nothing but #yeg. Here’s what I wrote about that tweet back in 2009:

“If I remember correctly, I found about the #yyc hashtag while I was in Calgary for BarCampCalgary2 on June 14th, 2008. I learned from @wintr that a few Calgarians had started using the hashtag to tweet about things related to their city. I thought it might be a good idea to do something similar here in Edmonton.”

Timing counts for a lot, and my Twitter story is no different. I was in the right place at the right time and joined Twitter early, on July 14, 2006. It was a fun and frustrating time (remember the fail whale) to be on Twitter. I convinced Sharon to join Twitter fairly early on, in October 2006. Her first tweet, fittingly, was about food. (Her second tweet the next day was an attempt to turn off Twitter, which at the time worked via text message).

Being one of the first people in the world on Twitter meant I was one of the few people to follow when others joined. It also probably meant I was just statistically more likely to be the one to post the first #yeg tweet, though looking back now it is kind of amazing to me that it took two years to do so. On the other hand, it wasn’t until August 2007 that Chris Messina suggested using the # symbol for groups on Twitter and posted the first hashtag in a tweet. Tagging was popular on the web already at that point but the word “hashtag” was new. Its use grew so much that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2014.

EdmontonTweetup
That’s me speaking at the first EdmontonTweetup in May 2008

On the fifth anniversary of the #yeg hashtag in 2013 I wrote:

“People from other cities often comment on how connected and tight-knit the online community in Edmonton seems to be, and I think the #yeg hashtag is really at the heart of that. We’ve used it to make new friends, to share the news, to raise money for important charitable causes, and for thousands of other interesting and important reasons.”

It didn’t take long for Edmonton’s Twitter community to grow beyond simply #yeg. Now people use all kinds of tags that start with #yeg like the ever-popular #yegfood. It used to surprise me to see #yeg used in places outside Twitter. Now, for better or worse, it’s part of the social fabric of our city.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Still, it wouldn’t be the hashtag (and community) it is today without all of the people that have worked to support and grow it over the years. Especially Brittney, Adam, Jerry, Tamara, Linda, and Kathleen, to name just a few.

Oh, and it’s pronounced y-egg not why-e-gee. 🙂

Here’s to the next ten years of #yeg!

Recap: DĂ®ner en Blanc Edmonton 2014

Sharon and I dressed in white and joined hundreds of Edmontonians at our city’s first DĂ®ner en Blanc event on Thursday, July 17. It was a rainy evening, but that didn’t deter attendees from taking advantage of the opportunity to participate in a unique visual spectacle in Edmonton’s river valley.

Here’s a description of the concept:

“At the last minute, the location is given to thousands of friends and acquaintances who have been patiently waiting to learn the “DĂ®ner en Blanc’s” secret place. Thousands of people, dressed all in white, and conducting themselves with the greatest decorum, elegance, and etiquette, all meet for a mass “chic picnic” in a public space.”

In Edmonton the secret location turned out to be Louise McKinney Riverfront Park, a great choice for an event like this, with lots of space and a wonderful view of the skyline.

Audio Recap

For an overview of the Edmonton event, my thoughts, and more detail, check out my audio recap on Mixcloud.

Or you can download the MP3 here.

Photo Recap

Our group met at ATB Place downtown:

Diner en Blanc

After everyone had arrived and checked in, we started walking over to Louise McKinney Riverfront Park. It was funny to see all of the confused faces staring at us as we crossed the streets.

Diner en Blanc

It was a wet evening, so there were a lot of umbrellas and ponchos in the crowd. Sharon was happy with the clear one we picked up specifically for the event!

Diner en Blanc

We made it to the park to find hundreds of people busy setting up their tables and chairs in loose rows.

Diner en Blanc

The rain wasn’t too bad while we were setting up, but it started to get worse shortly after we took this photo!

Diner en Blanc

Food, wine, and water was available for pickup off to the side. Like most things throughout the night, we had to discover that for ourselves, as there wasn’t much guidance.

Diner en Blanc

There was some entertainment throughout the evening, including some dancers from Cavalia, and musicians up on stage. Again, there was no program or information about any of them.

Diner en Blanc

For the very briefest of moments, we saw the orange sun (thanks to the forest fire smoke). It didn’t last long though.

Diner en Blanc

We wondered why some people had tents and discovered that some enterprising folks decided to bring their own! There was no mention of tents on the list of prohibited items. Visually it does impact the effect, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them on the list next year.

Diner en Blanc

At some point we noticed others lighting their sparklers, so we joined in an lit ours as well. It probably would have been good to wait until it was a bit darker, but I think everyone was tired of the cold and rain.

