The Edmonton Twitter Community - what makes it good, and why we have been noticed.

I'm not going to lie, this post is 100% inspired by this blog post by Adriel Hampton (@adreilhampton). Mr. Hampton is a "journalist, Gov 2.0 and new media strategist, public servant, and licensed private investigator" in San Francisco. His blog post highlighted the Edmonton Twitter community, known by our hashtag of #yeg, as a wonderful example of how a good Twitter can be built.

I'm not going to lie, this post is 100% inspired by this blog post by Adriel Hampton (@adreilhampton). Mr. Hampton is a "journalist, Gov 2.0 and new media strategist, public servant, and licensed private investigator" in San Francisco. His blog post highlighted the Edmonton Twitter community, known by our hashtag of #yeg, as a wonderful example of how a good Twitter can be built.

I've never much thought about it before, likely because I'm so engrained in the community myself, but Twcommunityitter really has brought Edmonton closer together than ever. Not only do ordinary people use twitter, but several local TV and radio personalities use twitter as well, to directly interact with the community. This has allowed for a more direct approach to them, and personally makes me feel much more connected to those organizations, because often times I can say something to them, or ask a question, and get a real, personal response.

So often what makes Twitter great is the people you interact with. What has really solidified it for me is the people I have met, face to face. I think that's part of what make our community unique, and has really added a more personal touch. The fact that I've actually met, and spent time with, the people I'm having a conversation with on Twitter adds an extra depth of meaning to what we are talking about. Sure it's easy to talk to someone through Twitter, but taking the time to actually get to know personally has transformed my perception of the service. I know one of my goals for 2010 is to go out to more of our Twitter meetups than I have been this year. The friendships and connections that are being built there are too valuable to ignore. Part of that goal is to try to get even more people to come out to those meetups. There are hundreds of people on Twitter in the Edmonton area, but for most of our large meetups we are getting 30-40 participants. There are new faces every time, which is good, but the more personal the experience becomes, the more powerful Twitter becomes. Twitter may be one of the more powerful communication tools of the decade, and leveraging it's power is something that can be very useful.

Edmonton owes a lot to Mack Male (@mastermaq) for really kickstarting the community. Without him, it would not be where it is today, and he is still one of the leaders. If you are in Edmonton, and not following him, you should be. If something is happening in Edmonton, chances are he's tweeted about it.

2009 was the breakout year for Twitter, and here in Edmonton, we embraced it and took it to an entirely new level. I absolutely cannot wait to see what 2010 brings.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go get ready for our #yeg holiday meetup tonight. Hope to see you there. Info can be found here.

[ Read ] - Blog Post from Adriel Hampton

EDIT: fixed some font size and colour weirdness.

Tragedy at Big Valley Jamobree

Tonight another storm ripped through central Alberta. 2 weeks to the day after tragedy struck the city of Edmonton, a community just south of Edmonton was struck.

This weekend is the 17th annual Big Valley Jamboree. it is a massive outdoor event showcasing country music. When the storm hit, the winds, in excess of 100km/h tore apart the main stage, while a concert was going on. 1 person is dead, 4 are in critical condition, 4 more in serious condition. As many as 60 people were injured. News is still flowing in, but we know that the City of Edmonton dispatched Ambulances and the mass casualty truck to help. Considering the severity of the storm, the open air style of the Big Valley Jamboree, and the thousands of people that were there, it could have been much worse. While we can mourn the death of a person, we can be thankful there was only one death.

Once again, social media played a massive part in this story unfolding. However, sorting through the noise was almost as hard as the facts. One of the greatest advantages to twitter is the literal real time access to the news, however much of that news is not accurate. I saw people marking their posts saying a tornado hit, which is not true. I applaud the news agencies like Global TV and radio stations 630 CHED and iNews880 for doing their best to sort through the noise and report only the facts to us. Great job by them.

The web pages of 630 CHED and iNews 880 appparently have not weathered the storm very well. As of this posting, their websites are down, so I cannot link to the correct articles. I assume becuase of the excellent coverage they had so many people going to the website they just could not keep up.

Keep trying to go go or for their excellent coverage of this tragic event.

What a Storm

Last saturday an absolutely wicked storm blew through the Edmonton area. It was truly one of the most damaging storms I have ever seen. It was matched only by the massive storm that caused flooding few years ago. And while there was little to no rotation in the clouds, to many, the storm reminded them of Black Friday, when a Tornado touched down in the city in 1987.