Diner en Blanc

The sky darkened and the rain returned, so we joined the growing number of people who packed up and left after the sparklers.

Diner en Blanc

We made the best of a wet situation and had fun! In the end though, we decided that we likely wouldn’t attend again next year. Lots of other people seemed to love it though, so I’m sure the event will be back again next summer.

You can see more photos of the event here. You can learn more about Dîner en Blanc in Edmonton at their website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

A look at Instagram usage in Edmonton

In this post I’m going to share some data on how Edmontonians are using Instagram1. This data was collected using the Instagram API over the 30 days between June 9 and July 8. My aim in this post is not to try to quantify every Instagram photo posted in Edmonton, but rather to give you a flavor of what Instagram usage looks like in our city.

instagram photos by day

During the month in question, I tracked 90,679 total photos posted by 15,395 different users. The average number of photos posted per user was 6, while the median number was 3. Just 4 users posted more than 200 photos over the month, while 25 users posted 100 photos or more.

Filters

One of the things I was most interested in was filter usage. Which filters are the most popular? It turns out that 59% of all photos posted did not use a filter at all! Here’s the breakdown:

instagram photos by filter

The top five filters were: Amaro, Valencia, Mayfair, X-Pro II, and Lo-Fi.

Likes & Comments

I tracked the number of likes & comments posted on each photo for a short period of time only, so some may have accumulated more over the course of the month than I captured. A total of 15,825 photos or 17.5% received no likes, while just over 64,000 or 70.7% received no comments.

instagram photos by likes

The average number of likes a photo received was 13, and the average number of comments received was less than 1. One photo received more than 4,000 likes and one received more than 260 comments.

Tags

Here’s a tag cloud of all the tags used on the photos posted during the month:

instagram photo tags

Here are the top 25 tags used:

  1. yeg
  2. love
  3. edmonton
  4. summer
  5. cute
  6. instagood
  7. follow
  8. photooftheday
  9. followme
  10. beautiful
  11. selfie
  12. tagsforlikes
  13. tbt
  14. like4like
  15. girl
  16. happy
  17. smile
  18. picoftheday
  19. canada
  20. instadaily
  21. tflers
  22. food
  23. likeforlike
  24. amazing
  25. bestoftheday

Roughly 40,252 or 44% of the photos posted did not have any tags.

Neighbourhoods

One of the interesting things about Instagram photos is that they are geotagged. That means I was able to see where in the city they were posted. A total of 349 neighbourhoods had at least one photo posted. Here are the top 25 neighbourhoods by number of photos posted:

  1. Downtown
  2. Oliver
  3. Strathcona
  4. University of Alberta
  5. Garneau
  6. Queen Alexandra
  7. Summerside
  8. Westmount
  9. Cumberland
  10. Queen Mary Park
  11. Boyle Street
  12. Ritchie
  13. Summerlea
  14. McCauley
  15. Central McDougall
  16. Edmonton Northlands
  17. Brintnell
  18. Rutherford
  19. River Valley Victoria
  20. Inglewood
  21. Alberta Avenue
  22. South Edmonton Common
  23. Silver Berry
  24. MacEwan
  25. Ormsby Place

Here’s a rough look at some of the data on a map:

neighbourhoods

The top 5 neighbourhoods accounted for 19.1% of all the photos posted.

Final Thoughts

I hope you found this look at Instagram usage in Edmonton useful! Remember, this is not meant to quantify usage, but rather is intended to give you a sense of the way Instagram is used throughout our city. Obviously it would be interesting to analyze what exactly is being posted on Instagram, but that kind of analysis is much more complicated.

Happy Instagramming!


  1. It would be more accurate to say this is a look at photos posted in Edmonton. To gather the data, I asked the Instagram API for photos posted within the limits of the City of Edmonton. While most of those were likely posted by residents, some would have been from tourists or other visitors. 

State of the Edmonton Twittersphere 2013: Top Users & Tools

In case you missed it, check out the overview post for a general look at Twitter in Edmonton in 2013. In this entry I’ll share more details on who the most active, replied to, and retweeted users of the year were. If you want to see the most followed users in Edmonton, check out Twopcharts. Taylor Hall is the first local user over 300,000 followers!

A quick reminder that the data in this post comes from a sample of roughly 13.8 million tweets posted by local users as defined in the overview post. Nearly 120,000 local users posted at least one tweet in 2013.

Here are the 25 most active local users (they tweeted more than anyone else):

  1. RPrasad619
  2. DaniParadis
  3. KikkiPlanet
  4. DavidPapp
  5. canadianglen
  6. Leask
  7. TrevorBoller
  8. YEGlifer
  9. JovanHeer
  10. abdihalimsalad
  11. MyLegacyCoach
  12. HouseofGlib
  13. ChristySpratlin
  14. bcbreakaway
  15. markyeg
  16. Moesquare
  17. edmontonjournal
  18. 1023nowradio
  19. machinegunv
  20. DJ_Orphan
  21. Gloriadantuono
  22. tommylutz
  23. eissyrC
  24. ctvedmonton
  25. candyTae

There were three easily-identifed bots that would have been in the list above:

  1. edmonton_rt
  2. EdmontonCP
  3. HOT107OD

Here are the 25 most active local users using #yeg (they tweeted using the #yeg hashtag more than anyone else):

  1. ctvedmonton
  2. GlobalEdmonton
  3. CBCEdmonton
  4. iNews880
  5. 925FreshFM
  6. mybirdietweets
  7. edmontonjournal
  8. 1049VirginYEG
  9. DerrickDodgeYeg
  10. metroedmonton
  11. RobWilliamsCTV
  12. KikkiPlanet
  13. Dave_CHED
  14. Edmontonsun
  15. Yegfit
  16. YEGFoodie
  17. vineshpratap
  18. EJ_Arts
  19. JBH8
  20. lindork
  21. lite957
  22. DishcrawlYEG
  23. Sperounes
  24. 1023nowradio
  25. YEGlifer

There were four bots that tweeted enough to be in that list above:

  1. edmonton_rt
  2. EdmCA
  3. everythingyeg
  4. yegtraffic

Here are the 25 most replied to local users (other local users had lots of conversations with these users):

  1. KikkiPlanet
  2. EdmontonOilers
  3. JasonGregor
  4. nielsonTSN1260
  5. YEGlifer
  6. Leask
  7. TrevorBoller
  8. CommonSenseSoc
  9. JenBanksYEG
  10. eissyrC
  11. Wildsau
  12. DeeMented2
  13. Kage_99
  14. britl
  15. JameyMPhoto
  16. erinklassen
  17. dantencer
  18. lindork
  19. dstaples
  20. baconhound
  21. Steeeveohh
  22. joshclassenCTV
  23. JackieDee16
  24. Arbitral
  25. edmontonjournal

Here are the 25 most retweeted non-individual local users:

  1. edmontonjournal
  2. ctvedmonton
  3. globaledmonton
  4. cityofedmonton
  5. cbcedmonton
  6. edmontonoilers
  7. yegsphere
  8. yegtraffic
  9. localgoodyeg
  10. oilersnation
  11. edmoilkings
  12. edmontonpolice
  13. yegtweetup
  14. metroedmonton
  15. whereedmonton
  16. edmontonsun
  17. ualberta
  18. 925freshfm
  19. cisncountry
  20. inews880
  21. cfl_esks
  22. 1049virginyeg
  23. northlands
  24. nait
  25. oldstrathcona

Here are the 25 most retweeted individual local users:

  1. kikkiplanet
  2. dantencer
  3. jasongregor
  4. joshclassenctv
  5. fakeoilersgm
  6. paulatics
  7. doniveson
  8. mastermaq
  9. cstpower
  10. nielsonTSN1260
  11. sunterryjones
  12. sbarsbyweather
  13. wanyegretz
  14. etownmickey
  15. ryanjespersen
  16. britl
  17. davecournoyer
  18. lindork
  19. trevorboller
  20. dstaples
  21. ebs_14
  22. robin_brownlee
  23. yeglifer
  24. staceybrotzel
  25. geneprincipe

Clearly if you tweet about the Oilers, there’s a good chance you’re going to get retweeted. I’m fascinated by the fact that a satirical account, @FakeOilersGM, is the fifth most retweeted individual. Shows you what kind of year the Oilers have had, and how engaged Edmontonians are with the Oilers.

Only the Edmonton Journal was retweeted more than 10,000 times. A total of 88 users were retweeted more than 1000 times, 1547 users were retweeted more than 100 times, and nearly 11,000 users were retweeted at least 10 times.

Tools

The ten most popular tools or clients used to tweet in 2013 accounted for 84% of all local tweets. The top 25 accounted for just less than 93% of all tweets. There’s definitely a long tail here though, as more than 3300 different clients were used.