The Clouds were easily the darkest I have ever seen. I had a wonderful view of the storm. I was over at a friend's condo that night. He lives in the river valley on the 7th floor of a condo building. He has a beautiful view of the river valley from which we could see the storm. The lightning was intense, and the wind was fierce. On the 7th floor balcony it was quite intense. I could feel the wind pushing me. I could see large tree limbs being pushed across the parking lots like they were pieces of paper. The first front passed by quickly.

The second front, about 45 minutes later, was not quite as windy, but it brought the rain. Easily the hardest rain I have seen in years. It came down very hard, very fast, and very large drops. Even with the patio doors closed while we were inside, we could hear the rain. That lasted for about 30 minutes. We never lost power there, but the lights flickered numerous times. While I was driving home, large portions of my trip home were dark, and without power. When I got home, it was obvious that the power had been out, probably for about 3 hours, and had just recently come on.

I did not take any really good pictures, however, many edmontonians did. Linked is the photo gallery from iNews880 of the damage that was done. Thousands of trees were destroyed, buildings damaged, the pictures really are amazing.

Once again, Twitter played a large role in this storm. There were many, many tweets during, and after the storm, pictures being relayed in real time, and first hand accounts being displayed in real time, as it was happening. This allowed coverage of the storm that simply would not have happened in the past, and is truly amazing. Also linked is Mack Male's blog where he talks more in depth about social media than I would. It's a must read.

[Read] - iNews880

[Read] - Mack Male's blog

Twitter and the media

Yesterday Lynda Steele of Global TV Edmonton posted to Twitter asking for suggestions on how the media can effectively use Twitter, and asked for anyone to email her with suggestions to take to a newsroom meeting today.  This, along with the recent rush of Edmonton media flocking to Twitter really got me thinking about Twitter, Media, and the news in general.  I spent some time thinking about it, and did send her my thoughts.  I thought that I would put some of them down here.

Twitter is about the community. specifically in Edmonton there are people from all walks of life, from every corner of the city, and even the entire Capital Region that use Twitter.  that is a powerful tool that, if used correctly, can greatly enhance the media.  I personally believe that the key to using Twitter is not to simply use it as another medium for delivering the same news, but to make it actually part of the news process.  Currently, Global TV Edmonton uses Facebook effectively in that many news updates and clips are posted there, as well as user feedback on the fan page being read on the air.  However, Facebook does not have the same instant connection feeling that Twitter has.  Facebook is a good tool, and I hope that Global can continue to develop it as a tool and exploit it’s strengths to enhance the quality of their broadcasts.  I think they can do the exact same thing with Twitter, however in a different way.

My main suggestion to Ms. Steele was to exploit the Twitter community as much as possible.  Use Twitter not just as a tool for delivering the news, but use it in the information gathering process, use it in the reporting process, and use it in the dissemination of the news.  Make the Twitter community an active participant in the news.  There is such a diverse group on Twitter that is ready, willing, and able to be used.  Some of the specific suggestions I had were:

  • Use twitter to ask for quick, immediate feedback on a story
  • Use Twitter to have users submit interview questions
  • Utilize the fact that there are people from the entire Capital Region on Twitter by monitoring what is going on in the city
  • Find News stories on Twitter
    • If a user posts something interesting on Twitter, have a reporter investigate.  Ask questions to see what is going on.  Maybe a simple 140 character post can turn into the top story of the day.
    • If a user on Twitter sees news happen, use that person who is there as it is happening in gathering information on a story.
  • Make Twitter an active part of the news broadcasts.  Reaction to a news story can be gauged even before the story is over on the broadcasts.  make the comments part of the story.

What I don't want to see is Twitter simply being used like RSS.  Twitter is a powerful tool that connects people together unlike Facebook likely ever will.  It should be used, and exploited to improve the quality of the news, and the quality of the media.  I believe that, if used properly, Twitter can be a tool to improve the quality of the product that the Media delivers.  I cannot wait to see what Lynda Steele and the rest of the Global TV Edmonton team can come up with.  As someone who has been using Twitter since November of 2007 it is very exciting to me to see how much it has grown.  I think the media can further it’s growth even more.