  1. Twitter for iPhone
  2. web
  3. Twitter for Android
  4. Twitter for BlackBerry®
  5. TweetDeck
  6. Twitter for iPad
  7. HootSuite
  8. Facebook
  9. Instagram
  10. Tweet Button

Here’s a look at the breakdown:

Tweets by Client (2013)

No surprise to see BlackBerry fall down below Android, but I must admit I am a little surprised it remains so high on the list.

You can see the top users & tools from previous years here: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.

Happy Tweeting!

State of the Edmonton Twittersphere 2013: Overview

Welcome to the State of the Edmonton Twittersphere for 2013, my fifth look at the intersection of Twitter and Edmonton. You can see my previous annual recaps here: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.

In previous years, I have more or less treated the reports as connected to one another. I’d capture nearly every tweet posted by local users over the year, and compare the data to previous years, and you’d see the growth. This year is different. Twitter made changes to the part of its system that I use to gather the data, so instead of gathering most of the data, I instead was only able to gather a large sample.

The sample for this year’s report is about 13.8 million tweets posted by local users. Local users are defined the same way as before: if a user has his or her location set to Edmonton, St. Albert, Sherwood Park, Leduc, Nisku, Stony Plain, Fort Saskatchewan, Beaumont, Spruce Grove, or matching lat/long coordinates, they are considered an Edmontonian, and thus a “local user”.

Of the 13.8 million tweets in this year’s sample:

  • Just under 800,000 or 5.7% were tagged #yeg.
  • More than 950,000 or 6.9% were retweets.
  • About 5.1 million or 37.2% were replies.
  • Roughly 1.2 million or 9.1% were replies to other local users.
  • Nearly 3.2 million or 23.2% contained links.
  • More than 640,000 or 4.7% were twooshes (exactly 140 characters).

Tweets by Type (2013)

In 2013, the day of the week with most tweets posted was Wednesday, which is consistent with previous years. Sunday and Saturday saw the fewest tweets posted.

Tweets by Type (2013)

Local users used over 840,000 different hashtags in 2013. As usual, hashtags ranged in length from 1 character to 139, excluding the hash, and they were used for just about every purpose you can think of. The average hashtag length was 13 characters.

Here are the top 25 hashtags used by local users in 2013:

  1. #yeg
  2. #oilers
  3. #edmonton
  4. #yegfood
  5. #yegvote
  6. #ableg
  7. #cdnpoli
  8. #yyc
  9. #shpk
  10. #yegwx
  11. #jobs
  12. #yegcc
  13. #nhl
  14. #ff
  15. #yegtraffic
  16. #stalbert
  17. #yegdt
  18. #ualberta
  19. #yegarts
  20. #cbc
  21. #yegweather
  22. #whatshouldplaynext
  23. #teamfollowback
  24. #instantfollowback
  25. #canada

Here’s a visualization of the top 100 hashtags excluding #yeg:

Top Hashtags for 2013

It’s no surprise that #yeg was once again the most popular hashtag, by far. Twitter even declared #yeg as the second most popular trend in Canada for the year. In total, there were 4,611 different hashtags starting with #yeg used by local users in 2013.

Here are the top 25 #yeg-related hashtags:

  1. #yeg
  2. #yegfood
  3. #yegvote
  4. #yegwx
  5. #yegcc
  6. #yegtraffic
  7. #yegdt
  8. #yegarts
  9. #yegweather
  10. #yegarena
  11. #yegmusic
  12. #yegjobs
  13. #yegbike
  14. #yegre
  15. #yegevents
  16. #yegfashion
  17. #yegbiz
  18. #yegfringe
  19. #yegtheatre
  20. #yegtransit
  21. #yegfilm
  22. #yegmedia
  23. #yegpkn
  24. #yegbeer
  25. #yegsa

Here’s a visualization of the top 100 #yeg-related hashtags:

Top #yeg Hashtags for 2013

No surprise that #yegfood remained on top (after #yeg of course) and I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that in an election year, #yegvote was quite popular. Interesting to me that #yegjobs is so high, but I suppose that could be due to bots or automated tweets.

I’ll have additional data to share in my next post, which will include the most active, replied to, and retweeted users of the year.

Happy Tweeting!

What happens if there’s a tie on October 21?

A few weeks ago I ran into the amazing Linda Hut, the teacher and coordinator over at City Hall School, and she mentioned that her class was asking questions about the election. One student asked what would happen if there was a tie. The answer, which can be found in the Local Authorities Election Act (Section 99), might surprise you:

If it appears on the calculation of the votes that 2 or more candidates for any office have received the same number of votes, and if it is necessary for determining which candidate is elected, the returning officer shall write the names of those candidates separately on blank sheets of paper of equal size and of the same colour and texture, and after folding the sheets of paper in a uniform manner and so that the names are concealed, shall deposit them in a receptacle and direct some person to withdraw one of the sheets, and the returning officer shall declare the candidate whose name appears on the withdrawn sheet to have one more vote than the other candidate.

That’s right, months of campaigning and the decision could all come down to one piece of paper drawn from a hat. Fortunately, the chance of a tie happening is pretty tiny!

To start, what’s the likelihood that all six mayoral candidates could receive the same number of votes? Well, technically it’s impossible as there are 619,138 eligible voters, but let’s round that up to 619,140 for the sake of argument. That would mean each candidate would need to get 103,190 votes exactly for all six to be tied. According to Wolfram Alpha, there’s a 1 in 735 chance (about 0.14%) of a candidate getting that number. If we reduce that to just the 34% of voters that actually turned up last election, the chances improve slightly to 1 in 429 (about 0.23%). But actually, that has to happen six times in order for all of them to tie, which is just incredibly unlikely.

Now that’s a fairly unrealistic scenario as we know that there are a lot of factors that make it unlikely our full slate of mayoral candidates will all receive the same support. In the 2010 election, the top three candidates (out of seven) received about 95% of the vote. So let’s assume this year’s election will be similar. Continuing on with the 34% turnout, there would be 199,983 votes up for grabs by the top three. The chance that a candidate will get exactly one third of those votes is about 1 in 528 (0.19%). And the odds that all three will tie? Again, it’s not going to happen.

What if one of the three receives a quarter of the vote and the other two split the remaining votes? The likelihood of that is much better than a three-way tie at about 1 in 485 (0.21%), but still, it’s just very unlikely!

With the number of votes we’re talking about, ties are just not very realistic. Even assuming 34% turnout in Ward 9 where there are just two candidates, there’s still a less than 1% chance of a tie (1 in 178, 0.56%).

This is all just simple math for the purposes of illustration, and it ignores the many, many factors that go into why someone will vote for candidate A over candidate B. Still, now you know how unlikely a tie is!

Edmonton’s Food Council is now real

The inaugural meeting of the Edmonton Food Council took place on Monday night at the Commonwealth Recreation Centre. I’m very excited to have the opportunity to work with fourteen passionate and dedicated Edmontonians to move this initiative forward!

Edmonton Food Council
Photo courtesy of the City of Edmonton

In November 2012, City Council approved fresh, Edmonton’s Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy. It called for an Edmonton Food Council to be established, a process which began in earnest in May of this year. By early June, 57 citizens submitted their applications to the City, a great show of interest. Interviews with 22 of them took place in mid-July, and finally on July 26 the City announced the names of the 15 citizens selected to serve on the inaugural Food Council. Here they are:

Some folks I know fairly well, others I look forward to getting to know over the months ahead. There’s a really great mix of perspectives and backgrounds, and I think we’re going to have some fascinating conversations as a result.

Edmonton Food Council
Photo courtesy of the City of Edmonton

Mayor Mandel kicked the meeting off with some introductory remarks, and made it clear that we should feel empowered as a group to decide how best to contribute to the implementation of fresh. He put a nice spin on the Food Council’s elevator pitch:

As a committee of the City’s administration, the Edmonton Food Council’s primary role is to advise on matters of food and urban agriculture and to take an active role in supporting the implementation of fresh. Other core jobs may include providing advice, undertaking research and evaluation, coordination, engagement and education.

For the rest of the evening, facilitator Beth Sanders led us through a helpful process to tease out desires and perspectives. It was great to hear from everyone and to realize by the end of the night that we had already come to some consensus on how we’ll interact as a team. I can’t say it any better than the newsletter that went out today:

What became clear is that there is no shortage of energy with this group. When discussing when monthly meetings should be held, the group quickly came to consensus that monthly meetings would not be enough to maintain momentum. They wanted to meet sooner than later. No doubt that the commitment and enthusiasm of this group will have a lasting effect on Edmonton’s food and urban agriculture landscape.

Energy is a great word – there was lots of it on Monday night! We’re all eager to get to work, and we want to actually get things done. Being nomination day, I couldn’t help but think of the phrase that so many candidates had remarked to me after filing their paperwork – “now it’s real!”

Edmonton Food Council
Photo courtesy of the City of Edmonton

Edmonton Food Council meetings will be open to the public, and there will very likely be opportunities to get involved. You can get all the information on the City’s website, and I’d also encourage you to subscribe to the Food In The City newsletter.

Mover is making cloud storage solutions in Edmonton

moverCan you build a successful, scalable technology company in Edmonton? Local startup Mover thinks so, and yesterday they received validation of that goal in the form of $1 million in seed financing from an impressive list of American and Canadian investors.

“Absolutely” was Mover CEO Eric Warnke‘s response when I asked if he thought he could find the necessary talent and other resources to grow the company here in Edmonton. The tech landscape is a lot different today than it was five or six years ago when Eric was at Nexopia, the hot local startup at the time. “Realistically we’d have to double salaries if we relocated to the valley,” he told me. Not that Mover isn’t paying a fair wage, it’s just that the cost of living there is much higher and the competition for talent is much fiercer. “A lot of people ask us if we’re going to move, but there are good incentives to stay here.” The footer of Mover’s website carries the message “proudly made in Edmonton.”

Mover is barely a year old, but it certainly doesn’t lack history. Walk around the office on the second floor of the revitalized Mercer Warehouse building and little reminders of the past consistently pop-up. A Free Wi-Fi magnet on a metal divider, a Firenest coffee tumbler on top of the fridge, a Mesh Canada brochure hanging on one of the beautiful wooden beams. Even the Launch Party sign front-and-centre as you walk across the creaky floors offers insight into how the growing local tech scene made it possible for Mover to go from idea to reality.

Mover Office

In 2004, Eric was employee number four at Nexopia and wore a number of hats there over the years, everything from customer service to ad management. A few years later, while working full-time at the social networking site and also going to school, Eric found time to start and run an Internet café on Whyte Avenue. It was the Internet café that sparked an interest in wireless networks and led to the creation of the Free Wi-Fi Project. Through that initiative Eric met Mark Fossen, a former partner at ThinkTel Communications. The two decided to join forces and launched Mesh Canada in 2009. They sold it to a Calgary company last year.

In January 2012, Eric & Mark decided to participate in Startup Edmonton’s Startup Hackathon. They built a utility called Backup Box that helped users move files from one place to another (such as an FTP server to Dropbox), and eventually showed it off at DemoCamp in March. A few months later, they were part of GrowLab‘s spring 2012 cohort in Vancouver. Renamed as Mover, they refined the product and when they got back to Edmonton, realized they needed to grow. That’s when Ben Zittlau joined as a partner and the VP of Technology. He had previously worked on Firenest, a web-based tool for non-profits, and for a short time worked at Yardstick Software too.

In the space of a year the team has grown from four to ten. They’ve mostly hired people they know, and that was a deliberate decision. “Slowly but surely we’re putting Nexopia back together,” Eric half-joked. He stressed how important it is to hire strong people. “They had a lot of great people working at Nexopia.” Mover plans to stay in the Mercer Warehouse as long as possible, and already have their eye on some additional space on the second floor. “It’s walkable for almost everyone on the team,” Eric said. “There are great amenities here, and being downtown and close to Startup Edmonton is really great.”

Mover Office

I asked Eric to describe the culture at Mover. “Pretty awesome” was his response. The fridge is stocked with groceries in addition to beer, so that everyone on the team can have a healthy lunch at the office if they choose to (today the team had a craving for Oodle Noodle). The company is flexible on working hours and vacation, and employees get ownership options. Eric cited Box, Dropbox, and Singly as companies he admires with Jobber and Granify as local examples. “One day we’ll be the example others mention,” he added.

Mover has a strong technical team. Greg Bell, Graham Batty, and Sean Healy are all former Nexopia employees. Derek Dowling was a programmer for The Gateway. Jacob Straszynski worked at Mediashaker. Eric thinks they’ll add a few more technology folks, but where the new funding will really help Mover is with marketing and business development. Aside from Eric and Mark, there’s just marketing intern Aidan McColl at the moment.

Mover Office

Mover has quickly become a leader in the growing world of cloud storage migration and backup. With support for about a dozen popular services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and SkyDrive, Mover is carving out a unique middleware position for itself in a rapidly growing market. Steve Jobs famously said Dropbox was just a feature, not a product, but today the company has more than 100 million users who collectively save more than 1 billion files each and every day. And they’re just one of many options available to consumers and enterprises. Back in 2010 a series of Microsoft commercials featured the refrain “to the cloud!” Today more than ever, that’s exactly what’s happening, and Mover is hoping to play a key role in the space.

The plan was always to raise money. But like many technology startups, Mover was probably too ambitious last year in trying to build an impressive technical solution to a problem that not enough people have yet. The lesson was to focus on the areas in which they already had traction, Eric told me. “We’ve got this really interesting thing here, and we need some money to figure that out so that we can get to the next stage.” That approach, combined with a realization that it’s okay to say “I don’t know” to certain questions, led to the new investment.

Mover currently thinks about two primary categories of customers. There are individuals who are mostly self-service but have a wide range of needs. Then there’s enterprises, with lots of users and fairly well-defined problems. Both offer lots of opportunities and are expected grow significantly in the years ahead. Balancing the feature set between them is one of the challenges Mover will face. “We’ve got a fantastic backend,” Eric said, “but we need to make some improvements to the user experience.”

The team is well aware there is lots of work to be done. Every Friday afternoon they meet in the “conference room” for a retrospective led by Ben. Each person has the opportunity to share something positive from the past week as well as something that needs to be improved. The admin dashboard they’ve built is displayed on a large television and allows the team to monitor performance, identify potential bugs, and highlight areas of improvement.

Mover Office

Eric and Mark took part today and used the opportunity to talk about the new investment, thanking everyone for their hard work. “It was a team effort,” Eric said. “Each of you have played an important role in getting us to this point.” Mark added some thoughts about what the investment means for the company, and there were smiles all around. But that was the extent of the celebration. Minutes later they were back to discussing some workloads that had been flagged on the display. The message was clear: the investment helps a great deal, but it’s not the endgame. Mover has lofty goals and there’s a lot of work to be done to achieve them.

Edmonton’s Pedway: The Growth Years

This is the second part in a series of posts looking at the past, present, and future of Edmonton’s pedway network.

The pedway system we know today was largely built in the 1980s. According to the Edmonton Journal in 1990, projects with an estimated value of $679 million were completed between 1983 and 1989 downtown, including $20 million on Jasper Avenue, Rice Howard Way, and the pedway system.

One of the biggest projects was the extension of the LRT line, with construction on Bay and Corona stations beginning in 1980. Subterranean downtown Edmonton must have seemed like paradise in those days, because the LRT construction had an extremely large impact on downtown. Jasper Avenue was under construction for years, and that harmed businesses as much if not more than West Edmonton Mall (which first opened in 1981).

LRT Construction 1980s
Downtown construction, photo by ETS

It wasn’t just the LRT being built though. Of the roughly 40 buildings downtown connected to the pedway, half were built between 1974 and 1984. More buildings were constructed in Edmonton during the 70s than any other decade. It’s no surprise then that the pedway grew significantly during the latter part of this period and in the years immediately following it (as pedway construction tended to lag building construction).

Following the completion of Edmonton Centre in 1974, a series of office towers followed. TD Tower opened in 1976, with the Sutton Place Hotel (Four Seasons Hotel) and 101 Street Tower (Oxford Tower) following in 1978. All three had connections to the pedway built. The Citadel Theatre and Sun Life Place also opened in 1978, and the Stanley Milner Library, constructed in 1967, was first added to the pedway network that year. Canadian Western Bank Place, HSBC Place, and the Standard Life Building all opened in 1980. ATCO Centre and Enbridge Place opened in 1981, followed by Bell Tower and Scotia Place in 1982. Manulife Place and the Shaw Conference Centre opened in 1983. Canada Place capped off a busy period of construction in 1986.

Pedway connections were often added years after a building was first completed. Scotia Place was connected via an above-ground bridge in 1990 when Commerce Place (Olympia & York) opened (though it already had an below-ground connection). The Royal Bank Building, built in 1965, didn’t get a pedway connection until April 1993, one month after an above-ground pedway was built connecting Manulife Place and Edmonton City Centre (Eaton’s Centre). Construction of these connections did not always go smoothly. The bridge connecting City Centre and Manulife was delayed for a variety of reasons, but one was that the hallway from City Centre did not line up with existing “knock-out” panels that Manulife Place had for future pedway construction. That meant blasting through a wall that was not designed to be opened. Still, the bridge came in at a relatively inexpensive $200,000 (the typical above-ground bridge could cost up to $500,000 at the time).

Downtown Pedway c. 1980
Existing & Approved pedway connections, ~1980

Downtown wasn’t the only place pedway-like connections were being built. A $64 million renovation of the Alberta Legislature grounds took place from 1978 to 1982, and one of the key features was an extensive underground pedway system. In the spring of 1985, the Business Building opened on the University of Alberta campus with an above-ground connection to Tory and HUB Mall. It would eventually be connected to the larger system in August 1992 when the University LRT Station opened featuring a below-ground connection to the Dental-Pharmacy Centre and above-ground bridge to HUB Mall.

Though connections continue to be added today, many Edmontonians considered the pedway “complete” in 1990 after two key projects. The first was the extension of the LRT to Grandin Station in 1989, finally linking the downtown pedway network with the Legislature pedway network. The second was much more controversial.

The pedway linking Edmonton Centre and Churchill LRT Station was often called “the final link” in the pedway network. When the City first put the project out for tender, no bid came in at the budgeted amount of $4.9 million. The lowest bid was 14% higher, bringing the cost to $6.2 million. The original design called for a glass wall and an amphitheatre under Churchill Square, in addition to the removal of 16 elm trees. Council requested that the design be tweaked and re-tendered. That delayed the project, but the plan worked. The pedway we know today was designed by MB Engineering Ltd. and constructed by Chandros Construction Ltd., right on the original $4.9 million budget.

Edmonton Centre contributed $600,000 of the budget, and insisted on the skylights and planter boxes. Jim Charuk, Edmonton VP of Oxford Development Group, said at the time that anything less would have become a “people sewer.” The pedway connection first opened for Christmas shoppers on December 14, 1990. It closed during January 1991 so that finishing touches could be put on the project. The pedway officially opened to the public on February 18, 1991.

With the addition of City Hall in 1992, the Winspear Centre in 1997, and the Art Gallery of Alberta in 2010, the downtown pedway network has continued to grow. But today’s network was largely built in the 80s, and it shows.

Edmonton’s Pedway: The Beginning

This is the first part in a series of posts looking at the past, present, and future of Edmonton’s pedway network.

For nearly 40 years Edmonton’s pedway system has been a fixture downtown. The maze of pedestrian walkways built above streets, through parkades, and under buildings has hosted parades, buskers, and even a pop-up restaurant over the years. It has kept office workers from having to step into the rain or snow, and it has served as an emergency shelter for our city’s most vulnerable during cold spells. Thousands of Edmontonians use the system each and every day, and while not universally loved, most Edmontonians can’t imagine our downtown without it.

Elevated walkways and other pedestrian-oriented urban planning concepts were becoming increasingly common in the 1960s in North America. Cities such as Chicago had started a pedway network as early as 1951. In Canada, Toronto led the way with PATH in 1959, followed just three years later by Underground City in Montreal. Eventually the idea moved west, and both Edmonton and Calgary started exploring the concept of a pedestrian circulation network in the late 1960s.

City Council paved the way for the pedway in Edmonton by approving the following recommendation on April 8, 1968:

“Council accepts the principle of a Downtown Pedestrian Circulation System as a guide to the future planning of pedestrian circulation in this area.”

Increasing concern about pedestrian safety played a key role in the recommendation, though it would be six years before the plan to separate pedestrians from vehicles became real. A working paper on the Downtown Pedestrian Circulation System published in 1980 offered this explanation: “Unlike streets, pedways cannot be laid out, constructed, and await development to occur around them.” The pedway has never had a master plan because no one owns it. Passages cannot be built until there are developments to connect, which makes the pedway a cooperative effort between a variety of developers, including the City.

Edmonton Centre opened in early 1974, and with it came Edmonton’s first pedway connections. It was the city’s first full-block development, and it featured both above-grade and below-grade pedways. The first above-grade pedway connected Edmonton Centre with the 14-level parkade across 102A Avenue. Connections were later added to Eaton’s (now City Centre West) and the Four Seasons Hotel (now Sutton Place).

Brand new Edmonton Centre 1974
Pictured top-left is Edmonton’s first above-ground pedway, photo of microfilm by Darrell

Over the summer of 1974, Council approved the City of Edmonton Transportation Plan Part 1. The document proposed “an enclosed walkway system” for the downtown and was an important step in the development of the pedway network.

That same year construction began on the LRT. Council had first endorsed the concept of a rapid rail transit system in 1968, and through a series of reports and debates the decision to go underground was made. That presented the challenge of ensuring smooth access from the street to the trains. To tackle it, the City approved a series of development agreements with nearby properties, and started building “climate-controlled linkages” which quickly became known as pedways.

In July of 1977, Council adopted the Pedway Concept Plan with the following motion:

“That the policy guidelines contained in the Pedway Concept Plan be adopted for future planning, design, security, maintenance, financing, operation, and implementation of a pedway network for Downtown Edmonton.”

According to the plan, the City had made “substantial investments to encourage construction of the pedway system” throughout the 1970s. However it also signaled that as acceptance of pedways increased and the network was built out, the City would no longer contribute financially. The pedway would have to evolve without the direct backing of the City.

The LRT began regular service on April 22, 1978, with Central and Churchill Stations all but guaranteeing the pedway would play a key role in moving people throughout Edmonton’s downtown for years to come.